Saturday, December 31, 2016

Research: In Comox and Courtenay, BC (9).

Good Scenes, Good Stories re WW2

My father saw salmon "bank to bank" in the Courtenay River, 1944.
I saw salmon on Courtenay services boxes. Good catch, 2016!

Earlier this year, before an early morning walk, I emailed home to London from Courtenay, BC.

Date: Tuesday, 17 May 2016

I am up early, before seven, and will take a scenic walk before breakfast and research time at Courtenay museum.

Photos from the "scenic walk":

 Great views in Courtenay over tree- and house-tops

I recommend breakfast at Common Ground on Fifth St. west.

More articles follow from The Comox Argus:

'Zombies' became a familiar term on the West Coast (perhaps elsewhere) during WW2, and it appears in my father's memoirs as well as local news. The term was used in some instances in a disparaging way and connected to men who were training on the West Coast but were not used as reinforcements as quickly as some observers expected. There were perhaps disagreements, politically related, between conscription vs no conscription policies and some enlisted men got caught in the crossfire. Your opinions are appreciated.

The Comox Argus, November 23, 1944

The article continued:

....fighting fronts, therefore be it resolved that this meeting of Courtenay branch, No. 17, B.E.S.L. (i.e., the Legion) go on record as favoring the sending of Home Defense Army overseas particularly because it is now apparent that more reinforcements are required than can be secured by voluntary enlistments or transfers from the Home Defense Army."

The second (telegram) was to Colonel Ralston and was congratulatory in tone. 

It read:

"We the Courtenay Branch No. 17 of the Canadian Legion, wish to congratulate you, sir, on the stand you have taken on reinforcements for our men overseas. Resolutions supporting your stand have been sent to our member and to General McNaughton and the Prime Minister." 

One week later the Zombies marched into town.

 The Comox Argus, November 30, 1944

The article continued:

They were shouting something that no one could distinguish very well and few people came out from the stores or other buildings into the pouring rain to see what it was all about. They wandered up Union Street round to the Courtenay Legion Hall none hindering them and there they shouted as far as the few onlookers could make out "Down With Conscription" "Down With the Legion"....

The next day the O/C of the company paraded the paraders and congratulated them on the spirit they had shown in staging a protest at only partial mobilization for overseas service. He said he hoped they would all show the same spirit against the enemy when they arrived in Germany. They left on Tuesday morning for parts unknown....

 The Comox Argus, November 30, 1944

As Christmas approached some concern was expressed for servicemen, perhaps including my father (no mention has ever been seen about a trip home to Norwich, Ontario for Christmas, 1944), who had to stay in barracks over the Christmas season:

 The Comox Argus, Dec. 14, 1944

The article continues:

It was decided that one central depot be set up for lists of hosts and guests. The Red Triangle Club in Courtenay, being the most central spot, was chosen for this depot. YMCA War Services Supervisors, Gordon Bell and Ollie Goldsmith, will prepare lists of servicemen from the navy and airforce, and Ernie Lewis, Legion War Services Supervisor, will handle the army list....

Gordon Bell's name was very familiar to many Canadians in Combined Operations. In my father's memoirs I read, Gordon Bell, a YMCA director, came to ‘the spit’ as it was called nearly everyday and provided piano music, sewed on crests and buttons, repaired uniforms and showed movies.

Well done, Mr. Bell, I say.

A good deal for a gift. The Comox Argus, Dec. 14, 1944 

The Comox Argus, Dec. 14, 1944

Union Bay is across the bay from The Spit and the small community welcomed sailors during the Christmas season.

 The Comox Argus, Dec. 21, 1944

I include the piece below re Air Cadets because, to this day, the site of Givenchy III (now known as HMCS Quadra) is linked to the training of Sea Cadets. As well, Commander Windeyer sent out WW2 landing craft - used for training new recruits at the Combined Operations camp - to pick up the Air Cadets.

 The Comox Argus, Dec. 21, 1944

 The Comox Argus, Dec. 28, 1944

The feature 'Sifting The War News' continued:

The sinking of three ships off the coast in the past month shows that the U-boat cannot be completely written off as a commerce killer. The subs have been routed out of most of their bases and can only now operate with great difficulty, but it is apparent they are patrolling some of the trade routes and the navy authorities say they are superior in design and fitted with new killing devices. The RCAF air patrol of the North Atlantic will have to continue with all its old vigilance with the Canadian Navy.

In the new year, 1945, the following story appeared:

The Comox Argus, January 25, 1945

The story continued:

"Once again I am home among friends and am able to relieve you of your anxiety. I am in hospital resting and will stay there for a few days.

Very likely you know I was a prisoner of war. I was taken prisoner on October 7th and escaped on October 23rd, on my way to Hamburg and got back just six days ago. I was slightly wounded before I was captured and had a bit of a rough go of it. The whole story is very exciting and you will hear all about it later.

My reception at the unit was terrific and I am getting used to dining with generals. It is wonderful to be back where there is no Gestapo hounding me. Reg. Biscoe was in to see me tonight. He looks better than I have ever seen him. I have also seen McIntosh who has visited you in Courtenay. I expect to be going back to England for a month or so very soon and will keep you posted where I am. Give my best to everyone and tell them I am O.K." - Roger

(Reg. Biscoe mentioned in the letter is Sgt. Biscoe, son of Mrs. Biscoe of Courtenay, and McIntosh is Major McIntosh, for years second in command at the Battle Drill and Combined Operations School at Sandwick.)

Another story follows brought to you by Gordon Sinclair and UDL, a well-known distilling company:

The Comox Argus, January 25, 1945

The story about Smokey Smith continued:

Into this desperate position stepped Private Ernest A. "Smokey" Smith of New Westminster, BC, with one anti-tank gun and one companion. Smith's comapanion fell, badly wounded, but Smokey leaped into the open, Tommy gun in hand, and crushed ten Nazis who charged from the tank. Four died in their tracks, the other six crawled away, wounded.

A second tank attacked with guns blazing, but Smith fearlessly fought this armor until he ran out of ammunition. Then, still unafraid, he retrieved other shells from the rain-filled ditch, resumed firing and put the whole German party to route. After dressing the wound of his fallen buddy, Smokey Smith made ready to repel a third assault, but Seaforth reinforcements arrived. The position was held, and a further advance began.

For audacity to the point of contempt, Private Smokey Smith was called to Buckingham Palace and there, in private investiture, awarded the Victoria Cross and home leave by a grateful king on behalf of an applauding empire. Smith was the first Canadian private in this war to win the Empire's most coveted medal, and well he deserved that great honour.


With nearly one man in ten in uniform, and with the output of our war industries greater than ever before, Canada carries on to ultimate victory. We at United Distillers stand pledged now, as in the past, to provide in endless supply all this nation requires of us in high-test alcohol, so vital for munitions, for the protection of our fighting men and for the comfort and healing of the wounded.

More to follow.

Please link to Research: In Comox and Courtenay, BC (8).

Unattributed Photos GH

No comments:

Post a Comment