Back in early August, many groups and individuals gathered at a most dignified service, here in Victoria. We heard of the battles our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and others fought and died for, on the French coastline at Dieppe.
Past blogs here brought you some of that story.
In remembrance to those who fought and in many cases gave their lives, we have a duty. That being to recognize those at the battle front, and those at home that paid so dearly for the freedoms we have. Freedoms, we far too often seem to forget.
Years ago I discovered a grave stone for a veteran who served with my old regiment... the Toronto Scottish. The grave was in the Canada Veterans Affairs cemetery commonly known as God's Acre.
The grave slipped my mind over the years, but when I heard of the Candlelight ceremony in remembrance of the Battle at Dieppe, I went out to the cemetery to again find the grave. It took hours and would have been fruitless until the Staff at the cemetery and particularly the Canada Veterans Affairs staff and some 2,500 files finally produced the location of the grave.
Upon examination of the grave once again, I was startled to discover that the soldier was also a military hero for bravery. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). This medal is just one down from the famous Victoria Cross.
I was further stunned to realize that this officer, a Major, earned his medal at Dieppe!
I immediately advised those in charge of the up and coming Candle Light Ceremony of this service, and at the very battle in which the service would be taking place.
Sadly plans did not allow for a major change such as this, and for sharing with the guests at the ceremony days later.
Nevertheless, I attended, as noted in past blogs, and placed a lit candle at the foot of this hero's grave.
Though shown recently in this space, here again today is Major Curry's grave marker...
During the God's Acre service many dignitaries spoke of the battle and the heroism back in 1942. I believe a few may have mentioned that there were only a few DSOs awarded for the battle. Certainly that fact is oft noted on the internet. My research suggests that there were many more.
Many mentioned the heroism of Cecil Merritt who would earn a Victoria Cross, one of only three in the battle, and in fact the first of the war.
I took special interest in this as he was a distant relative of my mother, and also going back even further was related to Sir Charles Tupper, a Nova Scotia Premiere, PM of Canada, knighted, and the first ever president of the Canadian Medical Association. His son, of the same name, was also knighted.
One of the presenters at the ceremony was Lillian Luyk of Victoria. Her father Ken Curry, no relation to the above Major, died just a few years ago. He was a Dieppe Veteran and in fact that last surviving Dieppe veteran from the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. (RHLI)
During the service she was called upon to read the formal Act of Remembrance.
After the formal presentations took place she and all the other dignitaries took part of placing a lit candle at the foot of one of the veteran's graves.
When the service was over many guests took the opportunity to talk with the presenters. I acknowledged my lineage to Lt. Col Cecil Merritt, spoke to some of the presenters and then asked Mrs Luyk if she would allow me to meet with her on another day for an interview.
From that day to this we have met several times and she has provided me with a considerable amount of documents and photo's re the battle and her father's service.
This photo was among the materials supplied...
Here we see the lovely Lillian with her father Ken and mother Norma. Note that she is wearing medals indicative of her service in Britain's Women's Auxiliary Air Force. (WAAF) This proud unit had a strength of about 180,000 and in 1943 alone was taking in recruits numbering about 2,000 per week.
This picture of Ken Curry, a private at the start of the war, proudly wears a number of service medals. Before retirement he would become not only the commanding officer but an Honorary Colonel of his unit. At Lower right you can see a portion of a medal and the solid red ribbon. This the French government's Legion of Honour Medal, at the "Knight" level.
Around Ken's neck he wears the commemorative medal for 50th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. The image, though quite difficult to see, actually has several images engraved on it. They represent the cliffs, a plane, landing craft and the beach so many died in an attempt to capture.
Lillian tells me that at the top of the various badges on the right side of his blazer is an actual miniature set of handcuffs.
When Hitler heard of the German success and number of POW's taken he gave an order that all the POW's would be cuffed day and night. Rope was first used to secure the men, but later handcuffs were put to use. With few exceptions each wore these restraints day and night for YEARS before being rescued. (Or so the Nazi's thought!)
Lillian also told me the story that the men removed lids from red cross packaged cans of food, cut out the metal and fashioned then into shapes of keys. Thus, while in barracks and not well supervised by the Germans, they managed to free themselves, till reapplied before the next day's muster.
The 80th Commemoration of the battle in France, other countries and all across Canada took place this year on August 19th.
In the next blog I will talk about the memorial services in France. Following that I will address the services in Hamilton Ontario.
And finally, after all of these, it is hoped that I can again return to the theme of these blogs, that being the Medal of Honor.
See you soon,
When all the so called planning was complete and passed on, the Allies set off to start the attack on Dieppe.
But little did they know that the low flying clouds soon no longer hid the British naval attack from Nazi air patrols along the coastline. The development was soon leaked back to England. The "supposed surprise attack" was called off and immediately ordered back across the channel to England, to fight another day.
That day was August 19th!
Plans for the attack called for landings at 6 locations along about a 20 KM stretch of coastline. Certain landings would occur first, carry out designated tasks and by then the others would follow and make their own landings.
But the plans soon flew out the window when England's 237 ships, barges and 6 destroyers were not far off the coast. That's when they were sited by a German convoy at sea. A sea battle broke out. Being in the middle of the night, the lights and noise from the battle tipped off the Nazi troops on land that the British armada was on its way to Dieppe. Worse yet the time lost in the sea battle, gave the enemy time to get ready, and for the arrival happening...not in darkness... but daylight.
The top map shown above gives a bit of an idea of the area were the battle would take place. The second map gives far more details.
That second map, for those with a great eye, shows not only the beach front, but a high watermark and then a sea wall. A little more inland you can see, at the left and right of the town a very high cliff traveling left to right.
In this third map you can see about 30 round and square images with BARRELS sticking out their fronts. This represent artillery pieces, machine guns and mortars positioned to deal with any enemy forces attempting a landing.
Above we see the cliffs and a current beach area. The same beach that the invading troops had to cross back in 1942.
Behind the sunbathers is a field of very small smooth stones called "chert." These are hard to walk on as they move about and sink as you step on them.
At the right, there is an image of this chert back in 1942. Note some of the obstacles put there to obstruct enemy tanks coming ashore. In the same area there were three separate strands of barbed wire as further obstacles to slow down or prevent entry past this point.
Here we see about a dozen soldiers and three sailors manning the ALC, an Assault Landing Craft, landing on the Dieppe shore line. Below that is an image of a TLC... a Tank Landing Craft, off loading a tank onto the Dieppe shore.
The top image here shows several tanks being or have just been oft loaded onto the shore. It appears that the Tank Carrier has been hit and about to sink. Two of the tanks are already struggling to get a grip on the chert below their tracks and unable to move forward or backward or even to the sides.
Many of the tanks got bogged down and thus became easy targets for the Nazi troops and their high powered mortars and shore guns. After the battle one of the officers was overheard saying that he saw what appeared to be aiming sticks in the ground that allowed the weapons to zero in on and get the right bearing for later firing onto the very ground of the sticks, if an attacking vehicle was in the right spot.
One of the guards of the later POW's actual took a lot of pictures and gave some to the POW's. The center picture is one of these. It shows some of the obstacles placed along the shore line and at left, the sea wall that the men had to struggle to get over during their attack.
The image also clearly shows the power the Nazi's had over the attackers, with high powered machine guns and artillery pieces that were placed along the crests of the cliff and in many cases actually dug into the face and top of the cliffs to boot.
Military intelligence on Britain's side failed to disclose these threats to the attackers. Probably because they did not apparently even know they existed. neither were the troops warned about the hazards the chert was going to cause.
The lower 2 pictures clearly show two of the tanks bogged down and becoming sitting targets.
The first picture above appears to be looking down onto the beach from on top of the cliffs at one end. The second image seems to be at the other end, again looking down.
In the first one there seems to be evidence of two carriers in the water just off the beach and more on shore looking past these two. So the image is probably after the battle.
The second image also clearly shows the obstructions the Nazi's put in place to deter a landing.
The area today is obviously a tourist trap of sorts. It seems to show the same pill box dug down into the cliff from the top and may be the same location as that of the first image.
Picture number 4 shows one of the many German Machine Gun nests, and is indicative of the damage it could do from a spot well dug into the cliff's face for protection. One of enemy's artillery pieces is shown in the last image.
Of the 237 ships, landing barges and 6 destroyers, one destroyer and over 30 landing craft were lost to the enemy. Of about 30 tanks landed, only half would make it over the seawall. About 1,000 planes from the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force played key roles in the battle. The RAF losing 106 planes while German counterparts lost only 48 planes.
Almost 6,000 troops (not including airmen) went into this bloody battle on August 19, 1942. about 5,000 were Canadians. About 1,000 were from Britain. Also deep in the battle were some 50 US and 15 French Commando's.
Canadian soldiers came from the South Saskatchewan Regiment, the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, the Calgary Tanks, The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, the Essex Scottish, The Toronto Scottish Regiment, the Royal Regiment of Canada, The Royal Canadian Engineers, the Fusiliers de Mont. Royal and a small contingent of Military Police and perhaps others.
Within four hours of the battle starting, some 3025 were killed, wounded or soon prisoners of war. The Brits lost over 200 men. Orders then came down to retreat. Many wounded had already been wisked away by water, but finally the attacking forces had to completely vacate the coastline and return to England. But without enough vessels many became POW's
The Germans had now under their control about 2000 invading troops as POW's
Here we see some of the real heroes of the Dieppe Raid. The lower image shows a Landing Carrier that was soon to probably sink.
The first image, probably after the battle came to an end and showing the struggle to get over the sea wall shown. The lower image is yet of more dead heroes.
Here we see the POW's being marched through the streets of Dieppe to their places of temporary confinement.
A week from today, hopefully I will bring the next segment and it will cover the 80th Commemorative ceremony in Dieppe and a week later I will bring you coverage of a similar gathering at Hamilton Ontario, also held on August 19th.
On another note, I often use this space to highlight women heroes of uniform both in Canada and the US. So it is important to do this again today.
Here is that woman in uniform, only a Second Lieutenant at the time but destined to higher authority in her future.
Here she is...
This woman joined the British ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) in 1944, 2 years after my mother joined the CWAC (Canadian Womens Army Corps). The lady in the picture took up auto mechanics and graduated in 1945.
Later she would join in the family business, if you will. Her name was Elizabeth and she would one day become the Queen of England, and of course Canada. In her 96th year of life, she would hold the record as the longest serving Monarch in British History.
The world grieved the moment they heard the news today of her passing early this morning.
Many hold personal memories of being in her audience, speaking with her, or just being at the same events she attended.
I too hold such a memory dating back to about the time that I had about completed 2/3rds of my term in the military.
Her Royal Highness would go on to serve over 70 years, and as such was the longest serving monarch until very early this morning.
She sadly passed away in her 96th year of life today.
Lest we Forget!
Some new info that arrived this week needs work, and determining what will be used. It is more painful than first thought!
Blog should be posted on Wednesday 7 September.
Thanks for your understanding,
Horrendous Dieppe battle of 19 August 1942 was recently celebrated in several countries including across Canada.
Several blogs back, I told you about the fact that a Dieppe survivor later resided in Victoria and now rests at the Veterans Affairs Canada grave yard known as God's Acre.
Unfortunately the news of a Dieppe connection did not come to the organizers of a commemoration here in Victoria until after the program was already prepared.
I however did make a point of visiting the veteran's grave. His name was John Owen Curry and he served as a Major with the Toronto Scottish Regiment. He was one of what has been often said to be only a very few who were awarded the Distinguished Service Order in the battle. My initial research suggests there may well have been a couple of dozen... if not more.
At God's Acre, with considerable help from the folks at Veterans Affairs Canada, Major Curry's resting place was located. I placed a lighted candle at the foot of his grave. Its image, appearing in past blogs is here again for you to have a look at. Here it is...
As noted in a past blog, one of the presenters at the God's Acre commemoration was Mrs Lillian Lyuk, daughter of Ken Curry. (No relation to Major Curry.) When the formal presentation was finished I asked Mrs Lyuk if she would allow me to interview her at a later date. She granted this and since has sat with me several times and also provided many pictures and documents about her father's service.
He passed away just a few years ago and was in fact the last living Dieppe veteran of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry at the time. There were 582 RHLI soldiers that took to the beach at Dieppe. Just under 200 were killed of the beach. Many joined with Ken as POW's, and only 211 of the regiment made it back to England, one half of these being wounded.
Here is one of the many pictures Lillian gave me. She is shown here with late father Ken and her late mother Norma who served at the beginning of the war with Britain's Women's Auxiliary Air Force. (WAAF)
,Here's another picture of Ken Curry wearing his medals proudly.
Around his neck he is shown wearing a medal that several other veterans of the battle wore. It was after many, many inquiries that I finally learned that the medal was actually one commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid.
Though almost decipherable, I have manged to determine that the medal consists of an image of the cliff's, the beach area, planes, attacking navy vessels and tanks in the battle.
Ken also wears a family commemoration containing his original his dog tag details. A piece of jewelry that he apparently never took off since its receipt from family. And I mean EVERY DAY, says his daughter. Even when in the shower.
A very close look at the top "badge" on his left reveals a set of miniature handcuffs. These being a constant reminder that after capture, Adolf Hitler actually issued a directive that all prisoners were to be handcuffed day and night. Rope first used, was later replace with medal cuffs.
But prisoners soon found a way to use the lids of Red Cross foodstuffs to make make a key that actually opened the cuffs. It was used nightly when the guards were not as observant of prisoner activity within their quarters.
In the next blog I will bring you some details about how this man's and thousands of others were remembered during the 80th commemoration at Dieppe, of the battle of 19 August, 1942.
Following that blog I will bring you details of a similar that took place at Hamilton, the home obviously of the RHLI. Though it should not be forgotten that similar services were also held across Canada.
After those blogs it is hopeful that I can return to pressing Medal of Honor stories.
In an earlier blog in this space I told you about my discovery of a Toronto Scottish Regiment (TSR) soldier who had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order, one down from the Victoria Cross. He is buried here in Victoria at the God's Acre Cemetery. With the great help of Veterans Affairs Canada staff, well over 2,500 listings of service members buried at the cemetery, were examined and finally that of Major Curry was located.
That very cemetery joined with others in honouring those who died at Dieppe in a special August Candle Light commemorative. I attended and placed a candle at the foot of the above mentioned grave of Major John Owen Curry, DSO.
The story and image of his grave, shown here again, was brought to you several blogs ago. His DSO was awarded for bravery at Dieppe. The internet notes just a few such awards were made, but my research suggests there were many more.
While at the God's Acre cemetery I had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Lillian Luyk. This woman is the daughter of Ken Currry, same surname by no relationship, to the above Major. He was also a vet from the battle at Dieppe and was in fact the last living veteran in the battle from his unit, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI). He sadly just passed away a few years ago. (About 3 yrs after his wife of some 73 yrs of marriage.)
At the God's Acre ceremony Lillian read the formal... Act of Remembrance... to about 200 in attendance. She later agreed with my request for an interview at a later date. Such turned into several interviews, to my great honour.
Within the massive amount of documents and pictures loaned to me was the above picture. It shows the lovely Lillian at the left, her father Ken Curry at the centre and her mother Norma on his left.
Married before the war started, Ken would be in a POW camp before learning that he was to become a father and it would be 3 yrs after Lillian's birth before the family sat in the same room together for the first time. Note her uniform! Like some 180,000 others in Britain, she would serve with the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, (WAAF)).
Ken Curry attended most of the commemorative services both in Dieppe and a few times at similar services in his home town of Hamilton Ontario. Usually his wife and daughter also attended these same services.
Speaking with Lillian a few weeks previous to the Hamilton service, I learned an interesting story. A local motorcycle club had given the family an escort the last time all attended at Hamilton a few years ago. Plans were to do the same for Lillian this year, but being in mid week, this and other complications prevented the escort taking place.
Prior to learning this, I contacted one of the former commanding officers of the Toronto Scottish, seeking to get a number of another member whom was a motorcyclist. I thought he'd wish to attend the Hamilton event. Turns out his bike was undergoing work and not serviceable.
That Commanding Officer was Lt Colonel John Nosotti who served as the commander from Dec 1982 till the end of 1985. He was only a lieutenant when I was a Sergeant in the unit back in the early 1970's. Work promotions required me to leave the TSR and relocate in Nova Scotia in the late 1970's.
Many years later I located to BC and since that move I and several other former TSR members have found each other and have had small gatherings over the past few years here in Victoria.
When I reached out to him for some info, he did not return my email for a few days. He then contacted me and said he was out of town... AT DIEPPE... the very place of the famous battle. On his return we had several conversations about the Dieppe ceremony in which he actually participated. He also supplied many great photo's of the trip.
I will share some of these stories and photo's with you in the next blog. Following that I will bring you the story of a similar event that also occurred in Hamilton Ontario. Both, like so many others across Canada, all occurred on 9 August in honour of the devastating battle of 1942.
A day that must always remain in our minds and hearts and a day of so much heroism, against incredible odds. A day of Forlorn Hope if ever there were such in Canada's military history.
After that hopefully, I will get be back on track with the history of the US Medal of Honor.
A story impossible to fully tell without inclusion of Canada's role in same.
See you soon,
As an Infantry soldier for many a year, I learned and then taught the art of camouflage. The purpose of course was to conceal yourself and equipment so that you could get as close to the enemy as possible before starting your attack.
Several years ago I came across this form of camouflage... and what a concealment it made.
Who would have ever thought this person, in her full time occupation looked like this...
As noted several times in past blogs, this US Drill Sergeant, by the name of Sgt. ChristiAnna Ball has a passion for country and western songs. Her late father-in-law, a Vietnam veteran, learned the words and music for the song of the same title as this blog.
His favorite song soon became her's and as the years went by she really began to understand and have incredible passion for the story they gave about those serving in harm's way.
Her following of country music, learning this and many other songs soon had her on stage performing them. Awards for her singing talent and story telling then led to a performance at the White House. All while still soldiering.
President and Michelle Obama would lead the entire audience in a standing ovation for her lovely voice, and the tear-jerking, storied song brought to the audience.
Over the last few years I have often referred to Sgt. Ball's wonderful song. Each time I have asked you to take a couple of minutes and listen to its powerful words. For those missing this notice, she can be heard at:
You can also just google her name and the title of the song, and there is also a fabulous video that you can view at...
Her title song, used also for this blog have been oft noted here in the past. All tell stories of so many heroes showing incredible bravery and of so many who gave their all for family and country.
Moving along, the past several blogs have briefly noted the horrendous costs a joint force of Canadians, Americans, British and others would join in the attack. One that also came from the air and sea to capture the town of Dieppe France and its harbour beachfront on August 19, 1942.
If there ever was a story behind the song, this battle ought to have been it.
The 80th anniversary of that tragedy, was celebrated at several Canadian centers, in France and probably elsewhere. just a few days ago. These told of the horrid details of the nine hour battle that saw 6000 troops, 5000 being Canadian, being almost completely slaughtered. The battle became known as the worst battle in cost of lives than any other one day battle throughout WWll.
Much more on the battle will appear in this space in the future. But that said, here is an image of the troops about to land on the beachfront.
Most of the tanks either got destroyed before they even hit the beach or could not move around and got stuck in the field of loose rocks that prevented their moving about. Military intelligence did not discover that dug into the face the cliff at several points they had massive cannons to deal with the attacking tanks.
Rather than move out of target areas the tank treads got caught up in the massive field of loose rock bedding, and thus unable to move out of the target sites. Thus, they became sitting ducks for the German heavy cannons.
Note the cliff face in upper left of image.
Here we see two Allied tanks stuck in the small rocks and a landing craft at water's edge that has just been hit possibly by mortar fire. The entire beach line was riddled with such images of men and tanks killed in the battle.
Here is another image of tanks. The image was apparently taken by a German soldier and given to one of the Allied POW's. Note how many tanks are stuck in the image.
In my next blog I will bring you some very interesting details about the Dieppe memorial ceremonies in France and at Hamilton Ontario.
I expect that blog will be done on Sunday September 4th.
Blogs of late have been sporadic as my research is taking me down many roads and thus VERY time consuming. Add to this other matters in my life are also eating up time that I wished was more available for meeting these deadlines.
Hopefully your level of frustration is somewhat lower than my own regarding these publishing dates.
Cheers till the 4th,
Over the past several weeks I have brought you many segments to the story about this ceremony. I left off noting that most references to the tragedy of Dieppe tell us that there were three heroes awarded the Victoria Cross, 2 being Canadian.
The same reference materials say that there was only one soldier awarded the Distinguished Service Order and coming from Canada.
My research shows three more Canadian DSO's. Another reference was also found claiming as many as 12.
Here we see an image of a 24 year old, who was given the temporary rank of major, while at Dieppe. His name was Pat Porteous. He was born in British India and was a Scotsman. And he would become the third Victoria Cross recipient for heroism at Dieppe.
Captain (acting major) Porteous was serving with the Royal Regiment of Artillery. In the Dieppe campaign his job was to move back and forth, as the liaison officer, between two detachments charged with destroying the enemy's heavy coastal defense guns.
While working with the smaller detachment first, he was shot through the hand and the bullet traveled up his arm. But Porteous still managed to grab the German soldier and stab him with his bayonet. At the very time the enemy was about to kill a British Sergeant. The officer thus saved the man's life.
The second and larger detachment, had its officer killed. The troop sergeant major had then fallen with serious injuries and the only other officer had fallen dead.
Porteous ran through withering enemy fire, though already wounded, and rallied them on to carry the charge. He was again wounded and collapsed from blood loss. But his objective, destruction of the guns, was a success.
When he later woke up in a hospital his mother gave him the news that he had been awarded the Victoria Cross.
Turning now to the DSO's, in a recent blog I told you the story of Major Curry of the Toronto Scottish, buried at Gods Acre and of his being a recipient of the Distinguished Service Order.
Net citations tell us that he was the only Canadian DSO recipient from that battle, but as noted, this is not accurate. I have found three others, and perhaps there are still more.
The first of the three found is Captain, (latter a Brig. General) Denis "Dinny" Whitacre from Calgary Alberta, shown below...
Denis Whitacre was an RMC grad in 1937 and signed up when the war started. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. and soon Lieutenant with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and commanded a Bren Gun Carrier platoon.
On landing in Dieppe he was charged with capturing the beachfront Casino. His men did this and then moved on to hand to hand combat in the plaza behind. Then having to face very heavy fire from the town.
He then decided that continuing would lead to suicide and thus retreated back to the beach. There his platoon was deluged by heavy mortar and machine gun fire whilst awaiting evacuation back to England. He was the sole officer of some 100 that actually captured their original target and managed to escape unwounded.
His skill, courage and initiative were all acknowledged by his receiving the DSO.
Still serving, in July of 1944 he received a dreadful facial wound from an exploding shell. He was thought to be blinded, but miraculously recovered and went on the earn A SECOND DSO.
John Hamilton "Ham" Roberts (above) was born in Manitoba. Another RMC grad, he served in both world wars.
Ham was commissioned as a Lt. in the Royal Canadian Artillery in 1914. He fought at the Flanders. In 1918 his bravery was so highly recognized that he was successfully recommended for the Military Cross.
He continued serving in the RCHA and after the final collapse of France,he was the sole commander to return to England with all his guns, and 12 Bofors, seven predictors, three Bren Gun carriers and other technical equipment.
At the start of WWll Ham was a Lt Colonel. By early 1942 he was a Maj. General and Commander of the Operation Jubilee (code for Dieppe.)
He operated as commander from the decks of a destroyer and under very perilous heavy enemy fire. For his ability, courage and determination, he was awarded the DSO.
The last of the three DSO men from Canada that I found is Major General Clarence Churchill Mann, born in New Jersey, USA.
While many would question a US born hero's appearance on this site, this general was a whopping 6 years old when his family moved to Ontario.
On this note, please know that perhaps as many as 50 %, and I believe higher of ACCEPTED VC recipients are classed as Canadian even though born elsewhere. Same concept applies to the Canadians who opted for US service in the Civil War and every war they have been in since.
The concept has been oft noted in this space in the past.
Moving on... In 1927 Mann, who had early become yet another RMC Grad, joined the Royal Canadian Dragoons. Two years later he was attending staff college in England. He then served in General McNaughton's 7th Corps and found himself in the Dieppe battle of 1942 and wearing the rank of a Brig. General. He served on board HMS Fernie at Dieppe with the title of Deputy Military Force Commander.
For this work he was decorated with a DSO and later found himself back in Ottawa as Vice Chief of the General Staff at Head Quarters.
More work is needed on many other possible DSO's from the days of Dieppe.
And now to an end note. As you can see from the above and many blogs over the last year and much more, a lot of work goes into these blogs. Moreover, a lot of work is needed in other related matters that have been crying out for my attention for far too long.
With this said I am taking a break from this space until mid August or shortly thereafter, in order to get at some of this backlog.
I must thank you all for traveling along this route with me and hope that you will continue on the road to adventure with me when I return. I will be monitoring the comments sections, and now, more importantly than ever, your comments would be greatly appreciated.
In the mean time, you have well over 575 blogs in this space and within, surely blogs you will enjoy having a second look at. Find it, read it and break out of your shyness and send along some comments.
And please share this work with others you know who have similar interests.
See you all soon, I pray!
Off topic very briefly... it was 155 years ago tomorrow, that some early politicians finally came together and agreed to join forces as one country. After all the heated discussions the leaders from four separate provinces came away with a Royal Proclamation, It created 3 separate provinces, but all under the same roof in a country to be called CANADA.
Here is the document that I suspect few Canadians today have ever seen...
And here we see the 1867 map of the new Dominion.The four provinces of the day, are shown in white and appropriately labeled as Canada East(Que.) and West (Ont.), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
As you can see, we have done a little expanding since the first ever... Canada Day!
But now its time to travel to the far left hand side of this image and the southern tip of Vancouver Island... and to God's Acre once again.
Recent blogs in this space, have brought you a lot of details with regards to the ceremony held there. Many speakers reminded us of the horrible costs, and the incredible bravery of all on that August day of 1942. The nine hours of slaughter became known as some of the darkest hours in Canadian military history.
We were told, as supported by the internet and most reference materials, that after all was said and done at Dieppe, three Victoria Crosses and 2 Distinguished Service Order medals for bravery were awarded. Apparently two of the VC's and 1 DSO came to Canadians.
So we were told.... in error! The VC numbers are right, but not so for the DSO's!
Shown here are the 2 Victoria Cross recipients from Canada.
Vancouver born Lt. Colonel Cecil Merritt, at left, was the commanding officer of the South Saskatchewan Regiment. At Dieppe the landing crafts that dropped Merritt and troops off, dropped them on the West side of an important river. They were supposed to land on East side.
His bravery lead many across the heavily fortified structure but were later forced to retreat. Wherein he led a vigorous rearguard till captured. Twice wounded he was taken as a prisoner of war. He would later be awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions and incredible bravery.
Today he lay at rest back in Vancouver.
The above first image shows the proximety of Dieppe to the south eastern side of England, some 300 kms to the north west. The second shows part of the Dieppe beach and where Col. Merritt and his men landed, just about 7 miles from Dieppe. Note the three rivers in blue. The one on the left was Merritt's start point.
But his troops were landed by the navy at the left of the river instead of the right side. If done correctly his men could have avoided the very heavy battles to cross a bridge structure that was well protected by the enemy.
He successfully crossed the bridge several times and moving more and more troops across each time but then luck turned against him and the men were driven back. But eventually he and many of his men had to make it back to the coastline and move out into the English Channel.
In the process he organized a rear-guard action aiding many to escape. But many, including the Colonel were captured and spent the rest of the war in POW camps.
For his bravery he was later invested with the Victoria Cross. A very rare honour for a POW.
John Weir Foote, Ontario born, was a man of the clothe. When the war started he volunteered and was appointed as a military chaplain with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. He was given the honourary rank of a Captain.
Throughout some 8 hours Chaplain Foote continuously exposed himself to heavy enemy fire, while aiding the wounded back from enemy positions.
When finally forced to withdraw he had loaded troops onto a rescue craft and climbed in. Then he jumped off, because of his higher calling.
He turned about, and with hands up, surrendered. Doing so allowed him to stay with other POWs who would no doubt need his spiritual guidance as a chaplain.
He saved many lives during the battle, and probably many more whilst in a POW camp. He thus became Canada's first member of the Chaplain service to be decorated with the Victoria Cross for his bravery.
Today he lays at rest in a Cobourg Ontario cemetery.
Canada's only (so they say) DSO recipient was a fellow from Vancouver named Curry. A few years back I discovered a grave for Curry at the cemetery. I was thrilled to learn that he was serving in the Toronto Scottish at Dieppe. This being my first regiment of three served in over about 17 yr span.
But I suspect unknown to those at the cemetery and those planning the ceremony, they had a Dieppe DSO recipient buried at this very cemetery. The DSO is a bravery award just one down from the Victoria Cross.
Knowing of the ceremony up and coming I went to the graveyard and after much hunting by me and two very dedicated Veterans Affairs Canada reps, we found his grave.
Learning of this was too late for this year but I suspect in future events his story will be highlighted at this historic grave site.
Here is his grave marker...
Rather than trying to tell his story, I now enclose 2 documents about his deeds, provided to me recently from the Toronto Scottish Regiment's current historian. Here they are...
Note that his recommendation for the Distinguished Service Order came form his unit Commander, and was supported by a Major General, General Crerar as General Officer of 1st Cnd. Army, and to top all these off note the signature at bottom right of pg two... Monty himself.
As mentioned in an earlier blog, all guests were invited to pick up a candle and place it in front of the grave of those at rest within the cemetery.
Here I stand in front of one of the many tables of candles located throughout the property. It was not dark yet but as you can see I was thoroughly soaked, as were all others on site. (I had hopes that with all that water at least my hair would grow a little... but not so!
Here I am placing the lit candle at the foot of my fellow Tor. Scots, Major John Owen Curry, D.S.O.
As seen at this blog in the past, for those that missed it, here are images of the Victoria Cross (on left) and the DSO...
Next Wednesday I will bring you a brief blog, and in that will be making an important announcement to all my loyal readers, and the rest too...
In the mean time, sorry I missed making notice in a timely manner that the 4th of course was the big day of celebrations throughout the US.
Hope you will join me on Wednesday.
God shed tears, and more tears, and yet more poured over the landscape throughout the ceremony. He let us know that the passing of these men and women, and their families had not gone unnoticed. And his tears pushed us all on to conduct this important Candlelight Tribute.
Several hundred gathered to pay their respects. Possibly, as many or more pooled their resources to help bring the community's respect and thanks to those who served, many giving their very lives so that we could live in peace.
At this time of reflection, thoughts must also go out to those on the home-fronts who did so much for those who left home to serve. Thoughts also were then, and to this day, due men and women who continue to serve, and those to come, who may be called on to reach out to grab the flame and hold it high. And to catch it, if and when it falls.
The ceremony took place on the Esquimalt lands owned by Veterans Affairs Canada. Land and all within, that have been declared a National Historic Site!
And so it should be!
The ceremony would never have happened without the tremendous dedication and support from a wide group of national and local government entities as well as many other groups and individuals.
Each stood, or sat, and dealt with an incredible down pouring for about an hour, in honor of those at rest before them.
At the federal level, Veterans Affairs Canada and their very dedicated staff and volunteers at the cemetery performed numerous tasks to bring the event to life. Maritime Pacific Command was represented as was the commander of CFB Esquimalt and the Base Chief. Army, Navy, Air Force, Korean Veterans, Peacekeepers, Merchant Navy, Women Veterans of Canada, the Royal Canadian Legion and the BC Command of the Army, Navy, Air Force Veterans in Canada were also key attendees and participates. As were numerous cadet groups, scouts and girl guides.
The badges of several reservists were also noted. And one could not go to such an event without the tremendous contribution of the Canadian Scottish. Their association band marched on the dignitaries, the Colours and Honour Guard to the tunes of the pipes and drums. We even heard the wonderful voices in song, from the Victoria Children's Choir.
At the municipal level we must acknowledge much of the background work and support of the folks at the Township of Esquimalt, and the Mayor and others who also attended the ceremony.
So too, we need to thanks the great folks at Thrifty Foods, the Gorge Vale Golf Course and The Lodge At Broadmead.
Canadian flags had been placed earlier at all graves in the cemetery. Here we see some of them and one of several tables with candles located through-out the property. As darkness was beginning to fall, the candles were turned on and were eventually placed in front of each of the graves.
Some were even presented to selected youth. Popular local media personality Cliffe Lequesne, assigned the children with individual special guests of honor and they accompanied the child to a grave nearbye for placement.
In the top of 3 images we see the Colours having just arrived and folks standing in salute to their arrival. At the center is a wider picture showing some of the veterans accompanying the Colours. And at bottom we see a few of the dignitaries at the dias and under cover to it's right.
My poor images are the results of the inclement weather.
The Master of Ceremonies reminded those gathered, that due to Covid, this was the first such ceremony in several years. After the singing of O Canada, a prayer was given, then the Last Post and a Minute of Silence performed.
At this point Lilian Luyk gave the Act of Remembrance.
Ms. Luyk's father... Ken Curry was one of 580 Canadians who, serving with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry who stormed the beaches of Dieppe on 19 August 1942. Very close to these men of the RHLI on the same beach where the men of the Toronto Scottish, oft noted in this space, also landed.
(Just 5 weeks before this landing, a navy signalman heled the storming of another beach. This being Guandalcanal. You've hopefully read of Douglas Munro's bravery in numerous blogs in this space as being the only Medal of Honor recipient in the US Coast Guard's history. And he too, was a Canadian, from Vancouver. The US is so proud of him they named six war ships after him. Even the Headquarters building in DC is so named in his honor.
Within hours the RHLI lost 197 men. Another 174 became POW's. Ken Curry was one of these and was released at Armistice. This Hamiltonian relocated to Victoria BC in the 1980's. After some 73 yrs of marriage he died while a resident at The Lodge at Broadmead.
He was Canada's last veteran of Dieppe!
Guest Speaker Mark Zuehlke needs no introduction to anyone with a serous knowledge of Canadian WW ll history. He is an author from Victoria who was earned many awards for his work as not only a mystery writer but also for his incredible Canadian Battle Series. If memory serves well, his numbers given to me recently were that he has written over 25 books. He is often referred to as the most popular Canadian military author of the day.
His address to the gathering left all with some horrible details about the blunder at Dieppe... and at the same time, some incredible tidbits about heroism. After his talk he was approached by many in the crowd, who enjoyed chatting with him, being amazed at his knowledge and an ability to converse with those from all walks of life at the service.
Mark conducts tours of Canadian battlefields in Europe and he can be contacted regarding history, his books or his tours through his website... www.liberationtours.ca
In a symbol of passing the torch from the elder to the youth, some of the dignitaries escorted youth members to a few of the graves near the dias. Then they actually, in act of passing the torch, placed it (the candle) in the hands of the youth, who in turn placed them at the foot of the graves of one of the deceased who lay at rest near the dias.
Here we see Ms. Lillian Luyk returning to her seat after placing a lit candle. She is wearing the white coat. To her left we see historian Mark Zuehlke and a youth, having just placed a candle at the foot of a grave marker.
Several years ago the Victoria Genealogical Society and the cemetery worked together on the production of this book. Some history is in it as well as a complete list, as of that date, of all of those lying at rest at God's Acre. I would encourage you to contact the society to pick up your own copy. They can be reached at... https;//www.victoriags.org.
Since this blog is getting far too long, I will return on Sunday to finish it off.
NOTE... at that time I will bring you an important note re this blog.
Please join me then.