Chapter IX


The first action in Holland entialed a move into new positions on 12th October, for which the S.Sask.R. came under the command of the 4th Brigade, to give right flank protection to that formation. The battalion was spread over a considerable area and as there was no difficulty in taking these new positions, it was decided to exploit. Three of the companies moved to do this. "B" Company took up positions in some buildings near a road junction one half-mile southeast of Huijbergen; "C" Company was approximatly one mile to the south near a small hill. "A" Company was one half-mile south east of "D" Company. All moves were completed without incident, except "B" Company's which was bothered with small arms fire. At first light, Lieutenant Brown worked forward with his platoon. They came under fire from the left, and after returning it, two Jerries stood up shouting "Kamerad."! Two men got up to wave them in and as soon as the exposed themselves a 20-mm gun fired at them. The bullets graze dthe top of the ditch exploding on both sides and causing nine casualties, none of them serious. Lieutenant Brown was one fo those wounded. He had returned the previous day with Major E.W. Thomas, having been wounded on a patrol at Verrier in France.
On the night of 12th Octover, "B" Comapny was attacked by a rather small force. It was very dark and the enemy gained an element of surprise. Some very close fighting ensued and there were a few casualties before the enemy withdrew. "D" Company, in the meantime, had been heavily mortared to keep them out of the "B" Company fighting. Small arms fire and mortaring occurred all day long, and rations were brought up after dark by an armed patrol.
On 13th October, Major McCarthy of 108 Anti-Tank Battery had gone forward to make a reconnaissance with one of his officers. They encountered a patrol dressed in camouflage jackets and British steel helmets, complete with nets and shell dressings. Believing the patrol to be Canadians, McCarthy and his companion approached, only to be taken prisoners by what turned out to be Germans in masquerade. Later on the junior officer escaped and told the story. At 1700 hours, "A" Company was attacked by infantry and tanks. The positions held and the enemy were beaten off. About the same time a self-propelled gun attacked around the flank of the company, and shot up the command post. Five direct hits were scored and several near misses.
It was decided to move the company, and Major Ken WIlliams had to come in to confer with the C.O. On his way back to his company, he was surprised by an enemy patrol and captured. He, too, later escaped by dropping into the ditch in the blackness of the night.
Two companies of "Le Regiment de Maisonneuve" were to relieve "A" Company but as they did not arrive until darkness had set in, they could not receive the company, and took up a firm position behind the danger point. "C" Company of the Essex Scottish put in an attack the next morning to try and relieve "A" Company. With tank support it succeeded, and "A" Company was successfully withdrawn. On the afternoon of the 14th, word was received that "The Royal Regiment of Canada" would relieve "A" and "B" Companies after dark. "C" Company of the Essex Scottish pulled out from "A" Company position at 1630 hours. Apparently the enemy observed this movement, for an hour later, four German tanks appeared on the scene and began to fire at point blank range. The Canadian suffered several casualties and one platoon was left with only a corporal in charge. Rather than be cut to pieces by the tanks, the company withdrew. During these hectic, black hours, a corporal stayed in his slit trench with a wounded companion and continuously harassed the cruising tanks. He kept up this fire even when slightly wounded himself, and eventually the tanks withdrew.
The Royals established a firm base behind B Company area, and, after darkeness, "A" and "B" Comapnies and the command post moved to new locations. "B" Company established itself on the outskirts of Hoogerheide and "A" Company dug in, in reserve. Reinforcements arrived and the L.O.B. personnel were sent out for a rest. Lieutenant F.R. Hoddle became Intelligence Officer replacing Lieutenant Phillips who was wounded when the Command Post received a direct hit. Permission was received to pull "D" Company back from the heavily shelled area it was occupying and in which it was receiving too many casualites.
Major L.P. Coderre and his party were making a reconnassance of his new area and while passing through a platoon of "A" Company, they were challeneed and asked for the password. His answer was not heard and a Bren gun opened up wounding 5 of the 6 in the party, including the two officers.
One of the larges air-ground fighter sweeps of the war was made in front of the brigade positions. The cannon fire and light bombs of the Spitfires, the black puff-balls of the ack-ack and the odd crash of a plane, created one of those never forgotten displays of modern war.
On 23rd October, the battalion thrust north from Hoogerheidei n bounds by companies and supported by tanks. The opposition was stiff but the companies pressed slowly forward. Buildings, woods, mines, roadblocks, and many booby traps were encountered. At 1500 hours the battalion was only one-half of the way to the objective and was told to dig in and consolidate. Progress on the left had also been slow.
The next day it was believed the enemy had withdrawn, and so the attack continued and the objectives were gained quickly and easily. The 4th Canadian Armoured Division was, at this time, making a right flanking attack on Bergen-op-Zoom, and it was the intention of 2nd Canadian Division to take on the clearing of the Beverland Peninsula. 5th Canadian Infatry Brigade were to seal the peninsula, and 4th and 6th Brigades were to continue down its lenght, each fighting continually for 48 hours at a time.
On 26th October, the battalion moved on to the high road leading up the peninsula. The road was flanked by flooded ground on both sides for miles and miles. 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade did not meet the expected opposition and had made good progress in their 48 hours. In the morning, the 52nd British Division had landed on the southern tip of the Zuid Beverland Peninsula. The S.Sask.R. relieved the Essex Scottish, who had been pinned down by H.E. fire up to this time. "B" and "C" Companies were committed forward with "A" and "D" Companies in reserve. By nightfall the opposition had been overcome and the unit moved forward with several prisoners being taken. The area was heavily mined, and the artillery carrier was blown up, killing two men, then "A" Company's jep and two engineers' trucks. Brigadier A.B. Gauvreau's jeep struck a mine, seriously wounding him as well as his Intelligence officer. Lt.-Col. E.P. Thompson of the Camerons of C. took over the Brigade.
On 26th October the battalion was a mile and a half from the main canal running north and south across the peninsula. The rough axis of advance was along the main road and railway line. C. Company sent out a reconnaissance party and discovered that both bridges were blown. It was therefore necessary to do an assault crossing.
Colonel Stott's reconnaissance party had a sticky time when it was caught in the open by machine-gun fire from across the canal, but finally managed to withdraw without casualties. For the crossing of the 300-foot wide canal on 28th October, 18-man assault boats were used. "D" Company was to cross first, followed by "C", "B" and "A" Companies. After some slight difficulty in securing the start line, the crossing went off accroding to paln, and in a heavy rain storm. The S.Sask.R.s were the first across the canal in this major battle. "B" Company hit the first real opposition about 800 yards fron the canal. A light anti-aircraft gun sighted in a ground role, caused most of the trouble as "A" Company pused down the right side of the railway and opposite "B" Company. Both these companies received enemy counter-attacks before dawn and the fighting was close and fierce, and hand grenade were exchanged at a rapid rate. All available artillery was brought down to break up the F.U.P.s of the attacks and this accomplished its task and the town of Schore was soon captured. The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry corssed the canal in boats and passed through the S.Sask.R. to further objectives. The Royal Canadian Engineers started work on a bridge.
The next move was to Biezelinge to relieve the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry to permit them to continue the advance. Resistance had collapsed completely. The unit moved to 'sGravenpolder and then to Husse. On the morning of 31st October, F and A echelons crossed the bridge and joined the regiment and thus Hallowe'en marked the end of the Beveland Battle for the S.Sask.R. October battle casualties had again been heavy with 11 officers and 218 other ranks listed:
Killed: 2 officers, 44 other ranks
Wounded: 9 officers, 174 other ranks
Sick: 4 officers, 82 other ranks
Accident: 0 officers, 20 other ranks
Shock-Exhaustion: 0 officers, 12 other ranks

One very amusing incident happened during the night of the canal crossing. One of the very efficient scouts was interrogating prisoners with the initial question "Haben sie Geld?" From there on the questions concered such military objects as watches, cameras, and Lugers. By morning the scouts were unknowingly the richest men in the Canadian Army. An unknown officer casually asked them if he had picked up any souvenier nots of large denominations, and the innocent scout honestly replied: "Yes, Sire," and proceeded to show off his many stuffed pockets. "Oh," said the officer, doing some fast mental arithmetic. "Thousand Guilder Notes? I haven't and of those, and these 500 Guilder nots are pretty too, aren't they? My they will add nicely to my collection, do you mind?" The scout, who thought a guilder was of no value, like the German marks, kept on giving the officer all he wanted. Later the scout discovered that a Guilder was worth 40 cents. He had given a fortune away to an astute gentleman. Later the scout was heard telling a reinforcement "You gotto watch them officers, son, they're sly."
On November 1st, the Division went around for a rest. The 6th Infantry Brigade was to settle around Willebroek back in Belgium near Antwerp The regiment remained in Willebroek for a week. In that time the interior economy was brought up to date and the officers and men enjoyed the needed relaxation in trips to Antwerp and short leaves to surrounding towns. On the 4th, a regimental dance was held and plenty of excellent refreshments were supplied to all. Corporal Mann won the Jitterbug contest in a popular event and was the delight of the Belgian girls who had not seen such American dancing before. On the 5th, the officers held their dance which was attended by some Canadian nurses, and some very pleasing Belgian University students, and a good time was enjoyed by all.