July 31 this year marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the Third battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), a battle that need not have been fought as it had no strategic purpose. It was British Field Marshal Douglas Haig's attempt to get a victory to end off 1917. He was responsible to his political masters in London and they craved for an Allied victory. British Second and Fifth armies had been toiling 2 1/2 months before Haig finally put the call out for the Canadians to assist. Dug in at Vimy, the entire Canadian corps under its commander General Arthur Currie moved 40 km north to Flanders. In the incessant rain the Canadians worked tirelessly to build shelters and dug-outs, difficult as the water table here was very high and its natural drainage had been destroyed by enemy artillery -- it was a sea of mud everywhere. Roads were impassable and moving heavy artillery forward was near impossible. With every shell fired the gun would sink further into the mud, which necessitated moving it to a drier wooden platform if possible and re-aiming.
DIEPPE - the 75th anniversary of the raid on Dieppe, France which included The Toronto Scottish Regiment is 13 days away and in the lead up, here are some photos and forgotton stories from the 50th anniversary trip in 1992.
Flight Sergeant Jack Nissenthal was an RAF radar expert whose task on 19 Aug. 1942 was to land at Pourville, just west of Dieppe and observe the workings of the German radar station atop the eastern headland. He had a 10 man bodyguard of soldiers from the South Saskatchewan Regiment with orders that he not fall into enemy hands, given the knowledge he had of British radar. He successfully landed at Pourville (Green beach) scaled the headlands and got the intelligence he needed. Of his bodyguard, 3 or 4 were killed but the Flight Sgt. made it home. Following the war he moved to Markham ON, wrote a book on the radar war, and shortened his name to Nissen. Many years later a student of mine interviewed him for his history assignment along with 4 other Dieppe vets.
photo 1 - Jack Nissen at the Dieppe cemetery - 19 August 1992
photo 2 - the village of Pourville where the South Saskatchewan Regiment and the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders landed. The radar station (far left, background) as it appeared in 1992. Following the war it fell off the cliff where it remains to this day.
photos 3-4 - his book and photo 5 - the must read book - Green Beach - by James Leasor if one is interested in the raid.
100 years ago today, 4 March 1917, Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Beckett, commanding officer of the 75th Battalion was laid to rest at Villers au Bois cemetery behind Vimy Ridge. Major J. Miles Langstaff and 16 other men who had been killed on the night of 28 February - 1 March during the disastrous trench (gas) raid were also buried on that day. The 75th casualties were 71 dead, 119 wounded and 31 missing, the remains of the latter were not found. Lieutenant Aysceau F. Swinnerton who was missing-presumed-killed that night is but one of the 250 names to 75th men commemorated on Walter Allward's Vimy Memorial.
Capt. Nick Webb (former TSR RSM) received this photo from Hugh Neve in West Sussex UK. It's in the woods near his home and it's a gravestone of one of the TSR's WW II mascots.
The headstone reads:
Just a Dog
Born Dec ?? Died June 18 /44
One of the dog mascots overseas was named Peaches and Col. Christie MC had a dog as a pet in UK, not sure of the dog's name, but it could very well have been Zeke.
New Museum acquisition -- WWII Battledress blouse worn by Brigadier Guy Standish Noakes Gostling CBE, ED, CD, Croix de Guerre (France). GSN Gostling, affectionately called "The Goose" commanded the TSR from April to Nov. 1942. He was OC of the TSR detachment involved in the Dieppe Raid in 1942 -- his brother, Lt Col Alfred was killed on the raid leading the Winnipeg Camerons ashore at Pourville.
In November 1942, GSN Gostling was promoted Brigadier and given command of 6 Cdn Inf Brigade. He held various other staff appointments for the remainder of the war. Following, he was appointed Regimental Honorary Lt Col (1949-1959) and then Colonel.
WW II Battledress are getting much harder to find these days as they are much sought after by collectors driving up the price. On the glengarry is the wartime issue sterling officer's cap badge which was 3/4 size.
This item was purchased for the museum by a friend of the regiment. Our sincerest thanks.