To and From Howie Howie and Friends (Latest update January 29, 2012)
I was a soldier once
I was a soldier once I liked the idea that as the commercial said; we did more by 0700 than most people did all day. I loved as range safety officer getting shots down range by 0800. I loved the brutality of route marches because they set us apart from my civilian friends, as most of them could never have hacked the pace. I liked standing in an United Nations observation post just before dawn in a far away land, realizing that I and other soldiers in my unit were doing something very special by representing Canada and the Canadian people, undergoing physical and mental strains that many could not or would not face to keep our country safe and ready. I loved climbing up cargo nets in full battle order and repelling down cliffs. I loved running the assault course. I liked the early morning runs and the late night polishing before a parade.I liked the smell of the quartermaster stores, an odd mixture of gun oil, canvas preservative, leather, hemp rope and cigarette smoke.
I liked the racks of rifles and sub machine guns and I loved the gun sheds and tank hangers where the vehicles and weapons of war gleamed dully and exuded strength and capability and the power to get er done if need be. I loved the name of the equipment when I started off, Sherman, Fabric National, Sten and Bren because they spoke to me of the proud days when our Fathers used them successfully in WW2. Our 36 Grenade was the same as our grandfathers used in WW1 for Gods sake! I also loved when the 105 mm and the M 109 gave way to them M 777 and the guns could shoot accurately over 30 kilometers. I loved it when the old lady the duce and a half was finally replaced by the modern MLVW. The Centurion tank gave way to the Leopard and within weeks our tankers showed NATO they were the best.
I liked our soldiers, from all parts of the land, from cities of upper Canada, small towns of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. They came from the mountains, swamps, and from the prairies -- from all walks of life. I trusted and depended on them as they trusted and depended on me for professional competence, for comradeship, for strength and courage. In a word we were soldiers, then, and forever. I liked the surge in my heart when word was passed that a unit was deploying, and I loved the infectious thrill of riding homeward in convoy waving at the cars we passed and at pedestrians who I was sure looked at us with envy as we rolled through their villages on our way back to Base. I loved waving from the back of a truck at the kids in cars that would trail us for a while before finally passing.
The work was hard and dangerous; the going rough at times; and the parting from family painful, but the companionship of robust army laughter, the all for one and one for all philosophy of the military was ever present. I once enjoyed the best 2 hours sleep in my life laying on the ground at a rest halt while doing a patrol. The weather was overcast but warm and a slight drizzle did not deter my snoring, which could be heard 4 men down the line. Another 4 or 5 hours would have been nice, but there was work to be done. I liked the fierce and dangerous activity of the Infantry Rifle Coy as we began an advance to contact. I liked doing the recce for a harbour where I had to hide up to 40 pieces of wheeled and tracked equipment from the enemy. I hated having to run ahead of our vehicles in complete darkness and trying to be quiet as the drivers and co-drivers tried to back vehicles and trailers into a black hole as quickly as possible so others in line could pass and find me and also be properly positioned and put away. One could hear cursing and unmeant bitching as crews stumbled in the dark to erect cam nets and digging in for protection from an enemy attack, we cut and poked branches holding up the nets to break the vehicle outline so as not to be recognized. The lucky ones had a relatively small vehicle, others, a two and a half or a 5 ton to cover that even in day light would take an hour or more. At night it was dangerous, demanding and extremely hard work. In the rain or freezing snow this necessary chore was brutal. Watching my fellow soldiers as they took down the cam nets, loaded fuel, ammunition and rations for yet another long day. Feeling truly exhausted and knowing it was going to get a lot worse before it got better, actually added value to the experience. We were soldiers and this is what it was like.I loved the name and the history of my Regiments;
"The Regiment of Canadian Guards";
The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada;
The Royal Canadian Regiment;
The Royal Canadian Electrical Mechanical Engineers;
The Royal Canadian Engineers;
only to mention a few.
I loved the parades, the colours on parade and the guidon presentation, the march past, the roll past, the advance in review order and the sound of my hand slapping the stock of my rifle during the Present Arms. I could feel the National Anthem inside me while the band played it. Some liked The Queen or O Canada. I loved The Maple Leaf Forever.I loved walking through our position in complete darkness checking the welfare of my men and NCOs and ensuring them that they were not alone, as we stood in our trench at first light, on stand to. I liked the weight of my steel helmet on my head and the embrace of my webbing. It made you feel like superman though in your heart you surely knew you were not. I loved the weight of my rifle or pistol and knowing I could out-shoot a lot of my men. It was an ongoing competition during range practice to out do your friends as well as your superiors. There was pride in self and country; and growing mastery of the soldiers trade. An adolescent could find adulthood. A man could find fulfillment and old man finds great joy. I will never forget that I was once a soldier. There is no higher calling. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I liked the traditions of the Army and those who made them. I was a soldier once.....
Hello Howie et al
Personal experiences and stories will bring back the memories of things we all had to do at one time or another.
I remember being on night patrol in the Black Forest. (raining and dark ) The patrol leader stopped for a map/compass check as like its name the Black Forest kept us in the dark. I was tail end and was responsible for rear security.
The procedure was to put your hand on the shoulder of the guy in front of you. After 20 min I was thinking this 2nd Lt must be really lost and nudged the shoulder of the guy in front of me. Well there was no response as I had my hand firmly on top of a mossy fence post (see raining and dark) and the patrol was (Lord knows) up and gone.
Well I sat down and thought of my alternatives. Sleep sounded good. Pulled on my poncho and into La la land I went. At Zero dark thirty I arose to find a Jaegermeisters shed 200 (m) away with smoke coming from the chimney. The Forstmeister had just put on a pot of coffee (tschibo) and a slab of schinken laid on the table. After I ate and warmed up I had to make a command decision find them or wait till they come back. Well patrol procedure #1. (Never return on the some route you went out unless you are a 2 LT). I rightfully waited it out and joined them on the return. They were beat to a snot as they had missed their objective and got ambushed on the way back. The guys were jealous of my tactics and the 2 Lt., got his butt chewed out by the Company Commander.
Life is good today.
Good one ... not trying to outdo your patrol experience ... this one of mine still haunts me. Same sort of story line. Start out on another one of those adventuresome exercises. This one for about a month into it dog tired and dirty as a rat in Gagetown, Major Russell was Sun-ray. For the better part of 48 hours ... after moving from hide to hide -- on the run all day. Arriving in a new hide shortly after dark camming the vehicles, I climbed up on top of a duce and half and laid my tired old body to rest between the bowed canopy before first light, and "STAND TO".
Mid-way through a nauseous dream I came to my senses bolting to the upright position upright upon hearing a blood curdling scream from the platoon Sgt., " get to it ladies," first light had arrived. Still in a semi chromatic state and not knowing where I was ... stepped off the edge of the canape straight down ... ass first onto a bum-sum burner where a few of the lads huddled around could be seen warming up a tin of something that smelled a lot like garbage. Well, as you can well imagine the bush pants we were not a match for the flame spilling through the grates covering the flames. There I was with another month to go in the bush with a big burn on my butt.
From that day forward, I have always been inquisitive as to the possibility of a VAC pension ... go figure. The embarrassment kept the story under cover until now, (mums the word).
Take care Tom ... keep those memories alive -- but beware civilians and some men who dress like a woman will never understand the plight of an Infantryman ... telling dam dare tales of whoa and what it was that kept us going all those years, in most cases will gain you an abundance of antipathy, (a feeling of intense aversion, dislike, or hostility).
"GET BY YOUR RIGHT".
Ciao, Howie P, Gdsm
Christmas and Wreath note from Howie
A pleasure to hear from you, Howie. Balls, brass, x 2 were Sr NCO EIS. Yes, QM reissue needed for Op Soest Cycle.
And yes, the Union Jack Club of the '60's was primitive, when ranks were segregated: Nuffield Club for officers, Chevrons Club for WOs & Sr NCOs, Union Jack Club for cpls and ptes. That's all history. Now there are only two clubs, both for all ranks serving and retired, and families: Victoria Services Club and Union Jack Club. British military culture has broken other class barriers; e.g., now the Military Cross is awarded both to officers and ORs (NCMs), and the Military Medal is no longer issued.
My thoughts were with all of you in Petawawa. I was sorry Kit and I couldn't be there. The web photos are a treat, showing the gala affair put together so magnificently by Junior Warrington and his Guards elves.
Chimo, Steve (Yes, Chimo is properly a greeting, but that's our secret. . . .)
Chimo, (apparently "Chimo", can be used as both, a greeting or a salutation).
Steve Brodsky -- Kind of nice reading about the goings and comings of the Brodsky family -- reunited in the fatherland Korbecke Westf. The trails and revisit of common ground for most of us older Gdsm are reminders, ad nauseous abodes, were fondly remembered Although, it was devastating learning most of the the old haunts, our living room during the years most of us spent in Soest Westphalia; the bars, dance halls and fighting venues known to the locals as Gasthofs are now only memories. Also, it was somewhat disappointing to hear of your bout with castrato sopranos. Someone should have told you guys, the high and mighty "Sgt s", about the consequences of sitting on those soft seats ... any way that is what you get for riding up front while us lower surfs took the low road in the back of those most inadequate battle weary 3/4 ton APC's. One old timer Sgt "John" Ferguson told us of his haemorrhoids, apparently they were so bad as a result of riding on the back of the old centurion tanks; that he no longer used toilet paper ... informing us -- by swinging the protruding external hemroids around in an anticlockwise direction until they dried sufficiently, returning them where they belonged, did the trick. It was interesting reading about the subject Staff Duties -in-the-Field, Hemorrhoids and Hemorrhoidal Cushions - A Point of Clarification and Great Understanding, or the doughnut were for officers only.
You mentioned another place of interest -- the Union Jack Club in London, "great Scott"' it was one of the most overrated overnight hole-in-the-wall outstations we had the pleasure of bedding down at, and not to beat the drum too loud they made us pay in baff! According to forlorn fellow Cpl., "Charlie" McIntyre, employed in the welfare section off to the side of the BOR, gave us a bum steer claiming it to be a 5 star overnight er -- apparently highly recommended by others; at an affordable price, clean, and central. We later learned it was none of the above with the exception of being central -- go figure, Charlie must have been on a commission basis.
Any-how it was delightful hearing in a round about way that our most eminent scholar Steve Brodsky, PhD is passing time reminiscing over his fighting life as a Guardsman-- go tell ... there was no life like it, right?
Ciao, Howie Pierce, Gdsm
PS: We all missed chatting with you, our most academically qualified "Sgt", at the Petawawa Reunion.
With regards to the aforementioned comment on the Guards web site (re: Ed Wellstood), and being concerned with the proper administration of administrative procedures outlined in the subject reference, and as I recall our company commander Major Wellstood being a tickler for detail, as taught by yourself. Having been the Company Clerk, 6 Company, The 1st Battalion Canadian Guards, Picton ON., (1963) in the employment of Major Wellstood. He did insist on everyone being properly accounted for on the Daily Parade State. It is this that concerns me, STILL ON DUTY, and not having received an ISM 18 ... due with pertinent details as causation of the injury and the disposition of the patient. And, as a matter of administrative expediency and IAW Staff Duties it is not proper that a Report on Injury be submitted, in a timely manner, properly endorsed together with details and necessary Statuary Declarations corroborated, dated and endorsed by all witnesses? This was to be gathered together with all supporting documentation and be in the BOR by no later than 48 hrs after the injury was sustained.
Also, Major Wellstood please be forewarned and advised that if it was Rose who pushed you down the stairs because of stubbornness, or insubordination, or refusing to obey a wifely word of command ... be duly concerned that it is not the practice for VAC to consider it an injury caused while undergoing a military duty, and therefore must be assume not to be eligible as a pensionable injury, whilst on duty.
"tongue in cheek".
Remember ... Such was the military take on having sustaining an injury in those good old days. However, these days on the Daily Parade State, now days presently on full time retirement (with pension) and, because you are, God forbid, "a civilian", assigned to permanent excused duty ... detailed accounting has passed us by. In retirement we who are still walking upright, do wish for your timely and speedy recovery, and hopefully in the near future "Ed" Wellstood will be capable of taking his place, not front centre with sword in hand; but, on the patio sipping away on your favorite beverage -- getting in the way and claiming superior knowledge on just about any subject passing in front of him. Be aware age, a chronological measurement of time spent on earth ... waiting and waiting and more of the same as he advances into old age for better things coming his way and happiness. God knows you have earned it, the hope for better things to come your way. Therefore we must ass-u-me ... has very little to do with happiness. With that in mind look inward ... smile, and remember those good old days with your colleagues. We were your subordinates but also your admirers and respected comrades-in-arms.
So after re reading what has been written and trying to decipher what it is that this old subordinate, Cpl Pierce HC, Coy Clk is trying to say, in a round-about-way, do take care of yourself, "Sir". And may the Gods take kindly to your plight and give way to good health or until the Government runs out of pension funds; which ever comes first! And recall what was said about the Guardsman who walked about all day with hands in pockets ... "he will feel cocky all day!"
Ciao, Howie Pierce, Gdsm
2nd Battalion Canadian Guards, Sports Day Soest GERMANY 1958 -
old photo laying dormant among a collection ... not having seen the
light of day for some time. Many of the names have long since been
lost in burned out memory cells. However, a few still remain, and
they are from the right to the left; Drysdale, MacDonald,
Pierce, Bell (the Winner), the remainder escapes me
although we can see 3rd from the left ... Fred McLean engaging
in debate with Tom Quigley just who will win this event.
My recollection of Sports Day was the battalion would be trucked to the Soest Sports field by RCASC out of Fort Chambly. Over the next eight hours the unit, companies pitted against each other, would participate in track and field events supervised by the Fort York PERI Staff, with dependents in attendance. Of course a noon meal was dipped out of hay boxes and refreshments provided by the Red Shield Truck with Elisabeth in charge. At the end of the day the company with the most accumulated points would be declared the winner, and allowed the bragging rights for the following year. In those days it was not the practice to pass out big trophies, nor did the participants practice their events for extended periods prior to sports day. As I recall on the day of the event as a member of 10 Company, CSM Don Grant was convinced we were sound choices, because we were skinny, to represent his entry and without fanfare pointed to four of us standing on the sidelines ... as the "New 10 Coy, Six Thousand Metre Team," and off we went ... eating up the dust laid down by Gdsm Bell, out lapping the field by at least 500 m. (March 13, 2011)
Hello Peter Ambroziak (open ltr)
Well it appears that you have done it again, retired ... is this second time, or is it the third?
As you advance into what some refer to as the declining years, don't pay too much attention it is absolutely not true; because, your in for a jolt of the greatest magnitude. Thinking, finally some rest! Not only will you wear out several cars delivering this and that to people you didn't even know you knew, not to mention renovation of the kitchen or bath or moving furniture from one room to the other only to move it back again or replace a rug or picture only to upset the balance of the decorum, according to the boss (wife) and then with advice from all corners move it again ... around and around where it stops no one knows. Perhaps you thought of lighting up on the multitasking phenomenon, and the work load will let up, well that was government propaganda to get you off the pay roll. Think back of the hundreds of files that have passed over your desk while in the employment of the Legion, and the challenges disappointments and those cherished celebratory occasions when you beat the odds and an old veteran was granted some assistance. In many a case this was because of your hard work and diligent investigation. The results of a settlement often went deeper than his pocket book, the families too did benefit. Investigations causing old stones to be move opening up old wounds can not be easy, and to give careful compassion to the veteran cause when he will open up takes only the very best and compassionate person to evaluate and place in document form. Understand his plight and putting all the information into prospective for a panel of VAC judges, causing their deliberations of the issues to side in flavor of the claimant, and rule honestly and compassionately for the veterans benefit is a tremendous feat of gravity ... in many cases upsetting the very physics of the law. Thank you Peter A, for all your hard work and service you extended over the years for the veteran, we sincerely hold it true that at all times your best affords and careful organization did justice for the claimants, and for that there are never enough accolades to give credence for our sincerest appreciation. Believe me when I say that not only your professional attention to detail carried the day, but also a little of your self, exposing passion ... it sometimes takes a little to make a difference in the outcome.
Now for the future, recall the escape and evasion course from days gone by ... well, this is a good time to review some of those details ... for example camouflage and deception will often be necessary when trying to sneak that new golf club in and out of the house under the very nose of the warden (wife). Creating diversionary tactics is also very handy after procuring that new driver, Taylormade r11, cost around six hundred dollars, into the house and keeping it under wraps until it looks sufficiently beat up and becomes a non event, not to mention the accounting and scheming required to keep all the facts and cost over run hidden from the family budget.
We the Guardsmen you have assisted wish you many successes in retirement and let your successes, as a Guardsman's go to guy at the Legion, keep your spirits up and comfort you as those Pro V golf balls fly off the course into ponds and other such hazards.
"Tallest on the right shortest on the left in a single rank in front of me , Fall-In."
Somehow we were all the same ... together we marched on to the parade square, tall and proud, no fatties here. We all took different routes getting here some up the highway some down the road still others through the hallowed halls of higher learning, and still other graduating from the schools of hard knocks. All arriving in Fort York Germany from across this land of ours called, Canada. We ended up here with NATO for a reason, standing one behind the other some on the right others in the middle and still a few front and back. We all seemed to have a roll to play as we followed or lead the masses up onto the gravel -- together we stand. Those who lessened in attention drawn -- still others all neat and tidy, or the very ordinary, still others stood out with their shinier boots or perhaps by their physical statue standing there very still not a sound at attention among a few bodies counted less than a thousand.
Seemingly each in his own way feeling more important on this morning standing in the drizzle. Straight as a poker sober as a judge all there to meet with the Commanding Officer (Germany: from 1957 to 1962:Lt Col HEC Price, MBE CD; Lt Col AD Egan, CD; Lt Col WE Garber, CD; Lt Col RS Graham, CD; and Lt Col HW Mulherin, GM CD.) , but ... only to speak if spoken to. This was a Saturday morning at Fort York Germany. For over five years where Guardsmen gathered on mass collected on a big rectangle bed of stones to bid a humble good morning to our Commanding Officer. On those days we are said to have become one in strength ... made from the steel each of us counted among the many links in the chain of command, strong and durable. We took solace that we were second to none, the best of the best ...
Ciao, Howie (Feb 21)
It was a cold wintry 11 January 2011, when Al Johnston, Bill Patterson, yours truly, and others from the Association of Canadian Guardsmen were counted among the many attending the funeral of CWO "Fred" MacLean. Hundreds crammed into the Robert J. Reid & Sons Funeral Home in Kingston ON., not a seat was to be found, a full house standing in the hallways and between the pews, all participants in the celebration of Mr MacLean's life.
There to say their final farewell to MacLean, Frederick John - Chief Warrant Officer , OMM CD2 ( Retd ). Mr MacLean would be so very proud that his many associates from the Guards, RCR, PPCLI, Black Watch, R22eR, PERI and other regiments had gathered to honour his lifetime of service for Canada, regiments, friends and family.
The gathering included a number of VIP's Senior Staff Officers former CO's, Commander's of RMC and fellow associates who delivered and acknowledged glowing eulogies and fond memories of "Fred." Both during and afterwords at the luncheon ... all reiterated how Mr MacLean impressed each and everyone in different ways through his example and high standards he departed leaving behind all he touched a better place. They spoke of how Mr MacLean was instrumental in the training of thousands of young impressionable officer cadets while they attended Royal Military Collage, not forgetting the many officers and other ranks in three regiments, battle schools and not to forget his many associates and hockey buddies, family, and friends, all reminding us of how Fred conducted himself with pride and distinction through his 81 years.
Prior to the commencement of the service conducted by the Padre we were entertained via a visual history of Fred's career ... as the 50 inch screen was seen flipping through photos depicting his many achievements, in sporting adventures, and military highlights. We did see in each of the photographs presentations the many military awards and sporting trophies ... standing there with his friends and comrades around him he was seen accepting many of the military's highest awards. Over his long and illustrious 36 year career in the Canadian Forces he did bring credit to himself and represented the institution with extreme loyalty and pride in his chosen career, the Canadian Forces.
Complementing the glowing tributes by the former commander of Royal Military College, Fred's son and daughter Frederick, and Donna-Lee and grandchildren spoke of "Hockey," his newest name which he is fondly remembered by his children and grandchildren. Entertaining the many in attendance with stories of another person, "their Dad". The understanding parent and their recollections of a responsible father and pillar of strength. As we traveled with them along the road of life they took us through his other life, recalling growing up with their dad and reflections of Poppa, Dad, Father and what it was that made him special. The audience could associate and recount many of same experiences we all had experienced, as we raised a family while serving with a much bigger family, the military. We learned from his children that initial parenthood was difficult and unpredictable more so for the military parents, with all moving over the many paths of postings, attachments, and at times off by himself with his colleagues in some God forgiving place leaving mother to look after the nest. Now, if you were a CWO whose job it was to set the standards as his family has reported, he did have bouts of frustration, anger, crying, and depression. But all the time they assured us that he still put his trousers on one leg at a time, spit and polished his own boots and expected everyone else to fall in on time and in his image ... but, after all was said and done they knew the man in the family setting who would pain over the most minuet details, searching for perfection. Always seeking to leave a legacy of how people would perceive him ... for his children grandchildren it was not many of the names those in attendance knew him by, Pretty Boy, Sir, or Fred; they knew the man, "MacLean, Frederick John - Chief Warrant Officer , OMM CD2 ( Retd )" as ... "Hockey;" Do you wonder why?
Go forth Mr MacLean into the fields of valor, join your friends who have gone before you, take your rest, knowing you served your country, family, and friends with distinction ... at the going down of the sun we will remember, we shall remember; God Bless.
Hello Bill Patterson
Necessity may be the proverbial mother of invention, but in the life of Author Bill Patterson, retired general and statesmen it becomes the driving force to keep him young and vibrant as he goes about playing with the word capitulating the stories of military folks ... for those up and coming scholars having a desire to read of the past while binding the spirits of our future generations of soldiers. I take great pride, as do we all, in knowing and counting as a friend a fellow Guardsman such as your self who will put in timeless hours titillating the thirst we all have for history, especially military, we were there and can relate, congratulations and well done, "Sir".
Having said that ... unplug that computer and for a moment let fire with joy and best wishes, broadcast the spirit of kinship and the message of Christmas far and wide ... as you rub those tired eyes, and old arthritic pains, results of a day gone by when we spent grinding it out on the soldiers testing grounds, when a younger and highly spirited young officer ran us rag-get up and over those West German mountains, it was not so much the march as those damn 128 lb 50 cal's cutting into our wet hides.
Best wishes Bill P .. for you and for your bride, and may you both be the recipients of the promises for a bright and healthy future ... I know of no other more deserving. Hard work is everything.
Howie Pierce, Gdsm, HMG PL , Support Coy , 1 CDN GDS, Fort York , West Germany
Howie:........Thanks for your Christmas message of hope as I am deep in my research of World War One War Diaries of all the Canadian Signals units I can find. I have until 2013 to do the history of the C&E Branch or Signals as we knew them. I am working with a great bunch of dedicated signalers led by George Simpson and includes Peter Sutton both of whom you will remember as signal officers in the 1st Battalion.
..... Nevertheless, I plan to enjoy the Christmas period and will see my daughter and sister as per usual. I now have 5 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren to get something for
All the best to you and yours. Those were great days in Germany I think of them often.
Hi Ray, Howie Pierce and Guardsmen
I thought you might like to know that some of us old er Canadians left behind in and around NATO's Brigade in Germany have not forgotten our duty. We are seen in these photos, older still proud, celebrating Remembrance Day, 11 November 2010, at the Canadian cemetery in Werl, Westf. The celebration seen here in the photos, is representing the International Garrison Club Soest, together this honorable group of German soldiers and a few of us Canadians who have chosen to stay ... keep the torch burning handed to us when the Brigade departed for Lahr and finally out of Germany. The burning of the torch has been a time honoured celebration in respect of the Canadians and their dependents who grave markers are seen in the background . This all started when I joined the club in 1993, hope you enjoy these photos ... by the way that is Webb Scharman and my buddy holding the wreath.
Cheers and take care ... Webb-
Each year as a veteran and a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Stittsville Branch together with one of three grand children; Tyler or Tiana Roth or Christopher Pierce, all in or reaching their teens, each taking a turn behind the Poppy Table. We would occupy our post, as do many others gathering donations for a few hours along with a fellow Korea veteran, Bill MacIver. Standing there in the lobby of Browns, Your Independent grocer distributing the simple Poppy. The modest six foot table adorned with all manner of Remembrance Day tributes to our fallen, we would go about greeting the Saturday patrons as they exited with their groceries. Their carts heavily laden with the staples to hold them over a week or so ... it was rewarding for us vets knowing here we have a wonderful country where there is an abundance of food for all. Makes us older types think back to the dirty thirties and forties when the young men and women were heading out to some place over there ... putting their lives on hold so we may enjoy all these freedoms. I have often thought of the families who lost a bread earner. Left alone without hope and very little to sustain life when the fight for survival was extended to the home front. This is where it all started the generosity gifts given through the sale of the simple poppy gave renewed hope for those families. Think of it, now left alone when a family member who was left on the battlefield in a cold grave never to return. It breaks my heart thinking of such devastation and the pain and hopelessness they must have felt.
When Tiana my innocent 11 year old grandchild ask what all the money collected was used for it was difficult to put it in prospective. Because her life and those of her siblings and friends were shielded from hardships brought about by war and loss of a parent through war. Trying to explain when a country is involved in an all out war every one down to the children they too will be deprived of even the staples required to sustain good health. Hand-me-downs are common with patched clothing and an old overcoat thrown over the patched quilt to keep warm when the fires were put to sleep. Now for a child that has had everything how can an old vet explain hardships without getting teary eyed. Perhaps this is a good thing, we have arrived at a time in our Canada where a helping hand is available in times of need. Yes, there are still the responsibilities of citizenship and a commitment to make a safe place for our population to be able to live in peace with the many creature comforts we have come to expect. Our soldiers still go off and fight, protecting our freedom, the ones that make home, some heart broken because of their experiences or missing a limb or two, even the missing part of their life, given so that we may continue living as we do, how do we explain this continuum of hurt to a child?
We can and do help with the simple gesture, the wearing of a Poppy, in this way, " the visible display" ... the humble flower, plucked from Flanders Fields, remains an indication you do support their service and sacrifices. This flaunting of the flower from the battlefield indicates that you are aware of the sacrifices and to do care. Because, there is a cost and these sacrifices are time honoured ... may we continue this good life in the peaceful sanctity of our society ... It is not without cost, Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn, We will remember them.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE CANADIAN GUARDS ASSOCIATION BOARD OF DIRECTORS (BOD) MEETING
It was the 2 September 2010, a hot and humid Thursday morning, summer dress was the order of the day as we, the Guards Association BOD stumbled up the stairs of 149 Somerset Street entering the Army Officers Mess. Gathering in an upper room, once a bedroom, in the grand old building and formally the home of a lumber baron during the time when Ottawa was known as Bytown. The heritage building rich in tradition, artefacts of all manner those of present and past regiments and military notables adorned the walls pedestals, bar rooms, and even etched into the wood work of this magnificent depiction of a former lumber baron's residence and present day watering hole for retired and active officers on posted strength of CFHQ. A fitting place, an eighteen century Victorian styled residence with its stained glass windows and highly polished hardwood throughout, and the remains of the Canadian Guards personnel, "The Board of Directors," assembled one more time to "entendre raision, " and plan for the Canadian Guards Association Annual General Meeting.
As the meeting progressed and discussions of varying subjects and proposals and motions took place the orderly conduct under the guidance of President of The Board of Directors, Ian Douglas, came away having successfully conducted a form that was consummate of a group of gentlemen, gathered with the soul interest of all members of the Guards Association. The assembly was able to agree to disagree when necessary, debating and sharing views about various issues making it great fun, and a joy to be part of. But ... whenever there was disagreement with someone who thought differently, they did it with grace and dignity, always outreaching for solution rather than confrontation; If only our parliament could follow this example.
Norm , Henry and Ambrose representing the Petawawa Branch were pleased a Motion was passed, giving their committee financial support for their planned up-and-coming Reunion in Petawawa some time next year. Other major concerns were addressed dealing with, "what constitutes a Quorum," as it relates to our Association and other amendments to Association By-laws, all to be presented at the AGM 2010.
Following the Adjournment and a short jaunt up Somerset and around the corner onto Elgin another gathering at the Fox and Feather for the "First Thursday-of-the-Month gathering of the, "Clan." Some believe this is the occasion when real discussions and decisions are made. The ones concerning who is doing what to whom, the general sate of the provinces, and other related government matters such as pay raises, or lack-there-of, and health issues within the ranks of the membership. Other important agenda items such as vacations, wintering in the sunny south and of course the exchange rates are pondered over, always reaching agreement with the man having the loudest protest, not necessarily the most intelligent, coming out as the winner.
We pay-up and spread out in all direction making promises to vote at the next federal election, and meet on the next occasion; The First Thursday-of the-Month, "Guards Fox and Feather Luncheon." for a cool one, lunch, and conversation.
We were away for the weekend attending the funeral for Guards member Leo McManus's wife, Vera, and just returned home last night.
Terry is attending a breakfast as I write so I'll respond to your inquiry. If you'll send us your address, we will have a Guards registration in the mail tomorrow morning.
If you're staying at the Days Inn (the only hotel in Oromocto, 5 yrs. old),call 1-506-357-5657 and ask for a room from the block booked for The Canadian Guards Association to get the reduced rate of $89.00 plus tax. The reunion dates are October 15,16 and 17 at Oromocto Legion. NOTE: (now a pile of cinders) and because of the fire the location of the reunion has been changed to the Officer's Mess CFB Gagetown and the Day's Inn Oromocto NB.
When you receive the registration form complete all the required information and mail your registration, with required fees attention: The Canadian Guards Association, Atlantic Branch, 168 Christopher Drive, Burton, N.B. E2V-3H5.
Look forward to seeing you Marion Dexter for Terry
Ian Douglas, B Gen (ret'd) CD
President Canadian Guards Association
A short e-mail to say it was, as always a pleasure exchanging greetings with your bride Joan and yourself, and listening to the Clergy reminiscing the many accomplishment on the occasion of one of our own, CHERITON, G. Ronald, L Gen (ret'd) OMM CD., funeral at Beechwood Cemetery, Thursday June 10th, 2010.
A couple of hundred mourners in attendance on a sunny afternoon at Beechwood Cemetery heard the many accolades bestowed on the late Ron Cheriton, reflections of a kind and giving soul. An amazing eulogy, as we were guided through his lifetime here on earth by the speaker, Lay Chaplain Bob Armstrong; Beginning 23 April 1932 in Hamilton ON and ending 01 June 2010 Petawawa ON., reminding us of how the General effected us all in some way. Through words and deeds emphasizing, "the quality of person is the responsible individual, honest, loyal and committed to making Canada a better place for all to live, freely," this was a story of the generals life.
Speaking from my own personal experience; Arriving at the Canadian Guards Depot in the mid fifties. looking like a collections of Jaggies (having rough edges) as we were called. This was the challenge for officers like Lt Cheriton making Guardsmen, something like making a silk purse out a sows ear. Giving we were green behind the ears as they say, especially when it came to military protocol and the way things had to be. We were the amoung the first arriving at this new place called, "The Canadian Guards Depot." Stepping out of the CPR passenger train on to the harsh landscape called Petawawa. The Guards Depot was a new place relatively untested and having very high standards; most thought it was a cookie cutter copy from the Regiment of British Guards. We later learned, to be a Guardsmen took a special commitment. The pressure was on, and we were now experiencing everything as a most intriguing challenge.
Lt Cheriton, was assigned as our Depot Platoon Commander over the next six week period. He introduced us to the military in a gentle and intelligent manner taking out the fear factor from this strange new place we found ourselves. His was quite personal mild demeanor, having a different approach from all that shouting and yelling; "Put that man in the book," could be heard on a daily basis and the constant mashing of the teeth from the trained soldiers up to and including our RSM, the "Rock."
It was at this time we could identify Lt Cheriton as an Officer and a Gentleman, he was a sensitive officer with a genuine concern for our welfare. He instilled in us "a surrealist manifesto, in this realm as in any other he believed in the pure surrealist joy of the man who forewarned that all others before him having failed, he refuses to admit defeat, he sets off from whatever point he chooses along any other path, save a reasonable one and arrives wherever he can." Lt Cheriton was able to settle us down encouraged us to believe in ourselves right down to that awkward lad with the two left feet, always attracting unwanted criticism. He believed it would come to him too; Never to give in, meet the challenges head on and do not hesitate to seek out help when needed, for it is not a sign of weakness, his philosophy was, it will in the end strengthen the unit. Recalling his Military Law lectures concerning the National Defence Act (NDA) Discipline, and how its rules were harsh and punishments severe, but fair, and how the officers are charged to find the right levers to pull and gain respect, for this was the motivate force for a man to charge into the fray without question, instinctively and obediently, and outwardly show a willingness to lay down one's own life for his fellow man, his regiment, and country. Lt Cheriton was indeed a "Gentleman in the quarters, A Lion in the field," We expect this is the reason this Guards Officer was able to progress within the country's officer corps, retiring as a respected member of the military community, and a General to boot.
Standing there at the reception in the afterglow of the ceremony, among the General's many friends and admirers from all walks of life, including his peers and refined Ladies and Gentlemen from all stations of our Canadian society. It was evident, observing the sincere outward feelings expressed on this special day at Beachwood Cemetery; that we witnessed a respected soldier laid to rest at 78 years. It resonated loud and clear an outward glow emulating from a lifelong commitment of putting his best foot forward, Ron Cheriton a true friend of everyone who days before was alive and well; Too soon departed for a better place. His many accomplishments over his life time and especially through his service for Queen and Canada, and in particular how he conducted his life with a gentleness, sincerity, and a genuine respect for his family, and both Regiments where he served a lifetime with distinction: The Canadian Guards, and the Royal Canadian Regiment, his memory will live on in our hearts and on the pages of both Regimental Histories, may he RIP.
Ciao, Howie Pierce, Gdsm (June 2010)
Canada ... Did we lose, "Our Game"
The crowd gathered in Chicago's madhouse for the Stanly Cup, game one, everyone is seen going bonkers and their song is blasting loud and clear over the PA .. just one song mind you, the USA National Anthem; only!
Impartial press releases, while claiming the start of another dynasty for the Black Hawks following closely in the footsteps of Pittsburgh Penguins, two star studded team of Canadian Lads. My heart broke my feelings were of disbandment the absents of a Canadian team or even the playing of "Oh Canada." An obvious void of any Canadian Nationalism associated with our so called claim, "Our Game." I turned the game off and went to bed.
Ever since I can remember many years ago in a small clapboard home in Arnprior ON with no electricity in the house, being warned to save the few volts in the battery sitting underneath the radio, so our Canadian family all seven of us could huddle around while Foster H called the game from the Gardens in Toronto. That is the way it was through out a life time spanning over seventy years as a player, coaching and doing what ever it took to keep the Canadian game, "hockey" up and running. Just an ordinary "Joe" with a love for "our game, " to be able to play any where we could find a patch of ice and something hard to fire towards the target or sit in a cold arena watching the youth of our Canada playing and having a ball. Sure we played other sports but still there was no other game like "Hockey." Everyone around the world all knew Canadians as skilled and passionate hockey nuts.
Last night after seeing Chicago's madhouse erupt into a frenzy when their team the Black Hawks took to the ice standing tall on the blue line facing another so called American team the Philadelphia Flyers both teams with an array of Canadian players. I felt we had been duped.... again! "Our Game," Really !!! With Bettman claiming the league is not now dealing with any franchise going out of business or moving, and expressing hope that such speculation will soon stop. OK., are the hopes for a franchise on the scrape heap for Winnipeg, Quebec and Hamilton... What now? With no signs of a red maple leaf flag at NHL headquarters in New York and the USA calling the shots, why do we bother getting up at six in the morning carting off our next generation to the cold arena all paid for by the Canadian Dollar only to witness years later these boys of winter all standing tall, not a Canadian team in sight in an American venue playing "Our Game."
Just in case you didn't know Hockey is more than a cool sport for serious fans. The National Hockey League is one of the four major professional sports associations in North America, boasting 30 professional ice hockey franchises in the US and Canada organized into two conferences with three divisions each. The NHL governs the game, sets and enforces rules, regulates team ownership, and collects licensing fees for merchandise. It also negotiates fees for national broadcasting rights. (Each team controls the rights to regional broadcasts.) In addition, five minor and semi-pro hockey leagues also fly under the NHL banner. The league was organized in Canada in 1917. No, this is not another anti America rebellion but a pro Canadian " wake up call," taking issue with how the hockey business is handled. The exporting of another Canadian Asset. With no hope for the foreseeable future we in Canada will have to satisfy ourselves with producing the best hockey talent and watching them drafted away from Canadian supported Major Junior and NCAA players recruited from the Canadian talent pool, while our Canadian franchises can only secure the old and highly over-the-hill not uncommon European players. All the time the American franchise can no longer want or afford these so called assets. Low draft picks come our way because our Canadian teams end up in the middle of the regular season standings and find themselves our of the running for the best produced Canadian talent, is it set up that way for a reason? Come to think of it, did Quebec not get the pick of the talent pool of Quebec born players when Montreal Canadians had those dynasties; why Ontario could not follow Quebec's lead is still a mystry for most of us in Ontario.
Into the future Canadian teams can look forward to more of the same, attracting highly paid washed up players of the past usually contracted by one of those American franchise with the "For Sale," in the front window. Let them go those teams who attract no fans have no money and are subsidized to the hilt they can go by the way of the dodo bird of Mauritius, disburse the players wipe out the big undeserving contracts and let us Canadians get something back for the billion s of dollars and time we spend in time and coin developing players "Hockey," is our national passion. The League sold many a Canadian team out shuffling them off to the American Hockey League and some into sunk, gone forever into the vast abysses of space and time.
Before the first whistle sounded after the opening face off, I had to leave the room. Get away from the TV., for the first time I could no longer watch, "Our Game," I felt personally used feeling the pain of having lost something, a feeling of being let down, NOT hearing "Oh Canada", nor seeing a Canadian team competing for The Stanley Cup; then hearing some commentator claiming it is just a business .... how long must we wait? (June 1, 2010)
THE 'ROCK.' - by Howie Pierce, Gdsm
Reading through G. W. Stephen Brodsky, CD, DPhil, Gerry Wharton, Past President and Ian Douglas, President of The Canadian Guards Association and the many notes of genuine respect posted on the Obituary Guest Book. All were most gracious and deserving and spontaneous recollections of our "RSM, The Rock," JJT McManus. He, to for yours truly, was and is my hero, an example to follow for many a Guardsmen. Not a day went by without, trying as we should, while out in front practicing leadership as a L Cpl, we followed his methods trying to achieve his demeanor by placing our best foot forward, trying our best to imitate his example. Although, because of physical differences lacking in the skills of a true professional soldier his background his exalted standards were difficult for us mere mortals to reach; try as we did in most cases we were unable to pull it off.
Recalling a time back in the day, standing there; Recruit Pierce HC, the very skinny lad from the Ottawa Valley clad in itchy battledress it was when in the very beginnings of the Regiment of Canadian Guards, 1955. Assigned to train with a Depot Platoon; Cpl s Wharry and Glibery in charge, barracked in building L 18, tallest on the right, being six feet tall at 122 lbs,, I found myself in the front rank located beside the right marker. Even with the double soled parade square boots, I didn't quite make it as the marker. How many times did someone say, "for him to get wet he had to walk around in the shower." Any how ... my early recollections of RSM JJT McManus were Friday mornings during Commanding Officer's inspection. Standing at attention on a small parade square behind P 33, Petawawa, we noticed as the entourage made its way up and down the ranks looking for this and that, if you paid particular attention there were two groups. The first one, a man looking more like a physics teacher than a soldier carried a cane was seen shuffling his way along, with a black forge hat with a wide gold thread braided band garnishing the peak, sometimes he was seen wearing white gloves. As he and two or three other officers meandered through the recruits voicing glowing accolades to those having really shinny boots, haircut regimental style, all neat and tided for the occasion looking pretty, all generally the same.
In front of the second group, separated from the first by a few paces, was a bear of a man carrying himself very tall and rigidity with a big stick tucked under his arm, he too had white gloves on, looking and acting like God himself spitting out deserving observations highlighting the meticulous detail and the complex architecture posture of the man in front of him. Staring into his eyes piercing his very soul sounding out at the top of his vocal cords reverberating his depictions of a well and not so well turned out Recruit. Scaring the be-Jesus out any who dared, Sergeants included, to arrive in his presents with even the most minuet flaw unbecoming of the high standards common to The Guardsmen. I later learned this was the "Rock," and he had a theory, "The smallest minority on earth, was the individual." smallest minority on earth is the individual.
Yes, he did have the persona of a God, his mannerisms encouraged a following of apostles one who were sent out. to train a Regiment in his image. We all seen this and could readily identify the likeness, a little bit of the" Rock," in each graduate from , " The Rock's Depot." No disrespect intended, even the officers took a little bit of the "Rock," with them when they left.
Immediately behind Mr JJT McManus was the platoon Sergeant, scribbling down notes with speed and accuracy that would put the most ultra competent court reporter to shame. Taking note as fast as the RSM belted out all his observations, and there were many. The Sergeant scribbled each detail in his little pocket note book, later to be acted upon by Kangaroo Court, if the Rock said it then it was not to be questioned; no excuses and plenty of pack drill will correct the situation. It may be noted here, what happened in the Guards Depot stayed in the Guards Depot. The streamers (graduates) went on to serve in the Battalions and those that would not buckle down or could not make the standards, became civilians.
I often thought from that day forward hearing some one of authority shouting out, "PUT THAT MAN IN THE BOOK," ... of "The Rock".
At the time, it all seemed so mechanical, only after he has departed to the big parade square in the sky, an understanding of what it was that this truly committed soldier's legacy had effectively made a difference on all who made his acquaintance both formally and informally, whether we knew it or not was profound, penetrating to the depths of one's being seeking out perfection through example.
Now, an older and much learned person in life's little idiosyncrasies as it relates to how things work, in retrospect, most will agree with Sgt GW Stephen Brodsky in his commentary with his well chosen words of wisdom he made us more cognizant, giving identifiable value to RSM JJT McManus, CD,CDN GDS (The Rock's) legacy; for it was his standards that did mold, only the best Officers and NCO s ever to grace the ranks of the Canadian Army; and for that this country Canada, can thank our RSM, "The Rock,'" May he rest in peace, everlasting.
Fall in the Officers; but first take a look at how advanced the Chinese Army have become, precision marching at its best. It appears they were taught by a choreographer never mind the bull-dog faced, fowl mouthed, whiskey drinking, Drill Sgt Major who was quick to point out in no uncertain terms our faults when it came to drill.
If the Canadian Guards Association is to celebrate our 60 year anniversary in 2013 with a parade, show up the Chinese Military, we had better get started soon.
There may be challenge for some to get their weight on par with the Chinese; since we have been practicing post WW 2 , as a way to reassert the importance of human individuality and freedom by eating everything we see. We can not continue to eat all the rations at one sitting.
Finding enough slim and trim young men now filtering through the turnstiles of Tim Horton's or MacDonald to man a parade and be on par with the Chinese has its problems not to mention bending these mechanical knee implants and shooting the foot. As for the Women Army contingent seen here in pink, we in Canada will certainly not be able to find enough slim and trim pretty cookie cutter type young ladies to fill even one rank. However, if we are recruiting thousand or so little overweight dumplings, it should not be much of a problem. Even Playtex with its millions of plus size corsets on the market is finding it challenging controlling the bulging fat asses blocking out the sunlight.
Keep smiling all is not lost, the Chinese may have all our money but we still have most of the fresh water, even if its in its solid form, most of the time: I think!
Ciao, Howie Pierce (Jan 14)
Gentlemen of The Guards
Over the past year we have had our 50th Anniversary of the first Guard Mount on the Hill and the Atlantic Branch Reunion in Newfoundland. Yes, the same Parliament Hill over looking the fair city of Ottawa, the same green grass, tourist and trappings we used to make the Regiment look proud. Examining the photos taken on an August day honoring The Canadian Guards Association we are aware of the once youthful young Guardsmen have now changed, now somewhat bulging, balding and frail depictions of what we once were. This is what remains of our Regiment sitting there in a place of honour, on the sidelines; other than those who could not attend due to illness or other reasons far too numerous to list here .... we are all that is left.
What a proud passionate collection of Guardsmen, all 200 in attendance, much older a bit bent over wrinkled and humbled because of what life has dealt us; what was going on in front of us conjured up memories of how we were; So proud to have participated as a member of the first Guard Mount or a Trooping ... so many years ago. If you listened closely to the Gentlemen sitting on the sidelines reviewing this new compliment of Guardsmen one could hear the whispering of fond memories; recalling the time when they were the parade commander or the right marker, as they followed each and every step of the ceremony even daring to say, "they are good, but we were much better."
Gentlemen memories are made of this, as we look into our future and started discussions at the latest AGM, of how the Association of Canadian Guardsmen should wind down; it is a sad day. We have had so much over the years and now to say it must end ... Under and round him go Flounders, gulls, on their cold, dying trails, Doing what they are told, Curlews aloud in the conjured waves work at their ways to .....gracefully end something that was "The Canadian Guards."
Happy New Year 2010, my friends.
Howie Pierce, Guardsman
The Canadian Guards Association
Yes, indeed it is one hectic time Christmas with all this stuff to do and no time to do it. It seems everyone is taking a little bite of your time and when it is impossible to have it all done, some one is on your back. Not me!
Gerry Hefferman and John Barkley you have successfully struggled with "The Canadian Guards Site," and "The Canadian Guards Association Newsletter," over this long period of time. The results of your toil has been comforting to so many of us. These two medium have become sounding boards and sometimes with nothing to do your audience will scroll over the information, photos and noteworthy comments rekindling those, oh so old memories; a great source of comfort, recalling brother like experiences some funny and others dead serious of the time when we were Guardsmen.
Gentlemen, we who use the site and newsletter have come to appreciate all the hours of work you do on our behalf; sorting our what to post finding the time to get it all done and editing some of the submissions and still have the time to be a grandfather. Making presentable submissions to a large audience without being too political for such a varied audience from the young grandchildren to the great grandfathers of former Guardsmen , the well educated and the not so well versed not forgetting from the General to the raw recruit. We all have something to say as we passed through the Regimental doors together. Because you are the editors of our thoughts, the recorders of our interest. No doubt submissions of unkind fodder hurled across the pages are moderated for our benefit. At times we do like to vent some of our impressions at times unkind and rich in truth. We have come to identify the personal attention paid by the keepers of the pen to getting out the good messages flowing, one of hope for all thier strengths and weaknesses, weeding the fields of time without prejudice and in the end making us look civil.
This is our Association and to that end, other than a reunion every now and again, the Canadian Guards Web Site and the Newsletter is the glue that keeps us together. The passage of acceptable story and folklore will endure the test of old age. With people like Gerry Hefferman and John Barkley the Association will keep on chugging along alive and well; we the kinder gentler folk, Canada's Guardsman of the past recognized the sort of men of letters, the suppliers of gentler energy needed to forge our way forward. We have in our silence come to rely on Gerry and John to keep us informed, keeping the home fires burning and the memories alive, no one knows it better than the membership how important our editors of thought and deed are.
May it be said, "the time spent was and is well worth the effort:" Thank you John and Gerry.
With not too much to do on this wet coolish December morning, it would be a good time to register a few thoughts on this Christmas thing, which is out of control; but first be reminded, I'm not anti Christian ... so with the key board in hand, here goes.
"Giving", (Howie's interpretation).
Looking around at the stores decorated all selling something, neighborhood streets brightly decorated with all sorts of ornamental figurines making a majestically spectacle of unaffordable extravagances ... Hum Bug! This is the time of the year Christians continue to call "Christmas," a good day to forgive and forget bad times ; a good day to throw away prejudices; a good day to fill your heart and your house and the hearts and houses of others with love, sunshine and hope. The pressure is on.
Like most, not knowing if I can afford all that is needed to make everyone happy. With the way the world has commercialized its meaning, integrated all this giving into the original ideas of Christmas; the philosophy and practices have radically changed, would it not serve us better to start calling it, "Givmas".
Fewer Christian families in most neighborhoods take the time to go to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or for that matter during the year, myself included. I find the celebration so much about what we can or can not afford or better yet what is left on the credit card before it has maxed-out. I can't for the likes of me tell if its the right thing to do by going in the debt and make ourselves miserable for months after the big day, just to keep up with the Jones. Like most we don't want to accept gifts that cause the giver go into debt; believing if we accepting their material things one feel like they have returned the favor with misery (the overdrawn credit card); if you have ever been in finical crises by overspending you know exactly what is mean, but how do you tell someone not to give a gift?
Some how over the years we have been convinced the more valuable the gift the more important and meaningful the wishes are. Most would be quite happy and fulfilled to sit with their family for a good meal and a chat and forget about the gifts. Don't get me wrong I do like to give, not because we are expected to but because we can afford to and want to ... Enough said!
I recall in 1957, on Christmas day thousand of miles from home while serving in 10 Company, The Canadian Guards, Fort York, Germany. We had gathered in the mess hall, all seated at six foot tables, a couple hundred of us young single soldiers enjoying a meal together, no flowers or table cloths with fork knife and spoon combination in hand and a plate of turkey mashed potatoes and turnip not to forget the one bottle of free beer. There were no gifts exchanged.Many of us the first time away from home, we could see in front of us another four or five years of the same thing. To my knowledge except for Premier Frost of Ontario giving us a couple packs of Chesterfield or Winchester cigarettes there were no other gifts exchanged ... oh ya, those care packages from home. Those days e-mail or telephone calls home were non existent, some of my buddies never got so much as a Christmas Card, it was a lonely time. We did get through it because we had each other, someone to talk to, a meal and a place out of the rain, a clean warm bed to lie in and think about home. The Padre told us loneliness is the hardest of all human feelings to understand, on that day it was only a word, today many of us have come to understand its effect it really has.
We are all older now, some have lost their soul mates, families have grown and left the nest we have arrived back where we all started; only this time we are home, and its the next younger generation away serving our country, even farther away from home, are they lonely?
We get to thinking while sitting with our families at Christmas dinner, we realize some of us are more fortunate than others for whatever the reason we having done it the right way. Looking around and see our families sons and daughters grandchildren and in-laws and give thanks for the horn of plenty and all we have been blessed with. Somewhere later as we sit alone in the still of the Silent Night we will remember and give thanks for all we have been blessed with, we the old soldier are different because of the road we traveled. Having experienced the bitterness of hate and understanding the loneliness caused by the failures of the human soul, gives more value to meaning of love thy neighbor and forgiving. Makes me realize a gift at Christmas of forgiveness, for this is the most personalized gift of all. So with this in mind, all the NCO s who shouted out, "Put that Guardsman in the Book," and all those that took part in handing out the punishment, "we can forgive you and understand it was a job that had to be done; and, to all those who stopped along the way and helped us Guardsmen become a better human being, "thank you for your concern and kindness."
Personally we all want for our friends and families to have good health, to foster good honest life styles, by treating families friends and associates with respect and kindness; the materiel things will soon lose their luster and tarnish, paying attention to what it is that really counts .... only you can decide that. Be merry and "Givmas, " will have less of a meaning and we will return to what Christmas is meant to be, "LOVE."
Bless you and best wishes and may good fortune, health, happiness and peace be yours in the New Year.
Ciao, Howie Pierce (Dec 2009)
Dear Friends, Howie Pierce
Bill C-201 was defeated today by Conservative and Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs (ACVA). At the committee, Conservative MPs voted against the bill, Liberal MPs abstained, and the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP supported it. Unfortunately, the lack of support by the Conservatives and Liberals means that Bill C-201 will not be going to the House for third reading and is effectively dead.
As you know, Bill C-201 aimed to eliminate the unfair benefit reduction of retired and disabled Canadian Forces and RCMP service pensions. Opposition members did not support the bill because of the supposed financial cost of implementing the bill. The government suggested that eliminating the deduction at age 65 (or earlier if disabled) would be cost prohibitive. While I suggested that a variety of options exist to offset these potential costs, Conservative and Liberal MPs did not agree to move the bill forward.
While I am disappointed that the bill was defeated, we did have some success along the way. The issue became national in scope under the great leadership of John Labelle, Roger Boutin, and Mel Pittman. They coordinated a campaign to end the claw back that gained the support of over 110,000 individuals. As well, several major veterans organizations including the Royal Canadian Legion (500,000 members), the Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada Association (20,000 members), and the Air Force Association in Canada (12,000 members) expressed their support for this initiative. And, at the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, we were successful in convincing CF and RCMP pension administrators that more communication is needed about how and why service pensions are reduced at age 65 or earlier. We were also successful in showing the committee that we need to take a serious look at how CF and RCMP members receive CPP disability payments.
I would like to thank John Labelle, Roger Boutin, and Mel Pittman for all of their work over the last four years. I also want to thank every single person who called, emailed, or wrote their Member of Parliament about the unfair reduction of their service pension. It is through your hard work that the bill passed second reading and made it to the committee stage.
As the New Democrat Critic for Veterans Affairs, I will continue to work on ways we can correct this injustice of behalf of our veterans and their families. I plan to re-introduce the bill in the next Parliament (after the next election) and will continue to press the Conservative and Liberals MPs to support this bill.
Thank you again for your tremendous interest and undying support for Bill C-201.
Peter Stoffer, MP, Sackville-Eastern Shore,
2900 Hwy #2 Fall River, NS B2T 1W4 Tel: (902) 861-2311 Fax: (902) 861-4620 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Remembrance Day parade in Stittsville ON., gave a dazzling visual indication of the value our service has for this Country of ours, Canada. Standing out there on a parking lot in front of a very modest cenotaph with other Veterans, as the right marker. Looking around observing the children and common folk taking in the celebration of our freedom, we the Veterans were so proud to have served. It was very noticeable that most of the Veterans from WW 2 has thinned the ranks to a very few; now in their old age frail and challenged to be standing there among us younger vets. We are now in our seventies, none from the Great War and those from Korea in their upper seventies. Leaving the bulk representative Vets covering the period 1954 to present day Afghanistan , the Balkans and the many middle east far eastern and African conflicts and even in our own Canada, Oka and the FLQ, it seems it never stops.
After dismissing to the Legion facilities in downtown Stittsville; for lunch, drinks and conversation; it was my privilege to strike up a conversation with our sitting MP Honourable Mr Gordon O'Connor, CD. P.C., M.P. We were among the first in the Legion and for the most part alone off to one side, I thought what a great time to ask why he did not support Bill C 201, a Bill to extend full benefits of CPP to all service personnel. Mr O'Connor, a gentleman is still adamant in stating his firm belief "you get what you pay for." Additionally those who support the plight of our Committee, by signing a Petition "to extend a full CPP benefit, which all Canadians are entitled. Mr O'Connor reiterates most former service personnel were told if they support the Bill by signing a Petition "they too would be given a financial benefit," and it is because of this that they hooked on; further explaining, who in there right mind would turn down financial compensation, meaning they had no understanding of the complications implied and were little more than sheep following along behind the sheperd.
I still shudder at the reasoning behind VAC new pension Act to make a one time payment for disabilities. These same pensioners down the road, when the one time payment is spent, where will they turn? Then to have their CPP benefits reduced when they reach 65, there will be inherent problems because of the CPP reduction and VAC one time payment for disability benefits. Even if the one time payment benefit were to be invested; because of the return in interest or dividends the cash amount in today's economy the cash payout for disabilities will be depleted in a very short time, its human nature to keep pace with the Jones. I also believe in a free society, Mr O'Connor has every right to vote according to his values and should not be condemned for doing so, we the Veterans will respect his right to vote according to his values and the PC's rules concerning Private Members Bills without condescension feelings,
Gentlemen, I'm sure you too believe this is true democracy. Our thinking is permeated by our historical myths. The after thoughts of benefits our collective memories recall when the Government passed out in the early nineties, to a very few federal public servants and military, asking them to take early retirement; Some receiving in the hundred and thousands of dollars, mainly federal public servants. At that time, having reached CAR of 55 years and nearing forty years of service; I too thought the government had it right, getting rid of the bloated ranks of the Federal Public Service and excess military sitting in the warehouses; the so called Headquarters, for this and that. Need you ask, if I got a payout. Due to my impending release at retirement age 55 was a few months away and still could offer good and meaningful service, I applied for an extension of service. Of course it was declined, as it should have been according to the NDA., stipulations concerning age limits. It could be noted here the CDS Gen De was granted his extension due to an urgent requirement at the time, by the sitting Parliament; and then a few years later due to service requirements the age limit was increased beyond 55 years and the NDA amended accordingly.
After being released, taking severance pay and accumulated leave with no income other than my CASA applied for Unemployment Insurance, now called Employment Insurance; and was refused because a clerk stated according to the records I had not worked long enough. Apparently because I had not applied at the time of my release from the Regular Forces, all the time I paid into the program had been struck from the books and no longer existed. I was very disheartened at the time, having paid into UI/IE all those years, to have an employee of IE tell me I did not have a record of employment to support my claim and therefore, "I had no claim." With my tail between my legs left the office empty handed, that was 1995.
Another disappointing Government program in the military SHIP. I supported financially the SYSOP Plan from its beginning, around 1966. We in the military were sold and most have financially supported every since, monthly premiums in recent years, was increased to for those aged 70 to 75 to $305.60 for $120,000.00 life insurance policy. We decided because of cost, to reduce the life insurance policy to 20 K each at a cost of $73.62 and were further advised at age seventy five ... nothing, no paid up policy; Nothing!. No doubt this was the reason we were trained on the operation of "tools entrenching'" to dig that final hole.
Well, and so as not to end it on a good note, SYSOP let this family down in 1964, after being medically evacuated from Active Duty Service in Cyprus with a spinal injury, and was refused a disability pension; it was said I was not 100 per cent disabled; although the military did send out a Medical Release. No benefits were forthcoming. If it were not for my CO intervening and refusing to release me and requested Army Headquarters transfer me to another trade for which he determined me to be adequately qualified; and providing I could pass trades training, I would have been out on the road broke and broken. He stood in my corner and eventually the transferred was authorized to a trade, Administrative Clerk 831; eventually retiring as the Administrative Officer at the Directorate of History in 1993. This goes without saying how grateful our family are to the late Col Haynes, let Battalion The Canadian Guards, Picton ON for his intervention.
Then came the reduction of CPP benefits on the 21 March 2003, a few days short of reaching 65 years, a letter arrives from Public Works Government of Canada telling me my Canadian Forces Superannuation Benefits have been reduced effective 01/04/03; a reduction of $438.59. My bank statement 17 April 2003 indicates a credit from the CPP of $431.46. Ever since receiving another pat on the back for services rendered; in a job application in 1993 for Public Service Employment at the Directorate of History, to be told the position had been Red Lined therefore the position would not be filled, only to learn a few months later the position was reinvented and filled by an applicant from another department. In summation; $30,262.71 CPP/CFB reductions, and still counting: loss of benefits from SYSOP; IE; and the job application rejection from Federal Public Service Employment; all as a consideration for close to forty years service in the Canadian Armed Forces. Stand there and hear the political elements of the Government of Canada tell me how grateful they are for the services of the Veterans for past and present sacrifices; it ring empty in my ears, not because of the men and women in the street's showing their sincere gratitude, but the way we have been treated by out employers at just about every step of the way; our Government has and did let this family down.
Having read in the Ottawa Citizen recently, Gen Leslie's brag on how there is a ground swell, supporting the recruitment of eager volunteers for the Infantry. It behooves me, according to the record, if those same applicants believe they will be taken care of into their old age, for their sake it is my wish these failures can be addressed and history in not allowed to be repeated. Honour and Glory are fine but at the end of the day when well into old age these promises of financial compensation will be overlooked the voices of the old are often silenced. However, it is very necessary for the old and unemployable old soldier to exist equally in a money based economy. Although, recognition, metals and accolades are appreciated they alone will not pay the bills in an over taxed economy, much like what was told to me by my MP Mr Gordon O'Connor, "you only get what you paid for." Did anyone notice all through this correspondence it was reduction after reduction.
Go forth gentlemen in the name of your most valued citizens, the Veteran, the silent voices in the wilderness of old age with very little to say because it seems we are rarely heard. Our voices are shaking and our words do resonate the fact that we are the old and tend to forget names and places all too easily. But never forgetting our promise, Remembering always the dead removed from the field to their graves in countries where they fell, "at the going down of the sun ... and in the morning, we will remember them, we will remember them."
Hello Dan MacArthur, Heavy Machine Gun Platoon
Dan, it has been a while since we have crossed paths or exchanged greetings, that's a whole 'nother story, so without further ado, a short note to say hello and get the latest chatter on what's going on within the Atlantic Branch, the east coast arm of the regimental family.
Were you in Clarenville Nfld., for the Atlantic reunion? From the comment on the web site and from those who attended a great time was had by all and that is a good thing. I am confidant a lot of hard work and planning preceded the event and no doubt was not without its problems; second thoughts on how it will all pan-out and will anyone show up.
Credit must go to to those who gave freely of their time and now can, in hind-site, bask in a warm a sense of accomplishment; much like a close family member feels after having hosting a successful family reunion. The labor of getting it all up and running crossing the "t" and doting the "i," paying attention to all the humbling details; they too must be attended to if the party is to go-on without a hitch. Bernie and Sue and the Committee did pay attention to detail, because the planning, did bare the test and was worth the effort. Although it has been said, " All hands were very thankful to us, but all we did was provide the props and they provided the party." In the short and tall of it all, the large community of Guardsmen on the East Coast, the Atlantic Branch and others from far a-field did benefit and Clarenville will be remembered.
Bernie and Sue and many more on the Committee have kept the Regiment alive and well on the east coast of Canada, where so many of our soul mates within the regimental family, hail from. Through gatherings of like nature, as the ranks thin out, it is evident by the glowing reviews by those in attendance concerning the Clarenville Reunion; it was truly one of the most successful gatherings of the Regimental family to-date.
Many of the Regimental family who did not or could not make the trek to Nfld., and would love to have been there, but couldn't. Because of poor health or for whatever reason would love to see a few photos posted on the Association Web Site; reviewing a few photos of the activities may fill the void. Are we not in agreement, a photo, a physical credit, will conger up old memories of friends, putting a face on the modern day Association of Canadian Guardsmen. Perhaps, this will be an acknowledgement and a visible credit to those keeping the family alive and well, renewing our sense of belonging to a Regiment that once was.
What can be more beneficial to our peace of mind than making it through another day with family and friends and memories and contributing to the living history of our Regiment Association, this is our life-blood, as we grow old together.
I look forward to correspondence, best wishes to the bride and do keep in touch.
Ciao, Howie (October 20)
Another Chapter - The Unwritten History
"A Regiment Worthy of Its Hire The Canadian Guards 1953-1970", W.J. Patterson.
Venture Training - Fort York 1961
By Howie Pierce
It was known as "Venture Training", according to "Wiktionary" ...A venture is a major undertaking, synonymous with an adventure, an activity that comprises of risky, and dangerous or uncertain experiences. The idea for our Venture Training was conceived away up there at the top of the military command, "the head shed". In this case, ideally to reinforce endurance of the fighting elements of the Canadian Forces. We invite you to come along with us, this is a story, experienced by one of the many units assigned to NATO's forces in West Germany; they were known as Six Company, 1st Battalion, The Canadian Guards, actively engaged in the alleged Cold War, and seconded to the British Army on the Rhine, "the field soldiers."
In those days not everything went according to plan and followed on schedule, it is with this in mind 6 Company was a little behind getting off the mark. The idea of Adventure Training from on high was to have each company in the Brigade do something which would test the combat readiness of the troops. Our company commander, "Easy Ed" Fairweather, WW 2 Vet and the man with the big stick was CSM "The Bull" Imbeau, Also a WW 2 Vet and a full blooded Canadian Indian. The platoon commanders were Capt Petelle, Mortars; Lt Seasons, Anti-tank; Lt Gregg, Pioneers; and Capt Patterson, Heavy Machine Guns. It must be noted here that some of these fine gentlemen had just learned to shave. The platoon commanders, after hearing nothing from Easy Ed, and being embarrassed, as the only company in the battalion that had not attempted, "Adventure Training;" These young officers decided to use their initiative, and resolved to get on with it!
The Situation: the thousand or so Guardsmen garrisoned in Fort York had been overrun and had scattered to the four winds...
Each company had to make a breakout and concentrate at a RV some distance away. To avoid detection all movement would be at night and as far as possible away from human habitation, roads, etc. Everything would have to be carried - no vehicles. This posed a difficult problem for 6 Company because of the weight of the weapons, so it was decided; the mortars and the pioneers to join forces as a team carrying their heavy weapons; and the machine gunners and the anti-bangers will do likewise, "team work".
Here we have motley looking lot, with all this stuff on their backs, difficult to identify just what country or century they hailed from. Outfitted in WW 2 American Helmet, war surplus GI jacket, small packs, basic pouches, ponchos, and boots ankle, some in black coveralls. Completing the look with weights, putties and a green cravat; the forerunner of the modern tailored necktie and bow tie. My guess, this was to give us the Brit., look. Faces blackened, with the exception being one of the Cassidy's, by birthright, he beat us to the punch. They were known as the rank and file of the Six Company, 1st Battalion The Canadian Guards, the Cold War vintage, "the field soldiers."
Initially planning for this outing was connived to be an exercise in physical endurance to test the soldier's state of battle readiness. The HMG Platoon had a HQ consisting of Capt "Bill" Patterson, Sgt "John" Ferguson, "Rolly" Smith batman/driver, and a signaller. There were four sections each with a Cpl and 7 Gdsm. Each section had 2x .50 Cal HMG. We did not use the other two guns which had anti-aircraft mounts and were supposed to be manned by the Unit Corps of Drums, but the guns never moved out of the QM Stores until exercise "Canada Cup", and then they were manned by the HMG Platoon. The platoon actually practiced the march carrying the guns, etc, but only on roads around Fort York. Capt Patterson can still fondly remember, while on one of these treks coming into a small German village with only one Gasthof; unusual, as most had two or three, serving up their bratwurst and schnitzels and of course unlimited quantities of both cold and warm beer normally preceded by two fingers of schnapps. Taking the whole platoon inside, sitting at one of those big heavy wooden tables with a large ashtray adorning the centre of the table, weapons and all. A restriction of two beers per man was imposed and then, it's on the road again; of course only if you could afford it. On the day we started the exercise, which was a Sunday, we went by vehicle into the Belgian Training Area, indulging in a final meal before hitting the hills in the dark made ready to get the show on the road.
Leading up to the Start Line on day one of the Long March, we were convinced this physical challenge was for our own good, as well Capt "Bill" Patterson, the HMG Pl., head honcho, in his remarks informed everyone in the platoon the exercise was to foster team work, by enduring physical punishment for an extended period in the form of a forced march, by night, over an area known as the Belgian Training Area. The objective being to test the limits and confirm, we could work as a team and move all this equipment and that here was a capable and effective fighting force in other words " shape up or be shipped out," tough words!
The time frame was 1961 and the alleged Cold War was coming to a full boil with the Russians acting cocky with there Berlin Wall thing, and nuclear missile threats. This sort of posturing got the attention of 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, at the time seconded to NATO's British Army on the Rhine in Northern Germany, and now under orders to bring the troops to a state of battle readiness.
The turmoil the world, including Canada, found itself in was in the final stages preparing for something bigger, the moment the before firing pin hits the striker. Talks of nuclear strikes were giving everyone the willies. The location the Canadian Brigade on the firing lines opposite the East German border and the mighty armies of the Warsaw Pack, estimated to out number NATO ten to one. Life for a bunch of Canadian teenagers sworn to duty, along with a sprinkling of older veterans, some of these young lads in there twenties and mainly single, most knowing how fatalistic war was; having, as children, lived and learned about war from our parents uncles and siblings during the Second World War. Old soldiers in the Battalion, if you could manage to get them to talk, they would only fill you in on the good times, probably a good thing. The war machines were revving up in the 15 nation NATO countries; No body really believed it was going to happen. On a daily basis in the late 50ties and early 60ties the European landscape was constantly changing. We were exposed to daily fighter combat tactics manoeuvring over our Forts by state of the are fighter aircraft assigned to NATO air forces, practicing for the big one. We in the army wore the gear, followed the Colours, carried the guns, practiced how kill or be killed every day for three years while serving with NATO in Fort York Germany. No one ever thought the bomb would be dropped, so much so, that dependents were allowed to rotate with their serving spouses. The pay was poor and for the most part the military equipment was from other wars gone by, we made do with what we had. Our mission, as far as we could tell, would be without a doubt, the final, final solution and was the only reason for amassing such a large NATO force in Europe. In other words there was more to it than to defending the peace. We could see a few of our leaders wearing on their chest, ribbons from other struggles, we knew and believed from their past experiences, knowledge, and enthusiasm we are the best led soldiers in the world.
In preparation, the seeds had been sewn and a Venture Training plan was developed, orders issued to the HMG Pl., by a younger and extremely fit Capt "Bill" Patterson, I say this because of the speed he hoofed us over those mountains, had to be considered Herculean. Not far behind are members of his HMG Pl entourage, struggling to keep pace: NCOs; Sgt John Ferguson, a WW 2 Vet; Cpls: Hans Richter, John McKay, Ron J Ryan, Murray E. Rutledge, and yours truly Howie Pierce. Guardsmen: Dunn, Coe, Gairnes, the Scotsman, Don and Mike Cassidy, Davis from New Brunswick, Hoskins, a Neufie, Godin our stores man from Bathurst, Cecil James Ackerman Dalling, Danis, Patrick J Pearce, Norm Welsh, Dan MacArthur, Matt Corbett, who wanted to attend but due to a peccadillo was attending the advanced sniper course, Gerry Kennedy, hockey elite, Albert Aucoin, Jack Crouse, battalion boxer, Al Lutz, later RCR, Ed Helpard, later a prison guard, Gordon Whitwell, retired in Arnprior ON, Bryan Chappelle, retired in Belleville ON, Appap, now residing in Malta, Rolle C Smith, the Pl Comd's Driver/ Batman, and some guy who carried the CPR 510 set and more than likely others that this old mind every now and again in want of a memory adjustment fails. Come to think of it many of these gunners were trained on the Vickers .303, Browning .30 and .50 Cal by the same NCOs: Sgts L. Sheedy, Stickney, Cpls: DPR Roach, and "Dad" Bone.
It must be mentioned at this point in the story that someone in their imminent wisdom, in every sense of the word a "Hero," assigned Lt Season and Sgt Ferguson to" human recovery." The assignment was to follow along at the rear of the column with two water bottles full of rum and revive the walking wounded along the way. I have no idea about the legal ramifications or how the NDA would process the justification for such a thoughtful order. I'll bet no one can identify just who it was that authorized such a thoughtful gesture.
S.M.E.A.C.: for those that can't recall the acronym: Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration and Logistics, Command and Signals.
The Mission: 6 Company, with full equipment will march by night over unstable mountain terrain, keeping off the roads and out sight from the prying eye-in-the-sky, an overhead CH 118, RECCE helicopter. During daylight hours: established a defensive position; take advantage of overhead cover provided by the heavy pine canopy and post sentries. Without vehicle support or artificial lights under the cover of darkness, man pack eight .50 Cal Browning Heavy Machine Guns, 128 lbs each, ammo boxes, weapons; radio sets; and personal equipment. The Pioneer will team up with the Mortar and the Anti-tank will do like wise with the HMG will also manhandle the fighting weapons over the course of the next four days.
The first few night marches after crossing the Start Line, most remained energetic and in good spirits, meeting the standards set out, 50 minuets marching, where possible, punctuated by a ten minuets rubbing feet and adjusting equipment. The Guns are manhandled equally within the sections and time limits and distances to be well within what could be endured. Passing ammo boxes, gun parts, and other platoon equipment continued through out the course of the exercise, everything was going as planned. Of course there was the never-ending cold drizzle, sweat and bugs, adding realism. Manoeuvring up and down bush roads, stumbling down rocky mountain paths, while a helicopter assigned by 8 Canadian Hussars, RECCE Sqn, out of Fort Chambly continued circling overhead illuminating the ground below with a spot light. No, they were not being the nice guys, their objective was to harass us at ever break in the pine tree canopy.
If you have ever followed along at the back of the pack, sometimes wondering and having doubts, if those at the front knew what in Hell they were doing, let alone where there were going. Think about it, diving face first into the ground with a part of a machine gun strapped to the body, if you guessed no fun, "right-on." The mission to arrive at the finish line, in tack, was of paramount importance. Other than the odd little hick-up, everything seems to be moving along as planned. Hallelujah, everyone was happy, except for our poor tired bodies, they kept reminding us we should give up and go home or better yet, just leave us here to be eaten by the wild boars.
Platoon and Section NCOs were continually checking for swollen feet; removing boots, searching out and treating bleeding feet and raw blisters. We were convinced the cause, was the inadequate WW 2 boots ankle. Of course, what to do with the big gaping hole in the toe of our socks, in those days we used a light bulb or in the field a potato apple or anything round shoved inside the sock and with the darning needle from our trusty housewife proceeded to fill it in, usually ending up with a lump of wool. Come to think of it, we did continued wearing these same boots until issued with the combat boots, somewhere down the line. Civilians may think it unusual for combat types to augment their equipment; didn't we pay for our footwear, Desert Boots in Cyprus, out of pocket, go figure.
Around the third day out with very little rest, wet and tiring of Bully beef and Mutton Scotch style, the 56 lb receiver of the .50 cal machine gun lashed to a travois was biting into our shoulders, we were reminded this was the reason for the march. There was no escaping, confronted with another turn carrying this piece of the gun called the "Receiver on a pole," we sucked it up and took it in stride. Other parts of the gun; 16 barrels, 28 lbs each, tripod mount 44 lbs for a total weight 128 lbs times eight guns amounted to 1024 lbs. Around 0300 hrs., the platoon was moving at a healthy pace, taking cover while the chopper flew overhead, Capt Patterson steering us through the underbrush after running out of guides, so we stopped. Often the platoon was caught in the beam from the chopper's spot light, scanning for any signs of the platoon activity. The drill to take cover and hide as quickly as possible, take cover, any place out of sight, like so many rats securing around in the dark seeking out a comfortable hiding place, waiting until the chopper passed. During one of these occasion while leaning against the trunk of a stately red pine, waiting, tired and completely exhausted; discovering humans could fall asleep standing up, all the time I thought it was only the horse or a mule capable of such a feat. Even to this day, that eerie feeling-- an out of body experience, while standing there in a deep sleep then having someone tapping on your shoulder saying "lets go," all the time wondering "where am I."
During daylight hours, the platoon would take up a defensive stance; usually wet, hungry and completely bummed out from a night of beating us up on the unstable, la Terre. The wiry wanders would camouflage the position, post sentries, wash shave and get some shut eye; waiting for a shake, then take a turn in a pit, looking out front for someone or something that you knew from experience would never come, "sentry duty."
Painful shoulders were nursed and swollen feet powered and a change of socks made the day. Capt Patterson and Sgt Ferguson, with his two water bottles full of rum took a personal interest in our well being, as they were seen moving from man man, checking and making mental notes of noticeable changes; and the odd time, if you looked out-of-it, one might get a nip from the old water bottle.
Too quickly day turned to night and before we knew it we were on the trail again, once again passing tripods, barrels, receivers and ammo boxes between members of the platoon. As per SOP no one escaped, we shared the heavy lifting equally. Capt Patterson, column navigator, was out front making use of a number of guides from the anti-bangers, often would stop and wait for the column to close up. Climbing a small hill and prior to attacking its peak, a corporal was overheard, thinking out loud "we can't do this!" Patterson insisted "We can't quit now, we have just gotten started." By this time Guardsman Chappelle was already throwing up blood but didn't want to quit, but in the interest of his health and safety, he was led off to the side of a road by the platoon commander to be evacuated.
Off we go again, leading the way in front, about 20 of the anti-tank platoon, using them as guides by leaving them wherever it was thought the column was liable to go astray or have difficulty negotiating a variety of obstacles. It was darker than Hades in the woods, everyone was aware, we literally couldn't see where on the ground to place next step; at one point the navigator had to get down on all fours with the map and a compass and sniff out which trail to take. Finally, running out guides and stopping; he witnessed men collapse onto the ground, asleep immediately, this gave cause for concern.
On one occasion visibility became impossible, black as a German night could be, no stars, no moon, nothing, the sight line was restricted to a few feet, keeping track of the man in front was becoming difficult and often impossible. A creative mind decided employing poncho straps, something like an umbilical cord; we buckled them to the man in front, probably a good idea, preventing a fall into a rocky ravine. Of course there was always the exception; what about the leader, out front with the map and compass, who can he follow?
The tie-on-initiative didn't always work. As memory would have it I seem to think it was Cpl Richter, a big lad with a heavy German accent, for what ever reason, managed to stagger off the narrow path wedging himself between two trees; the tripod he was carrying had been in place in such a manner with his head between the back two legs... The poor guy almost hung himself. The load, in addition to one half ton of steel, personal weapon, 10 lbs, webbing, sleeping bag and ponchos, water, food, ammo boxes CPR 510 radio and other personal equipment, shovels and picks, everyone had more or less 80 lbs of gear and the danger of suffering injury were imminently possible. Registering under the blackened faces, it was becoming apparent; the underling pain and stress caused by the degree of effort required by each and every man was visible and obvious. Did it mean defeat? Could "endurance," very easily have been replaced with "cruel, and unusual punishment?" Patterson was concerned!
Not letting up, out front with map and compass our energetic leader, navigator and pacer, coureurs de bois extraordinaire, Captain "Bill" Patterson, topping six feet, equipped with long legs at birth, could and did hoof it better than most long distance marathon runners. We at the back of the platoon will bare witness to that, we still believe the guys at the back walk twice as far to get to the same place as those at the head of the column. In addition the sharp steel edges of the guns tripod and barrels forever bit into our shoulders. Not to forget the travois, consisted of one long pole, with the Receiver lashed to it, then seated awkwardly on the shoulders of two porters. No one had the guts, for good reasons; to yell, "slow down," most wanted to throttle this long legged Springbuck, (Antidorcas marsupialis) out front. When the terrain permitted he could be seen merrily legging it forward at a break neck pace through the blackest of German nights he booted forward there was no stopping this young officer, Capt Patterson, he knew we were on-the-ropes, nearing the extent of our endurance.
As far as he can remember, on our first night out, the first stop was on the side of small hill near a flat valley in the hills. The next night we followed the valley until it ran out and we had to climb a big hill. Patterson recalls advising the men, those carrying the weapons, to make up to the top they would have to crawl up the hill on their hands and knees. On another occasion climbing over a fence and suddenly becoming aware that he was in the middle of a herd of kuehe, (cows) and hearing a German asking him "was ist los?" (What is going on here); "NATO Truppen" was Patterson's answer and without further adieu the German disappeared into the night.
During the another of the many stops, this time in a small isolated wood in the middle of sprawling farmland Capt Patterson walked up on Cpl Richter and his follow-along rag-tag bunch, cooking eggs. They admitted securing them from a local farmer, thus breaking the rules - "no contact with civilians." They were promised by Patterson a future group punishment for their ill-advised deed, was in the cards, "discipline in the field, unrecorded." The third night was spent on the top of a very high hill, so high, that when looking down at a German village below, it appeared to be in miniature setting, much like the miniature village in Madurodam Holland. This was identified as our objective and to get there we had to cross a stream about two feet deep, ice cold, this would surly awaken the walking dead.
Patterson and his other officer colleagues mission to test us to the limits; they did just that, in spades! Kinks were starting to show in the armour, remembering Grunts following along behind were up to their asses in alligators with very little left to give, a sad looking lot, ashen complexions, wet to the hide, dressed in black coveralls, boots and putties and wearing old wet war surplus throwaways left behind by other armies and picked up by our politicians to save money. American helmets, of course the green cravat.
Dan MacArthur, Norman Welsh among others were following along swearing and muttering, "Bring it on," they would never be beaten. Never to forget our Pattie Pearce, in garrison a challenge for any NCO to make presentable for the many inspection Guardsmen were subjugated to. Out here in the field, where a soldier could prove his true value, without all the spit and polish, Pattie had respect. This was his element, Pattie would show them where the bear shit in the buckwheat; if you looked in the COD (Concise Oxford Dictionary), under field soldier there would be a picture of Patrick Joseph Pearce, a proud Newfoundland. Pattie a career Guardsman, in the field he could always be game fully found employed at his post. Usually as the sun broke the horizon, nursing a hangover, firing up the emerged burners in those big eight gallon garbage cans. Warming up the water for ablating fungus and grime. Then it was on to the 37 burners, enabling the cooks to fry up another one of their culinary delights. In garrison, we in the platoon, took Pattie under our wing and protected him from those who would do him harm or even -- put him in the book. Pattie didn't have the where-with-all to be selected Stick-man for the best turned-out Guardsman on Commanding Officers Parade, or was he ever extended privilege and honour to be perched on a chair in front of the Commanding Officer's door awaiting orders; mind boggling challenges, like fetching another coffee for the CO or RSM. Pattie has now gone to his maker, God bless you Pattie, our buddy and friend. Most have fond memories of this bigger than life Newfoundlander, recalling some of his failures, a friend to all; I'm sure Pattie set the record for trudging around the parade square in Fort York with full marching order, as a permanent member of the extra work and drill team.
Now getting back on track, as we started out on the last night the column navigator Capt Patterson, received a call from Easy Ed, saying, "to complete the route we would have to cross a river which was in flood." Major ATE Fairweather, knowing that Patterson was so enthralled in the Mission-- no doubt was crazy enough to try. As a safety consideration the exercise is officially called off. A Nice way of putting it and ending it gracefully.
To celebrate the occasion "Easy Ed" and CSM "the Bull" Imbeau had tents set up and beer and steaks in the coolers and on the grill; Good leaders, the men come first!
Unfortunately, there was a need for a section of men to go out on a battalion scheme the next day, and HMG Pl was asked to select the unfortunates. Remembering Cpl Richter and the eggs, there they were, without defence, were unceremoniously volunteered for their untimely peccadillo. At the gathering while indulging in the delights, steak, beer and rum toddies, a just reward for a job-well-done. As a special tribute, Capt Patterson was presented with a couple of glasses of beer and two empty glasses with raw egg in the bottom; indulging himself in the contents he claims this was Childs play after enduring the experiences of the past four days.
Fast forward to the immediate future, the thoughts of a shower, a change of cloths, and a night between the sheets took precedence over everything, even the pain.
The company commanders debriefing, short and to the point, consisted of having everyone checked for injuries and insuring the equipment was intact and in fighting condition. Not to be forgotten were the new inventions that cropped up along the way, such as the four foot wood travois used to lash the dreaded Receiver; allowing the weight to be distributed between two porters and the make do padding, to soften the nasty cutting edges of the steel. There was no mention of a submission to the Suggestion Awards Committee for a small pittance for 6 company coffers.
In retrospect 6 Coy had survived, no shots were fired, except perhaps for a grossest of flatulent caused by eating Mutton Scotch Style, here was another harrowing experience encountered and never recorded in the Unit Historical Return. We were no worse for wear-and-tear; Major "Easy Ed" ATE Fairweather and his colleagues were indeed impressed, but not surprised. The exceptional moral and overall condition of the men and equipment of 6 Company having completed and meeting all objectives of Venture Training, was in his words "commendable".
Only after a great deal of water has since passed under the bridge, did many of us take away the real value from the challenges we shared. In hindsight, it was the time we spent together proving our toughness, meeting them head on, pitching in, sometimes carrying more than our share. Never giving in to physical and mental anguish, being the best we could be doing what ever it takes, "looking pretty," had nothing to do with it. We now know an army marches on its feet, not its stomach nor is the shine of a spit and polish boot got anything to do with carrying the heavy load. The bond that was formed, a brotherhood that was learned by sharing, nourished with pain; to use Churchill's famous line, "blood sweat and tears" it is still evident to this day in the minds of those of us still around, and probably the sole reason battles are won.
Later as we stretched out on the ground of the Sourland's Nature Park, taking in the ambiance of this natural setting, after eating and indulging in the refreshments, feeling the gentle breezes, savouring the fresh smell of pine needles while basking in the warm sun on the side of a hill. Burping and emitting large amounts of body gases while waiting for the vehicles to move us back into garrison. The thoughts of a refreshing hot shower and time between the venture, of a different sort; in Soest, visiting those Gasthof. Visualizing loud music, heavy perfumed scented smoky air; Elvis on the juke box, snuggling up to those pretty Frauleins, life at its best, "nach ein bier bitte." The Jolly Green Giant had it right when he said, "there is no life like it".
As we dispersed from the Guards military lifestyle, our paths have taken us to all parts of the world, following different career paths, all heading in the same direction, Whence We Came, Where We Went. We of the HMG, Mortar, Pioneer, Anti-tank and the rifle companies of the Guards we will always have first hand knowledge of what we gave, what we endure and what it took and relish in the thought of being there. Experiencing what is required, in the field, to get the job done; no disrespectful intended, always believing there is more to being a Guardsman than parading around Paramount Hill, in a bright scarlet uniform topped off with a big black Bearskin; getting all the press.
To all the men who carried the load, did the heavy lifting, the respect the Regiment has gained over its short lifespan is yours and will be forever known by the mark made by, "the lion in the field," the field soldier. As the young officers of the Battalion used to say "Another first for the, 1st Battalion."
Thinking back we can take a few words from "Call To Arms...you'll never walk alone". (June 2009)
Hello Sean Garagan, Guardsman
I have been battering my old skull trying to think of why I know Sean Garagan, now the name itself has a familiar ring, but the reasons are there and just need a little jog, I draw a blank and is somewhat puzzling, let blame it on old age. It was common in the day we would, out of habit, call ourselves by the last name only, of course there was always the exceptions: Sammy, Junior, and automatically we would know it to be Best and Warrington, or some Sgt yelling, ``Cpl put that man in the book`.
Ted Mason and Ruth were away in Florida, spending all his money over the winter, so there is nothing further to report on Joe Skerry. Also you mentioned my favourite sport hockey and grand children, don`t you love em. I can see by the numbers in your gene pool you have become a prolific breeder, good show. Helga and I have been married 48 years and counting, only three grandchildren to report, she keeps me walking a straight line and other than a few hockey injuries, tripping over the beer and falling into the TV, can boast of having pretty good health allowing for a few games of golf every week at the Madawaska in Arnprior.
I can see from your e-mail your old body is holding up, being a guardsman and a hockey referee to boot, no doubt a great fighter. Don`t let those maladies you mentioned stop you from taking your fair share of good times left on mother earth. We know Garagan will overcome anything they throw his way. Remember you have had good solid training at the Guards Depot, RSM Jim Baird insisted we hold up our head, chest out, chin up and get a hair cut and know you will overcome just about anything; you can take that to the bank. Enough said about what is written on the Sick Report (ISM 18) as they say, `what ever will be will be.`
Ed Kingston, what a guy. As I recall he had a great deal of time with the Prex Le Clair Team in Fort York and Sennelauger, not to mention a few Warstiener beer: big Ed showed them where the bear shit in the buckwheat and could do just about anything he set his mind to. I hope we see some of our old friends in August at the Guards Reunion. I pine for a good old fashion get-to-gether and dig into some of those memories, both good and bad, and how we overcame adversity, shine parades, sick parades and all those other parades some one in the headshead dreamt up to keep us mere mortals busy. We will also be able to tell our grandchildren we attended Carleton University, go figure! I see the last residing President of the Oases Bar in Soest, Jr Warrington, will be in attendance, as I recall many a battle was fought between the tables in that place settling important issues of who will buy the next round.
Great hearing from your neck of the woods (Angus), also a big Hello to Jim Campagna. Speaking of the reunion I for one will be at there 7-9 August. Living in Ottawa and one of the few guardsmen to retire in the capital honestly believe it is because to the cost of living, its only at these celebrations of our regiment we have an opportunity to be together just one more time, the ranks are thinning, but I can`t say that about the old body, I am looking forward to one more parade another good feed from the trough of plenty and good camaraderie to carry us on through to the end.
Ciao, Howie Pierce
From: sean garagan <SFGaragan@rogers.com>
Just another old Guardsman who has not forgot his beginning. My name is Sean Garagan and I live in Angus Ont. It is nice to read all your good material. I am sorry to hear that Joe Skerry (the only guy that uses irons off the Tee with accuracy) is fighting Cancer, I too have cancer on the tonsil and I celebrated 5 years on the 05 Sept 2008.
As you know it is not fun.
Today my wife and I celebrated 47 years of marriage. We have 4 sons along with 11 grandchildren to go along with 3 import grandchildren for a total of 14. Quite a hit parade. I am still refereing hockey, started late 1962 until present and still enjoying it. I see that you chat with Ted Mason, what a great leader he was. Ed Kingston was here about three years ago and we talked old times and one point was that I had to learn to play right defence so Ted could play left. We were a good duo but Ted would not play the right side. The Guards are a good bunch of people. Jim Campagna lives here also and I keep him informed of all the happenings.
He is going to try and go to Ottawa on 7-9 Aug. I am also thinking about it.
Well my old friend take care and we did have a few drinks together when we were in the Guards.
Hello Steve Brodsky
Reading over your memories of the 50th Anniversary of the past reunion on the Web Site, Howie ET AL. No doubt there are many a Gdsm who will relate to many of your ideas and recollections on what we once were. Now older and before we pass on to the big parade square in the sky, the dangers of hurting someones feelings, by telling the truth is remotely oblivious and more in tune with the cleansing of ones soul.
I can see it all now, up there that is; Silver Lee and Are-Dubb Bennett, at a full trot out the main gate of Fort York in hot pursuit of some young Gdsm trying to mount the Bundespost Bus wearing his newly purchased suit from the tailor shop,14 " cuff, imagine!
A friend shared this site with me today
and I just had to pass it on to you.
This song/hymn has been, and is, sung by so many in so very many different ways but this rendition from the Coliseum in Rome has to be one of the best I've heard and I wanted you to hear it too. Have a great day...
When you are picturing those good old days play the Wonderful rendition of "Amazing Grace".. and recall there were good times too!
Ciao Howie Pierce
Great to hear from you, Howie. Thanks!
Yes, I got the mind-picture of Are-Dub and Silver Lee. You may recall a Gdsm lad trying to start a stalled 3/4 ton truck at Fort York. RW Bennett (RWB) strutted over to his cab, and said, "D'you know why that truck won't start, lad?"
"No, sir," replied the Gdsm.
"BECAUSE YOU NEED A HAIRCUT!"
I've never been able to figure out the logic of the Regimental Mind (if there's such a thing). Anyway, bless RWB, and may he R.I.P.
I often hear via e-mail from old comrades like youself, and it's always heart-warming. Perhaps you'll be at that 50th Guard Mount Reunion in August. Kit and I plan to be there, and perhaps we'll have a chance for "face time," I think the teenies call it.
While we are S******* T** S***, The RWB story, I'm told is true, and the driver of the 3/4 ton light armoured heavy machine gun platform mounted vehicle, with side mounted gerry can of low grade petro was Pattie Pearce.
I'll be there, sounds like a song... at the 50th with flying colours, bells and whistles, and all that stuff; embellishing the truth and letting it rip... truths and lies all with a certain amount of temperance, so keep your head down.
Oh... by the way-- not to be seen as correcting a PhD in English Literature, my granddaughter, 10 years old, thought you meant weenies, not teenies; or perhaps in Victoria its different; I have no idea as it is all too complicated for this old fellow.
I took a look at Earth Map for your address on the island, and made note your abode is located two streets from the end of the main runway of the Victoria International Airport; there better not be a claim for a VAC pension for hearing loss.
Take care, and all the best. May I say," my old friend and comrade in arms"?
Ciao, Howie (March 2009)
So nice of you to pass on compliments to one who only "says it like it is","is a Pit Bull when getting the teeth into something we should all call mistreatment" for the deeds all members of the forces contribute over the years.
Do you know Joe Skerry. He has had cancer for some time now and made all the necessary departing arrangements So his wife would be able to survive and guess what, His wife died on Dec 18/08 and Joe was in bad shape as he sat and pondered at his home in Alberton PEI. We decided to go visit him to add a bit of laughter through stories of "when" which included he, his sister and we mainlanders going out for a couple dinners /lunches/breakfasts etc and enjoyed time at his home recalling the "when" Joe was so happy to have us be concerned and to visit him. If we are all alive we plan to return in May or June when we will all gorge ourselves on local lobster. It will be painful but someone has to eat them.
Keep happy and remember our offer to have you stop by if in the area.
Ta! Ted (Mason)
****Sent: Monday, January 12, 2009 12:45 PM
Once again it is your old bud from years- gone- bye: Picton, Soest---so on, and--- so forth. Common courtesy dictates, "those who will take the time to correspond with an old guy, Howie Pierce and include their views on how we got this far ...so far deserves a vote of confidence". Sometimes, happy with our progress, and at times enjoying some of the better things life has to offer. I speak of the Masons going off to sunny Florida. Good for you and your bride Ruth, take advantage every day; indulge yourself in the luxuries that make life worth living. Sometimes many of our departed friends like: ME Rutledge, Alfie S, and too many to list here, never had that chance
As we pass on through the time machine, we must look to the future and try to get it right the first time around, we only get one chance, one kick at the can to put it bluntly.
I took another look at your correspondence on the web site and e-mail. Reviewing your life's accomplishments, it goes without saying, very impressive, indeed. It is evident Ted Mason will not allow moss to grow under his boots, always on the move, trying to make things right, an admirable trait. The effort extended by you and others, concerning the AECL file, and those it effected is honourable. Often we see others being presented, Orders of Canada, at Government sponsored ceremonies, receiving accolades for contributions in and behalf of causes of lessor importance. You have spoken for those in pain and suffering, your tireless advancement of their collective cause for compensation for those who participated in the mishaps at Chalk River in 1958. I congratulate you in not letting them sweep the debris under the carpet , it was you and people like you, who advanced the cause for what is just,and right, and won. Now when they mention names of contribuitors, from our regiment like Price, Ambroziak, we will also must include Mason. The finality of the VAC decision to provide a compensation package to those affected was worthy of the effort and a fitting conclusion; for your part, Congratulations Ted.
We commend you on your perseverance and continued insistence for a honourable solution; because of your involvement you have advanced the plight for those without a voice. We both know that along the way their will be feelings hurt and toes stepped on but the end result is honourable and worthy of the cost.
In my humble opinion this is an example of, "Earned Leadership". Even if its only one Guardsman identified, and has suffered as a result of the Chalk River Spill, and never considered or compinsated; being left behind would be one too many!
Ted you have now been added to my honour roll," Howie's Heroes". Enjoy the sun, for it shines for those who give of themselves and be reminded, those that sit idly by and watch,"the takers of undue credits", can sit under the darken sky and perhaps get hit with a bolt of lightning.
Ciao, Howie Pierce, Guardsman
Veteranus - I scribbled what follows about five years ago after the CG 50th Thing. Just for fun. Not for use. Just came across it agaIn. Here it is in lieu of The Night Before Christmas. No sugarplums. Not digestible generally, I shouldn't think. But cc'd it to a few others with sufficient sense of the vaguely peculiar perhaps for a pityingly headshaking smile at the lone Dramatis Persona, rather obviously the Gabriel part of GWSB.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! Angelicus.
G.W. Stephen Brodsky, CD, PhD, 9645 Sixth St, Sidney, BC, V8L 2W1
Ph: (250) 655-4303 e-mail: email@example.com
The Plays the Thing
A lawn behind the Cartier Square Drill Hall, Ottawa, August, 2003
Dramatis Persona: A too-mortal would-be Angelic Messenger
Yes, life has to be lived forwards, but it can only be known backwards. I suppose thats why Im standing on this lawn, patched and cluttered like an incomplete data base, here behind the Cartier Square Drill Hall. Or I think thats why I came all the way here to Ottawa. Something like that, anyway. But I dont know why I came, really. I dont mean that I regret being here. Indeed, to the contrary. I mean quite literally, that I dont know why Im here. Not really really why. I imagine its because we all try to go home sometime. Something to do with the life urge, the drive to immortality, the fiction that bears its own truth. That is, it makes the mortal truth bearable. Lemon-sweet, you might say. Everything bearing its opposite: light and dark, now and then, here and there, remembering and forgetting, the intractable Alpha and Omega of things. Living, dead. But, I cant quite bear to click the Delete key to erase a regimental memory, so Ive just clicked on Save. In a dead file, that is. To be hauled out and looked at every fifty years or so. Ive not been to a Guards reunion before, and I doubt if I shall again. I shall have run out of Time by 2053, as I rather suspect others will have, too. The shouting and the tumult dies, the captains and the kings depart. . . .
Lets look around this lawn, with its bare spots and tufts like a chemotherapy patients scalp. I dont know many of the old hands who are left, and I dont recognize many of the ones I knew. Fat, rubicund, and limping, or chicken-necked scrawny, parchment-skinned, and shuffling, most silver-haired or bald, all lost for a few hours in a roseate Peter Pan past. Me too. Waist a little thick, mind a little thick, too. Not a pea soup-dense fog; just hazy enough to obscure the events of yesterday, and thickening with Time into impenetrable Melvilleian polar mists, while days of youth shine clear in a mélange of memory, sometimes glorious from afar, oftener shameful close up. After all, arent we all just bundles of nasty little secrets, the ones who got away with it (whatever "it" is)? Even the old Man from Underground, whose maker Dostoevsky wouldnt have known a puttee from a pullthrough, knew that.
That other bad lad of his, Raskolnikov, didnt get away Scot free with his little bundle, did he, now? Crime and Punishment, it was. But most of us have got away with it, so far. At least this side of the grave. Or we wouldnt dare to show our faces above ground here on this lawn. Were even proud of the fictions weve made up out of ourselves. Honour. Thats the ticket. Right there, up front, on our puffy chests. Most of us wear the same tie angled blue and red, thin silver stripes between. All with name tags on our summer shirts. Were like a schoolyardful of senescent boys on the first day of term, all afflicted by Time. Its a tragic disease, yes. Marked by its symptom in the young, fits of rapid aging, or vapid raging to live. Or at least, its seemed much too rapid and vapid. Not fair, really.
But, were undaunted. After all, whats to do about it? So, lots of comradely handshaking, geriatric wit, memories embellished, embroidered, embossed, burnished, and polished like the rows of garish ribbon and glittering metal all shall wear tomorrow, papering over memory in a mirror-skein of glory, when there shall be an arthritically tottering parade of pilgrims to a cairn remembering us to ourselves. So says the program sheet marking off the hours of precious Time into savoury moments of maudlin memory. Soldiers of a war now distant were ordered to save the Unexpended Portion of the Days Ration in their mess tin bags. If only one might reclaim the already expended Portion of Times Ration, in a commissariat of years. No such hope, gentlemen. Not even a cairnful of crumbling hope, no matter how many cairns we erect to commemorate wars, keepings of peaces-that-arent, and ourselves.
We mill about, "mixing" on that patchwork of grass so indecently green in places, and we so dun and sear. Were the rags of Time and memory, littering the lawn with a self-conscious camaraderie of warrior-words.
"Eyes not so good. Lemme read that name tag."
"Hell, you havent changed a bit, you old bastard. Id know you anywhere." (Never liked that fellow much, but here on this stage were all playing our parts as great chums. All the worlds a stage, and were bit players. Were in a Time Out, in parentheses as it were. An intermission between tedious acts in a play which is our too-ordinary lives.)
"You too, chum. Yeah, I wear this tag sos I can remind myself who I am." Forced eruptions of comradely mirth.
Time for a burst of choral camaraderie, ragged and raucous: "My e-y-y-y-es ar-r-re dim, I cannot see. I have not brought my specs with me, I ha-a-ave n-o-o-t brought my specs with me. . . ."
Remember the time when you. . . ?"
"No. Dont think that was me. Wasnt there."
"Sure it was, you old. . . ."
"OK. Maybe it was. I dunno any more. . . ."
Pause. Nothing more to say. Backslapping time. Shake. Hug. Slap. Move off into the throng of dying old guardsmen, jolly for a day.
The boys of the Ceremonial Guard look splendid in their bearskins, scarlet coats. Theyve just put on a sunset ceremony for us. Sunset ceremony. I like the irony of that. Its your turn to be us the way we were before our sunset. Fine, boys. And before you know it, itll be your turn to be us the way we are. Theyre marching off now. The band has struck up the "The Old Grey Mare." Just for us. "The Old Grey Mare" was the march our band would play when we marched off the square after trooping the Regimental Colour. Nothing old or grey about that tune. A lilting march. Weary heads would raise, tired chests swell. Wed strut like Viennese dressage stallions. "Bags o swank," as Brit sergeant majors called the Brigade of Guards arse-swinging gait. We had learned to ape it, like just about everything else the Brits did. The Empires last gasp. That was us. Odd, that. We "colonials," still thinking of ourselves that way even then, believed ourselves better, smarter, tougher, than the limeys we copied. The meek shall inherit the earth, our pride, sprouting and blossoming from its shrivelled colonial humility.
So young, so proud we were, so full of hope, back in 59, forty-four years and a few days in the past, when we first did this, every form and turn with right markers dead on the neat coffee can lids nailed into the turf. Now, at this moment, on a neighbouring sward overlooked by the great Peace Tower clock, a cyclops eye of Time staring down, "The Old Grey Mare" just brings a lump to the throat and tears to blink away. Why? Its a sort of Recessional that, with a ghastly joyful lilt, when the reality which is me says it should be limping. Is that it? What the hell is wrong with me? Dont spill over to course down the runnels carved by Time in old cheeks! Mustnt embarrass myself with Darkness Visible here in front of these old men. Were old and grey, or white, or bald, on the edge of night, all right. My e-y-y-es a-r-r-e dim, I cannot s-e-e-e. . . .
Kipling had it right. "For theyre done with Danny Deever, you can ear the quickstep play." Danny was a thief. Died young. We arent and we havent. But Time is our thief, a piratical Captain Hook snagging us and hauling us off, exit stage west. All the same. Its a rite of execution, come to think of it, this sunset ceremony. But these kids parading past us now dont know that yet. They havent Kippled. Or have they? Do they have our spirit? I dont know. I dont know anything about this any more. But one thing sure. They havent grown old yet, and growing old is one of those things you cant tell them about. The transience of life. Either you see it, or you dont. Thank God the young dont see it. Theyd give up right now break ranks, wander off into the darkling night. Its the light of hope that keeps them in ranks. Bags o swank.
We get up creaking from the chairs that have been set out for us. The group breaks up into little clumps of three and four, while young groundskeepers in green uniforms elbow among us, impatient to be done folding and stacking. Our moment of spectator-glory is done. Weve been humoured long enough. Now were just in the way getting in the way of the young, marching on their way to where we are. The young soldiers on parade bright and gleaming have gone now. The last drum beat has faded to a faint tapping somewhere around the corner of the drill hall. No more youth to see. Nowhere to sit now, either. Twilight dimming, throng thinning, each old boy shamble-strolling on his path towards a few lines of newsprint and an urn on some sprogs mantelpiece. See them ashes there? Thats my old granddad. Left, right, left, right! Dig in the Heels! This Way To the Out gate. Obituaries and Ashes Here.
The suns almost gone now, an orange sliver behind the grateful trees. Uh-huh. The shouting and the tumult dies, alright. I guess were the departing captains now, kings of whatevers left to us. A few of us head back inside for a bit more Recessional, loath to part with the dream. Its an armouries. One of those red brick fortresses with barred windows and crenellated towers that you find or at least used to in every city, when a Dominion rabble militia might have to be armed in a hurry against a restive peasantry, or against Fenians, or Americans, or whatever rabble of Others defined "us" by not being whatever "we" thought a proper Canuck is. "Lord God of Hosts be with us yet," but the bricks and bars havent kept out Captain Hook, the thief Time that razes empires and mortals. We cross the armouries floor, our steps echoing in the cavernous place like ghost voices from old wars. We clank up the iron spiral staircase to the balcony, and to a mess. An officers mess or a Sergeants mess. It used to matter, one upon a time. One of the Old Guard has brought a magnum of champagne just for this. Time for a few of us to toast ourselves. "The Regiment." Thats that. Time to exit without fuss. Time, time. A season for everything. . . .
The muffled thunk of the heavy drill hall door closing behind me punctuates the warm night. I am alone in a sudden traffic-filled silence that smells of flora and car fumes. In the orange glow of streetlights I amble back to my rented car on a sidestreet beside the drill hall. A dark bulk leaning over the windshield turns out to be a commissionaire. Oh, oh. I remember that every parking space was full when I arrived. With only minutes to spare before the Sunset Ceremony was due to start, I committed the Mortal Sin of Yellow-Line Parking, which now would prove unforgivable. "I guess Im just too late," I said. "Yep," he said smugly. "Thought ya could get away with it, eh?"
"No," I said. "There werent any spaces left, and I came here all the way from the West for my Regimental Reunion. And this is thanks I get. But its my fault, I suppose."
The commissionaires features seem to collapse downwards, weighed down with the gravity of regret. He looks like a sad bloodhound now. "Thats what all that band music was, eh? Jeez. Im so sorry. I didnt know. You guys done so much for us. Now I feel awful. But I cant cancel it now. Im real sorry, though."
I hadnt done anything for anybody, except perhaps for me. But I play up to his remorse with a long-suffering look, matching his hound dog expression. All I lack is Old Blues dewlaps. "Its Okay, my friend. You have your job to do." Ive almost convinced myself that Im the tragic hero of his imagination. I know Im a ham.
When he drives off, I look at the ticket. Tragic heroism martyred to the tune of eighty bucks. I hope he has a rotten evening thinking about it. I will. Oh well, that adds up to just a tad less than a only a toonie a year since that first guard-mounting. Small price to pay to set Time at naught for a few minutes, roll back lifes Ineluctable Odometer for a space. . . . A few minutes later, Im aiming the car through the dense night traffic in a parabola around Confederation Square, along the asphalt path my steel-shod heels once trod. Now theres the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the foot of the War Memorial in the axis of the Square, which is really a circle. An instant of panicky déja vu: Then and now, square and circle, elide. The phantasm passes. One consolation, I reflect. At least Im getting the privilege of age, denied to the Inconnus. Or are they the lucky ones? Whos to say?
* * *
That was yesterday. This morning I walk with my daughter Victoria and the Grandsprogs Fritha and Liam from our digs at the University of Ottawa, across the bridge spanning the Rideau Canal, to watch the Changing of the Guard on Parliament Hill. Weve come from a place of scholars to a place of soldiers. From a present back to a past. We have special seats. Lots of shouting. Number one Division-n-n-n Ri-i-i-ght FORM! FORWARD! . . . Le-e-ft FORM! New Gua-a-rd, HALT! The New Guard halts in line dead on its markers. I wonder who that young man is there on the right? The sergeant of Number One Division of the New Guard. Forty years ago that was me. The thought boggles.
I point and tell my Grandsprogs. "Right there. See? Same spot, exactly."
Their heads turn slightly to regard me with features politely expressionless, their eyes flat with adolescent knowing. Granddads being weird again. Besides, its wiltingly warm. This is BORING, but it has to be endured, because Mom said its important to him. Funny. Not funny-ha-ha. Funny-peculiar. So they endure.
Surreal, this. Past time elides again with the present. Its 59 again, soon to be half a century ago. July First. Canada Day, or whatever it was called back then. Weve been training and training for this day, about fifty of us. Its never been done before, Changing the Guard, just the way its done at Buckingham Palace. Were Regulars. Real soldiers. "A guardsmans life is terribly hard, said Alice." A.A. Milnes Alice was terribly impressed. My Grandsprogs arent. Not too terribly. Yes, wilting day, with no shade. Two Time-ravaged Eminent Regimental Personages in their wheel chairs at places of privilege in front of us are near to fainting, but they struggle bravely to their feet, bent and shaking, with every Present Arms and every playing of Anthems and the regimental march. The composers of "O Canada," "God Save the Queen," and "The Cross of Saint George" have a lot to answer to them for. O pomp, O, pride. O, the mirages of youth.
These kids I watch today are Militia reservists. Mostly university students recruited into the Governor Generals Foot Guards and Canadian Grenadier Guards for the summer to please the tourist trade and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce. As good as we were? Couldnt be. But an imp of truth tells me they are. You can tell theyve been trained by Regulars. Except for that fat, fat sergeant major, his white belt straining at his ample girth. You can tell by the way he has that militia kick in his foot drill, hes an old reservist, for sure. Never been a Regular, and got into this too late to be trained to drill like one. Oh, my dear, dear, me. But those are real regiments, all right. Going right back to Cut Knife Hill. And these kids, we all agree with an enthusiasm thats secretly grudging, do a damn fine job of it. The truth is, I hate to admit to myself, that I envy them their youth. Its a spiteful but consoling thought that other old men, now long gone, have envied me in my youth strutting my turn on stage, and Time will get even for me with these boys.
Walking back, I pass a bus stop. Its lunch time for the busy scriveners at Defence Headquarters. A little mob of grey-blue Air Force NCOs in summer shirts lounge against a bus stop shelter. I walk on a few paces and turn to etch them in my quizzical memory. Some sport a couple of medal ribbons. They look rumpled, warm. Scuffed shoes. If the briefcases they carry had been bowling ball bags, I would have taken them for a team in a ten-pins league. A major, short and plump, approaches the bus stop. Nobody salutes. Nobody straightens. Nobody moves a shoulder away from where theyre leaning. All eyes blank. No greeting. Just waiting. The major joins them to wait.
Call me Ishmael, a stranger in a strange land. This is a military world from which I am separated by Time. Nothing I know is here. Alien. The Ceremonial Ive just witnessed, once real to me, has been acted by amateurs playing the parts I played. But the reality behind the play, so real still for me, is already antique. This bus stop vignette of the military world as it is, and perhaps as Im not supposed to see it, has an air of unreality for me. Illusion and reality have exchanged places. Teatro Mundi, for sure. Maybe the old Bard was right. All the worlds a stage, and were just strutting and fretting away our precious hours til we run out of Time, no? Why should I find puzzlement in that. . . ?
Surely there must be an inner discipline in those limp, rumpled bus stop mannequins, a strength that comes to the fore when its called upon. But I cant see it there, on those features bland and blank, in those bodies overfed and toneless. Ive come there from a simpler time, it seems, when such things were more obvious. When flaccid forms didnt belie weakness, and things were what they seemed. Or were they?
Ishmael turns and walks on. Walking, I think back on that first long march from Parliament Hill all the way down Sussex to Government House, rifles at the shoulder, no "change arms," right elbow locked, numb. Not strength. Just will. Old Kipling had it right. "If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you except the Will which says to them:" Hold on!. . . !"
Indeed, yes. Hold on. But hold on a minute: Or maybe there was an order to change arms? So what if my versions a fib? Goodness knows, we had our fatties and useless "blank files," too. And they got away with it. And yes, I think maybe there was a change arms. Then the pasts just a theatre, too? Is that it? But does it matter if I fool myself to brighten youths footlights a little? Does it really matter? I like the more painful version as a memory. Even a memory of tunics lined with heavy sweat-soaked quilting that wouldnt dry through sultry nights hung on double bunks in the red brick night prison called No. 13 Personnel Depot, where we were quartered now has an aura of soldierly romance. Close up, the truth was merely smelly.
And then in July of 70, a couple of months short of seventeen years from its birth, even the regiment we had thought of as eternal was ushered off-stage by Time in Parliamentary guise. Times up, they said. As a last hurrah for the officers in the Chateau Laurier, a cherub-faced Governor General Roland Mitchener brought scripted jollity to the grief of that betrayal with decorous and decorative paeans to the regiment. I heard polite applause and watched a major weep. So, why should I care if my eyes brim to the rollicking swell of "The Old Grey Mare?" What was it Kipling wrote? "If you . . . watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and buildem up with worn-out tools. . . , youll be a man, my son." Well, we did our building, most of us. A bit late for more of that now, even for old Times sake. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, until the last syllable. . . , when itll be time again to exit without fuss. Oh. Call me Gabe or Steve, or Ishy for short. Saves Time.
Sunset. Time, gentlemen, please! Its Time. . . .
It was necessary to keep a good supply of cannon balls near the cannon on old war ships. But how to prevent them from rolling about the deck was the problem. The best storage method devised was to stack them as a square based pyramid, with one ball on top, resting on four, resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon.
There was only one problem -- how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding/rolling from under the others.
The solution was a metal plate with 16 round indentations, called, for reasons unknown, a Monkey. But if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make them of brass - hence, Brass Monkeys.
Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannon balls would come right off the monkey.
Thus, it was quite literally, cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. And all this time you thought that was just a vulgar expression, didn't you?
Indeed a few letters of interest to our family, ready for the Web Site. Over to you, and a very Merry Christmas..
Ciao, Howie Pierce
Hello G.W. Stephen Brodsky, CD, PhD
Having just read your "Scribble Rediscovered", I thought this is a masterpiece! Written by Charles Dickens, or whoever, based on his knowledge of the Regiment, the author had to be at one time, at the very least a Sergeant in the Regiment of Canadian Guards.
On a few occasions, not name dropping, mind! Having on occasions met, at the time Associate Prof, Steve Brodsky on a visit to RRMC, you were then employed in that stately castle in Victoria, BC...at the time Sgt Howie Pierce, Adm Clk 831 now with DPED, was there to upgrade the computer systems so they would interface with DPIS data banks. I , being a Sgt, was told to change into civilian mufti so as to not to attract the ire of other Officer level patrons dining. I might mentioned here that it was not I who slurped his soup or wiped his chin with his coat sleeve. Another occasion, Sgt Steve Brodsky and a fellow student, in the mid sixties, while attending Queens Univ., was seen to be pushing an older model auto down King Street, Kingston ON. Apparently, the students did not have enough money for petrol... I thought, is this what becomes of Guardsmen seeking their fame & fortunes through a higher education? Again, I was dead wrong, consider Sgt Brodsky, the same guy, I witnessed, Sgt Brodsky under a stately tree, with mirror and washbasin and stand, cutting his own hair with the clippers hooked on to a CPR 510 battery in Gagetown. Who would have thought, Professor in English Literature, PhD, an recognized scholar and published author. Congratulations, you did it your way.
Now to cut to the chase.. because you are one of my many idols, may this outstanding manuscript be posted on the Canadian Guards Association Web Site for all to read and remissness--of once was our Regiment? It could be in the section of ,"Howie's et al". Also it could stand as another memory of celebrated Guardsmen who took part in the anniversary of the Guard Mount, e.g. advertising, and a boost to this summers outing on the Hill
Just a thought, nothing can be done without your expressed permission. Ciao, Howie
And yep, you certainly stirred some memories, Howie -- especially about those great tug-of-war team men: Lou Davis, Strickland, good old Monk, John Sweeney, Harron, Bill Poirier, Petrucha. . . , and the others. I remember them all very fondly. Nick has remained a good friend over the years. One thing you don't find in the academic sphere, Howie, no matter how intellectually "enlightened," is the plain decency and loyalty that we soldiers had --- up, down and sideways. A regiment is a family. Brothers sometimes piss each other off, but they never let down one of their own. It was our code, and I know our successors in Afghanistan are the same.
But "human side?" Guards Sergeants didn't HAVE a human side! GET BY YOUR RIGHT! GET ABOUT IN QUICK TIME! You're IN THE BOOK!
BTW, Erratum. Should be Standard of St George (not Cross) Must be senility. . . . Cheers, Steve
----- Original Message -----
Subject: From a Gdsm to a Gdsm
Hello G.W. Stephen Brodsky, CD, PhD, Sgt
I mentioned, "Sgt", 'cause I expect this will bring up memories of a younger man leaner and meaner Sgt Brodsky on the tug -of- war, Battalion Sports Team, with the likes of Gdsm "Monk" McLean and C Sgt "Nick" Puddicomb; barking out commands, with the emphases placed on the executive word of command, Down and... "Pull".
I understand, surrendering the copy rights of "Scribble Rediscovered", to John Barkley, Chief Scribe, Canadian Guards Regimental Association. No doubt it was it because he is faster off the mark or on the original e-mail 2003. We in the family of Guards look forward to your digs on the history of the 2003 reunion, as presented by yourself and John B.
As you may have noticed John Barkley has been; cc. perhaps, this way he will keep me in the loop and privy to the process.
The thought of expose your raw feelings, will show the human side of Sgt Brodsky. After all we had Confidential Part Two Orders to protect the innocent. removing the scary afterthoughts of personnel failings I often wondered why this protection was not afforded to the serfs, after all we did get into the most poop! Back to G.W. Stephen Brodsky, CD, PhD, Sgt., masterful record of the 2003 Reunion, before, during, and beyond.. Be assured there are others having like memories and not in the loop that will appreciate the candidature matters of becoming a Guardsman.
In closing; "G'day, Grand day lad", is still in common usage here in Ottawa Valley." Long live the man who always members where he came from". Also , you can pet a cat, and you can pet a dog, but you can't pet a wawawa.
Ciao, Howie (Dec 2008)
Reading between the lines--the way I see it/ Christmas 2008by Howie Pierce
The more I open and read The Canadian Guards Regimental Associations Web Site, clicking on the SOS hat badge, the more I realize our mortality is becoming fragile. We in the association are often invited by the families of deceased Guardsmen to assist in funeral formalities, to recall and celebrate their life here on earth. Later in the reception areas filled with former members of the regiment; looking around and meeting them, exchanging old tales, confirms that the limits of our time here on the right side of the sod is frighteningly obvious.
However, without being too morbid and at the expense of the deceased, the excitement of attending funerals, meeting old friends and remembering---this has become an important function and responsibility of our association. Bearing in mind that most of us are close or over the seventy year plateau, it may be prudent at this time for the association to consider reducing the cost of life memberships to lets say fifty bucks, for all members in good standing, having had a membership for at least ten years. All in favour?
Ja oder Nein.
Some day, in the not too distant future, the last Guardsman will be laid to rest, for the Regiment it will be a sad occasion. The lights will finally fade away and only the written record will remain. I can see it now, a bright young historian, freshly out of university with his masters in history, thumbing through the written histories examining and digesting the record of our once vibrant and proud Canadian Guards Regiment. I can visualize his confusion while searching the record for evidence of what we former guardsmen are still asking ourselves, why were they told to go home?
The evidence will not support the decision, after all why are there so many excellent Warrant Officers, Senior NCO, Generals, and Officers of all denominations and all the ranks in-between who made it to the top; becoming General Staff Officers, RSMs and Commanding Officers in other Regiments and Corps. Yes, their successes can be found everywhere in these documents. Those that chose civilian life also have many accolades to their credit. Why then was the decision made that spelled the demise of this outstanding infantry regiment? Was it because we were not Canadian enough?
The Regimental strengths and heaven forbid, its failures, as a collective group of individuals referred to as The Canadian Guards, according to folklore, was second to none. There will be those who will see it as a collection of leaders enforcing great gobs of chicken s**t on its subordinates. However, we that served knew there was a purpose and a reason in this harsh model, and to confirm its value, its example has since been copied, with good results; producing the best-dammed soldier on the face of the earth, the Canadian Infantryman.
Additionally, there are a few not so pretty memories, but all someones memories, of what transpired; and why some disliked the Canadian Guards and all we stood for over those 16 years. According to the protocol of the history writing fraternity it is common knowledge, and adhered to by the brains of the day, and practiced by eminent scholars; that all participants and principals must be dead before a history can be honestly written, without influence or prejudice.
Those involved cannot be allowed to defend or embellish the history and only then the truth can be told. The Guards like other military regiments will come and go, because of nationalistic influences, and other cost saving considerations, as sure as the sun will appear in the morning sky. The decision to commit the Guards to paper and reduce them to nil strength was no doubt difficult, in view of their excellent record. The proof of our successful missions are cataloged in the museum and written in historical files held in the National Public Archives. Many of the artifacts, the usual regimental trappings, common to military units of the 20th century, and are housed at the Petawawa Military Museum. They are there on display to be viewed by those who would take an interest, mainly those who served, and/or their children. All looking for some evidence and answers for that ever-elusive question, what was that father or grandfather of mine doing, and why did he spend so much time spent away from home?
Keeping in mind the Battle Honours of our 5th and 6th Battalions. The thing that gets stuck in my craw is, WHY? In the Guards case, we did nothing wrong, and were senior regiment through an act of parliament; Therefore, the question still remains: should it not have been the junior regiment that was made to go?
Our Regimental history has been recorded in a more formal setting and is articulated in A Regiment Worthy of Its Hire The Canadian Guards 1953-1970 by William J. Patterson, published under the sponsorship of The Regimental Guards Association, 1997. The physical remnants and many of the artifacts: silverware; uniforms; photos; Colours; and the usual regimental props, are housed at the Petawawa Military Museum. Unfortunately part of the record of what happened over those 16 years can only be found in the in the minds of the personnel who swelled the ranks: Six Battalions, a Depot and the Band. Therein lies the real record; they are now the untold story, the living regimental history.
These personnel experiences are there to be had, and Im sure its a great story. Can this story be rooted out and told without first being editorialized it to death. Will we make the effort to decipher the feelings of the soldier from the cold war years? The feeling of the Guardsman, for it is still in the minds of those men who served and are still living. We know that great stories are mainly made up from personal experiences; the same tales movies and best sellers are made from, the realities of disappointment and successes. The leaders in front of the troops, the common folks wearing the boots, they create the story; their feelings should be told. However politically incorrect they might be, this must be part of the record.
This history is important and should be available to the historical teacher and writer. Its must be in the record in a place where it will be readily found and read by scholars and to serve as a guide to future generations of soldiers to reinforce how important it is to develop discipline first, and from there go on and teach the skills associated with pulling the trigger. Think of it, most of the official record refers to those holding the silverware, ordinary men in the ranks holding the knife fork and spoon combination, is where the hard lifting was done and is not always available in the printed form. The reason in many cases the men have had the notion that no one really cared. However, we know this is where a greater part of the story can be unearthed so it is not to be forgotten or brushed aside.
This story of how the men figured into the picture is not often known. If you think long and hard the foot soldier can still taste the aluminum mess tin; that unmistakable tinny aluminum taste that permeated and permutated each and ever bite of food. Many a Guardsman stood out in the rain in some far off land or on the frozen tundra of the great white north, doing his time, in the fifties and sixties, for as little as two bucks a day.
Our Canadian Guards story started shortly before the Korean Conflict fighting had ended in another stalemate and continues today and administered by the Korean Truce Commission. In 1954, now wearing the United Nations Crest, The 4th Battalion Canadian Guards arrived on the barren Korean landscape. Unlike another truce, the one agreed to on 11 November 1918; in the Korean case both sides are still there, have get-to-gethers on the 38th Parallel, mistrusting each other, spitting barbs across the table in a small conference hall on the DMZ between South and North Korea.
Four years earlier, in 1949, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, (NATO), with 15 member nations, Canada included, Canada, sprung into action on the Western European front. In 1957 to 1962, across from us Canadians serving with the British Army on the Rhine was Churchills Iron Curtain. Looking into a massive force, estimated to have outnumbered the Western Allies by ten to one, we saw the Warsaw Pact. Us mere mortals in the ranks of the 2nd Battalion and then the 1st Battalion Canadian Guards would look to our shoulder titles and see the Force Mobile Command Compass; The 1st Division Red Patch worn by us initially, and our fathers in the second world war was now an after thought. There we were, The Canadian Guards, locked and loaded, ready for anything. Then again in 1964 and 1966 we are called to support another United Nation mission in Cyprus, this time as peace makers or was it keepers?
It was difficult to know exactly where our origins began, was it 16th of October 1953 or did it extend back as far as the Regimental Histories of the 5th Battalion, The Governor General Foot Guards or the 6th Battalion, Grenadiers of Montreal? The one common denominator most of us could identify with was, we were Canadians by birthright.
To swell the ranks of the Regiment, around the time when the cessation of the Korean Conflict hostilities took place, in 1953; recruiters were instructed to get moving, and fill the ranks of the newly activated regiments for service with Canadas NATO contingent in North West Europe. The Regiment of The Canadian Guards, being the new boys on the block, General Simonds thought it would be great to have a regiment modeled after the famous Brigade of Guards in England and throughout the Commonwealth. Yes, some will give a different slant on how it came to be, The Guards as protectors of the Queen and her Empire, would be the senior infantry regiment, and therefore stand at the right of the parade. Here in started a problem, every other Canadian Regiment in the order of battle, pointing to their regimental history, first and second world wars, and some even further back into time, said we are senior, by virtue of our war history.
No one took into consideration the Battle Honours of the 5th and 6th Battalions . The hurtful joke we heard often, as Guardsmen; The Guards could write their battle honors on the back of a postage stamp, and still have room for Regimental Standing Orders. We stood tall and took it on the chin, still at the right of the parade, and the odd time took a swing back. The folks who slurred our regiment must have known it was our relatives and friends, and yes, some still serving Guardsmen, who side by side wearing other regimental shoulder flashes, had met the enemies head on in the same wars. This continuous belittling over the years, by other infantry regiments, gave us the unprecedented determination to be the best we could be; more often than not, standing the tallest on the highest pedestal on the podium, collecting the honor of being the best either as an individual or a member of a regimental team. Later, after the disbandment of the Guards, we survived together in other regiments, as Canadians. Now that those critics and the politics of the day got their wish and threw our beloved Regiment, out with the trash, did we have a choice?
A Postscript to sixteen years of Canadian guardsman ship. And this is because on 15 September 1969 the Colonel of the Regiment received a letter from the Hon. Leo Cadieux, Minister of National Defence, which said in its opening paragraph:
Dear General Rowley (now deceased) a recent government review of our Defence Policy pointed out the need to reorganize the Canadian Armed Forces. It is with regret that I must inform you that one of the decisions taken was to reduce The Regiment of Canadian Guards to nil strength and transfer it to the Supplementary Order of Battle.
The Colonel of the Regiment wrote:
In short The Regiment has for 16 years, despite many difficulties -- some imposed, some unavoidable, fulfilled its function as Household Troops to Her Majesty The Queen of Canada, and as senior regiment of the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps.
We still see those proud Guardsmen stationed with the 1st Battalion in Fort York Germany standing on the top of the Podium, being honored by the international competitors of 14 national teams, by NATOs official representatives, members of the press and throngs of public officials to recognize and bestow honors on Canadian Guardsmen for all that was accomplished and to declare them the Champions, in recognizing their superior small arms skills. The Canadian Guards were the only Canadian unit in the history of NATO ever to win the Prix Leclerc. It was no easy feat, for the preceding two years all officers and other ranks of the 1st Battalion trained the team, molding the best, for this international competition called the Prix Leclerc. Each participant and supporting personnel play an active roll in the development of this team. Standing so proud on the podium, the Regiment stood tall that warm summers day in Sennelager, West Germany; With the Trophies on the mantle, our philosophy of being second to none ,was reinforced, I can still hear the team screaming out, for all to hear, Up The Guards.
Throughout the history of The Regiment, it must be recognized the Guards had trained many of the top soldiers that went on to command the respect of all. Their attention to detail and discipline, first learned through practicing what others referred to as, Chicken S**t discipline. This discipline was recognized as the first requirement of a fighting infantryman; it was, and to this day the fundamental requirement in the development of the many men that passed through all infantry regiments; this goes without saying, the Guards, chicken s**t discipline message lives on.
I hope whom ever made that heart breaking decision can live with it and are satisfied. It may sound corny to some but speaking for myself; to this day, the Guards are alive and well, retired, and still brothers within our Association of Canadian Guards. As free men most will shout it out, Once a Guardsman, always a Guardsman. Maybe there are others having like fond memories, allegiances and loyalties to The Canadian Guards, and perhaps follow the example of the Board of Directors and a quorum at an Annual General Meeting to return by Acclamation Major General Roger Rowley, E.D., C.D. (Now Deceased) to Colonel of the Regiment and Colonel Strome Galloway. E.D., C.D. (Ret'd) (Now Deceased) to Lieutenant Colonel of the Regiment, and further stipulating the term of office is never ending. In my books this is loyalty above and beyond the call.
One sunny summers day in Petawawa while marching with a contingent of thirty or so former Guardsmen in the Camp Petawawa Anniversary Parade, we looked so small marching behind other contingents numbering in the thousands; when suddenly from the side lines I could hear a young man yelling, Welcome Home Guardsmen. Let me tell you I through my chest was going to bust , I kicked my heels so hard I think the mark is still there in the pavement. Our mark remains etched on the landscape. My feelings of belonging to this community, a life time ago, here in Petawawa, our home station, the citizens did after all these years remember thousands of young men that have passed through the gates of this big sprawling base calling themselves Guardsmen.
We call on you Guardsmen of the Regiment of Canadian Guards, come forward with these unwritten personal experiences and stories, now locked away in your memories; Write and let us read. Let it pass if you too were disappointed when for the last time the Regiment was marched off into perpetuity to the strains of the 2nd Battalion's Pipes and Drums. The tears have since dried and the hurt has long since passed, now is the time for celebration of our existence, however short it was.
Be as it may, be mindful of the Foreword in the Regimental History by: Colonel Strome Galloway. E.D., C.D. (Ret'd) and Deceased, but never forgotten. Lieutenant Colonel of the Regiment
Tell them in Sparta . . . That We Obeyed Our Orders.
Merry Christmas to all the Guardsmen I have come to know before, and a Happy New Year to all.
Howie Pierce, Guardsman
A Mari Usque ad Mare Dec2008
Howie's and others, "Perceptions of a Regiment worthy of its Ire".
Day One- First Winter Storm 2008 Wednesday, October 29, 2008 9:40 PM
From: Tom Oshea London ON
Well the city went into panic mode (State One) last night. With all the plows still in the sheds and no one to drive them, the Mayor went into we didn't know it was going to snow, syndrome. Dont know if you ever ran across a Major J.P. Hill.RCR (Guards??) who coined my favorite phrase; FAIL TO PLAN, PLAN TO FAIL.
Most of London ON damage was to the tree limbs breaking off with the wet heavy snow. Today I played the Good Samaritan. I had just finished loading my hockey sticks and gear for a 0800 hrs game. (Old-timers, most are still wearing bob skates).
Down the street an 80 year old neighbor, trying to get his wife to the hospital for Physio; and was having the usual difficulties getting the car out of the snow. So I volunteered to drive her there and bring her home, nice guy, Eh?
I haven't put up any points in two old timers hockey games to date, and missing another game, actually gave me an excuse, and made me feel good. Heard you guys got hit pretty heavy in the Ottawa area by the first winter storm of 2008.
Tom and Margarete Oshea
More on --The Storm.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008 10:37 PM
Once we got the mess of broken trees and limbs cleared away, caused by the heavy wet snow; The weather changed for the better, things started to warm-up and life became livable once again. I took the snow blower in for a tune up, now Ill be winter ready, and not get caught with my pants down.
You mentioned a cottage in Plevna ON. Upon searching my memory bank I recall the 1st Bn Guards deployed for winter training in an area near there, (Ed. note: Prov. park. I ended up I/C there at last moment..supposed to be winter training but it got so mild and wet that the suggestion was to switch to Jungle training! Finally got permission to quit and it started snowing while we waited for the buses back to Picton. Would have been winter of '66 I think. Check out Reg't History, P129 wrt Bon Echo park)) which Im led to believe was owned by the Padre; can't remember the year. However, there was another village, the name OMPAH, comes to mind. From my recollections on this adventure we carried out RECCE patrols, the mission was to secure a supply of Ompas famous local firewater. Discovering it to be a back door operation we took advantage of the price, and loaded up our toboggans; I didn't realize at the time just how much hooch those toboggans would handle. Most of it ended up in the CQMS tent with us underlings standing in a line in sub zero temperatures to receive our authorized stipend. According to scales of issue; the gut rot rum was dolled out according to a pre war entitlement criteria: one finger for each Gdsm, and Jr NCOs; two fingers, for Sr NCOs, and Officers and the remainder to be split evenly between the CSM and the CQMS. I understand the formula is now buried in the bowels of decaying archives in NDHQ along with the CQ and CSM.
However, remember at minus 25 C, it warmed the innards, and probably caused non-repairable damage to the livers of the unsuspected souls partaking in this old but not forgotten ritual. Hmmm., I wonder if the VAC would buy gut rot, as a reasonable justification for pension purposed, or would they call it a self-inflicted wound?
I hear your town has a great flea market. In Stittsville; Margarete and I hope to get up to Ottawa one more time before it gets nasty. We will give you a heads up if you are in the area.
To: Tom and Margaret
From: Howie Pierce
Plevna, is the in the neighborhood of Ompa, 12 K or so between the two villages, both are a thriving cottage metropolis at the very ends of the earth, away from it all, so to speak. Winter in these parts is for the hardy, only rum rations; know to the locals, as firewater makes life sustainable. This home brew has saved the day in more instances than one would care to mention. As for a VAC pension; who knows, I can think of others that got some of the cash for eating mutton, Brit style.
Now if you and Margarete are in the Ottawa area and dont come by and see us we will be severely hurt and may claim a VAC pension, mental cruelty. We have an extra bed, regular size, sheets and pillowcases, included. All this together with a continental breakfast for the low cost of your good company. We can be contacted by smoke signal or tele: 613 836 4323, a day or two heads up, will keep the cook happy.
Take care and a belated, Happy 16 October, Up The Guards. By the way the flea market in Stittsville closed two years ago.
PS. I promise no mutton will be served. Ciao, Howie and Helga Pierce
From: Tom Oshea
To: Howie Pierce
Sounds like an invitation one cannot refuse. Will give you the required heads up. Funny you should mention Mutton Scotch style.
In or around 1969-1970 whilst serving in Germany; my section was selected to participate in the annual 4 CMBG patrol competition. The host camp was Sennelager, so all support was provided by the RASC (Royal Army Service Corps). At zero zero (dark) thirty hours, on the day of the competition, I sent the section 2 i/c and a couple lads to pick up our ammo, rations, etc., while I attended the O Group.
When they returned we were hastily taken to our base camp to get set up for phase one. After the pre patrol inspection and relieved of all niceties such as cigarettes, matches, candies, and other hidden goodies, we were then loaded up with Brit Rations.
At zero zero (dark) thirty plus two hrs, off we go, professionally cammed up, mags loaded, rucksacks full. After walking for an eternity through the Teutonian Wald, we halted for our first break. All round defenses was the order of the night. We set up sentries posted, flares tied to trees and all the rest of the normal do da; Hunger had to be satisfied. The Compos (not to be confused with garbage) were opened, only to find we had 72 hrs worth of, MUTTON SCOTCH STYLE. (See last sentence of para of two).
For 3 days we consumed this vile concoction complete with a complimentary two-inch topping of pure lard; in among the chunks of cold mutton one could find in abundance, the shaven wool, from the sacrificial lamb. With each step taken an obnoxious odor was emitted by all partakers of the mutton. On the third day we arrive at our objective, what was supposed to be an elaborate enemy communication centre. After rehearsing the attack, in a sand box mock up of the objective. After extensive discussions we commenced carrying out the standard right flank tactic, ending up capturing a single M113A1 (APC). We found, not surprisingly, asleep at the controls, a driver, complete with a WD 26 set. (Range 3 miles on a clear night, and no hills.)
The battle had been won. Now what I want to know is who to hell said an army marches on its stomach? They obviously never tasted British Mutton Scotch Style.
Later, at debriefing, we were asked our opinion on all phases of the exercise. When the subject of rations arose, one of my lads jumped on the bandwagon, and stated they were really not too,
Take care, Tom Oshea
Of course I remember the world's most famous administrative clerk, and most generous claims clerk and the poignant details he would provide on a variety of subjects. I have recently heard from fine folks like you whom unfortunately we all seem to lose touch with.
Alfie died a few years back of cancer. His wife has been trying to get some compensation, as she claims the cancer was AECL, Chalk River cleanup related. My good friend Murray Eugene Rutledge died quite some time ago in his home town area of Sheet Harbour NS.
I don't recall the Pig in the Pit exercise within the mess although I do recall that there were a few who took on the persona of the four legged beasts we referred to who frequented the mess. Percy, our good friend rode off to that large stable in the sky, bless his soul.
I remember when we were in the new Cpls mess at Picton we had promised the members we were putting in, "piped in music;" and that a firm in Picton was tendered to install the necessary hardware. Later at a Junior NCO's Mess Meeting Mac McGlashan, of the Trades Pioneer Shop, asked why the piped in music was not in yet. I told him that the ground was frozen and that it was too hard to run the pipes from Picton to the Camp. Good old Mac bought that answer!
I saw Curley a few years ago at a Petawawa reunion. Guess who was with him? Bernie Skene.
I keep in contact with Joe Skerry(PEI) Don Handley (Sioux Ste Marie Ont) and others who show up at various Atlantic meetings.
Where do you reside?. We are in NB about 1/2 hour from Saint John .We just moved to a home in the boonies on a 5 acre lot where it is so isolated the Jehovah Witness cant even find us. However, if you ever get to this end of the world you would be most welcome to bunk up(I still have an air mattress , sleeping bag and poncho-or -if you so choose you could have the bedroom we hold for good old guys like yourself.
35 Peters Hill Rd, Kingston Peninsula, NB (although we still get mail at our Hampton home .)
Good to hear from you, keep in touch and don't be afraid to take a trip-we may even find a dead Lobster somewhere along the coastal waters.
Regards, Ted (Mason)
Hello Ted Mason
I don't know if you remember me, Howie Pierce, we served together with the 1st Battalion in Germany, Picton and Cyprus. We were neighbors residing side-by-side at 18 Richwald Court, Picton PMQ's. Anyway, I have been reading your correspondence posted under "Comments of the Canadian Guards Association Web Site.
I can see by your correspondence that you are now having health difficulties; and the support of VAC has not addressed the problem to everyone's satisfaction. I sincerely hope this will eventually get turned around and you will receive the support necessary to live out a stress free existence and receive fair benefits justified under Act. All Veterans have earned through military service to this wonderful country of ours and deserve a fair hearing. Speaking for myself, having received first class treatment and competent guidance, thanks to the professional attention to detail and his knowledge based advice; which contributed for a fair and fitting conclusion to my claim thanks to our own Percy Price. As I write I can now see new activity and a settlement contemplated upon application, the site gives all the details for those making a claim. This should give a brighter outlook to those involved in the Chalk River clean up.
Now in my seventies, old memories of our days with the Guards keep surfacing. One such humorous incident occurred at The Cpl's Mess in or about 1963. Our PMC was Cpl Emerson, some of the membership included you, Percy Stringer, and his large family, Cpl George Curley, who can forget the hair cuts compliments of our regimental barber, Curley. Other Mess members Ted Mason, Murray Rutledge, Ed Brake and Alfie Soris, DPR Roach and many more. I recall at this particular Cpl's Mess function called Hippie Night in Picton, a night to remember. As the Entertainment Chairman, and sole committee member, a small live pig and live chickens (old rosters, with half the feathers missing) were installed in a mock-up cell, bars and a lockable door. The jail cell was constructed compliments of Cpl MacMacGlashan and Cpl Karl Luebcke of the Trades Pioneer Section and placed inside the Cpls Mess, an old former WW 2 building. As a replacement for the furniture, large rocks were gather, by yours truly, at Point Petre; and transported, by deuce and a half, and placed on the floor of the Mess. Cam nets were suspended from the rafters and the lights were dimmed. The mess took on the appearance of a cave. Throughout the evening wives, appointed as Deputies cruised the party arresting those who thought it beneath their dignity to dress for the occasion, Husbands. and boy friends were herded into the cell. As prisoners they were caged and allowed to drink whiskey with the animals until they were bailed out. The proceeds, from the fines levied, were used to pay the band overtime. The festivities continued long into the night with the pig and perpetrators in the cell slopping up whiskey. Some one got the bright idea to grease the drunken pig and turn him loose. With slightly inebriated females in hot pursuit; having been offered a prize if they could bring home the bacon. Slipping and sliding on the old battle ship floor covering, between the rocks the swine scurried with the women in hot pursuit. The end result was the pig successfully avoiding capture by an equally frightening herd of females. The end result was pandemonium, the pig won the night and the ladies failed in the adventure. We all had a good laugh, spouses for good reason abandoned a few of the perpetrators, and left them to rot in the cell. All had a good time, in the wee hours of the morning husbands were freed and the building was vacated. Except, I was left to decide what to do with the chickens and a rather unruly fifty-pound pig.
No one volunteered to take the pig, so home I go with the pig; shutting the door behind me, with the pig in the kitchen (unknown to my better half), now exhausted, off I go to bed. Of course at 0700 hrs my two-year-old son came running into the bedroom announcing to his mother that there was a pig in the kitchen. The floor was covered with you know what,,,,. Out I go, on a warm Saturday morning, with the pig in the trunk of our 1962 Pontiac, arriving in front of the Royal Hotel on the Main Street.
At a beer table inside the Royal, nursing major hangovers, was a collection of hung-over corporals. I thought now is the time to dump the Pig. Upon offering up our live pig, Alfie Soris, consented to take it. I thought this would be a happy ending for the pig. However, the story of the pig doesn't end there; now seven or so months later, who should show up at my door carrying a package of meat (pork chops) wrapped in butchers paper, as a gift for getting him started in marketing pork bellies. Alphie! He had raised the pig with mess hall slop and had it butchered much to the delight of his wife. Alphie was the kind of lad that never forgot who his friends were; may I also add; my two year old would not touch the pork chops after learning that they came from the same pig an overnight guest in our kitchen.
Ted, I don't have to tell you that we had camaraderie in the Guards; and fond memories, for all the bad experiences we had many many more good ones.
Again Ted, I wish you good fortune in your pursuits with VAC.
Perhaps we will meet again at a reunion, until then take care, and may the good Lord take a liking to you and yours.
Ciao, Howie (21 Oct 08 and a couple of edits later)
I suppose we all remember a cockroach story from our time in Germany . Here's a good one for you, I was duty driver on this particular night when I went to the officer's mess to take the picket officer on his rounds. As you might remember 18:00 and 23:59 hrs. were the times that the duty driver took the officer on his rounds. You had to go through the mess kitchen and press a button to signal the officer that you were there to take him on his rounds. At 18:00 while crossing the kitchen floor I spied a roasted turkey on a table, golden brown and looking ever so delicious. I thought about that turkey after we left and decided that I would have a wee morsel later that night. When I went back to the mess at 23:59 I snapped on the kitchen light and was totally shocked at what was before my eyes, the turkey completely covered in roaches, needless to say I didn't snack on the turkey, but I'm sure the officer's did the next day. The same thing probably occurred in the men's mess, with us none the wiser.
Best Regards. Matt (Corbett) (13 Oct 08)
Small wonder the roaches were in the officers mess, as; I can recall about the rations in the Mens Mess Hall; even the roaches were charged .50 pf, "Extra Messing", per day to have Turkey.
Matt , as we take a look around us and we see the ever increasingly obesity problem, evident in the teenage population. Not so in Fort York in the fifties and sixties where a Gdsm would volunteer to work in the Officers and Sgt s Mess just to get a good meal; take note, I did not include the Mens Mess Hall. The big question was, "where are all the rations gone"? How many times did we snack on bratwurst across the road, instead of going to the mess hall. Cooking had nothing to do with it, you can't cook what you ain't got!
I'll not soon forget, as a member of the Dinning Committee, and hearing the Messing Officer coin the phrase, in reply to a question from the floor about the egg situation, "One Egg,,, Per Man,,, Per Day,,, Perhaps! Need I go on!
Back to the infestation and occupation of Fort York by an army of Cockroaches. Did we not have red powder which when spread along the baseboards of the barracks; thinking it would kill these vermin of the night? My personal opinion is the red powder was a drug, encouraging them to return for more. At one point "Willie" Mulherin, our beloved CO, declared total war on the Roaches, may I add this was one war we lost. At the crack of dawn the heating pipes, running underground between the barracks and finally back to the Heating Plant, were opened; and it was discovered to be the main path of migration for millions of roaches moving between the Officers,Sgt s and Mens Mess Halls. It was understood these tunnels were used for the incandescent movement of rations, including the turkey you spoke of.
Our Hygiene Technician was put to work and upon opening the manholes caught them red handed (no pun intended, because of the red power being used to repel the nasty little pests) discovered the Roaches were indeed moving rations into major rations storage areas. Some say this is where Ho Chi Min got the idea to use tunnels (Hoe Chi Min Trail), for his resupply systems from North Vietnam to the South. Another case of something good coming from an otherwise bad situation. The lesson learned, "Don't underestimate the enemy", especially when it comes to a missing turkey! We never did get a fix on the Roach problem so in 1962 it was eventually turned over to the RCR who created the problem in the first place. Someone said it was repayment for of a missing food mixer discovered when the Guards took over Fort York from the RCR1957.
Great hearing from you with your impressions of A Regiment Worthy of its Ire, (the unwritten version).
Ciao, Howie Pierce
Thx to Parker and the Ottawa Citizen(Webmaster)
I recently came across your letters on the Guards site and your note to Dexter re the Atlantic Guards Reunion. I was disappointed to learn that you would not be able to attend. My wife, Elizabeth and I plan to attend as we are only two hours away from Port Hawkesbury. The past reunions that we have attended have been very enjoyable. There is a good spirit among everyone there.
In all my twenty five years of service, the best platoon I was ever in was the machine gun platoon in Germany. I read all the letters you posted on the Guards web site. I didn't realize it back then , but you were quite intelligent. Although you only drink diet pepsi, I'll toast you with a rum at the reunion.
Perhaps you did not know that Norm Welsh passed away a few years ago.
All the Best, Dan MacArthur
***************************************************************Monday, October 6, 2008
Hello Dan MacArthur
Just great hearing from you, and that Dan MacArthur is alive and well and enjoying the good life on the Cape Breton Island.
Over the years and especially during my time in Germany with the 1st Battalion, heard many a good tale spun by the lads coming from Cape Breton. I can recall my first meeting with a Cape Bretoner. On this particular occasion we were having a few brew at one of the many bars in Soest; when for no other reason than to cause some excitement, the mail clerk, came crashing onto our table, spilling all the beer. Yes, you guessed it no one spills a Guardsman's beer and gets away with it. Especially when there are non sufficient funds to refill the steins; So,,, in the ensuing battle I got one right between the legs; boy did that hurt. As a matter of fact my first boy walked backwards for the first few months. I figure it must have been caused by the boot in the b--all---sss by one of those bad ass MacDonald lads from North Sydney. I got to thinking a gentleman such as yourself could have given me a heads up on the MO Cape Breton's employ in the heat of battle; "all is fair at love and war". Not to worry Dan, being from the Ottawa Valley we have learned to forgive and forget; everything worked well after a few months and the swelling came down. I wonder if I could make a claim for a DVA pension?
I did hear about Norm Welsh passing on! Also, I can't forget the scrape Norm and I got into in Sennalauger, ending up in the hoosegow for a fortnight, compliments of Hans Richter. Of course we were," not guilty".,,, I told my girlfriend, now my wife, that I had been selected for special training,(Advanced Sniper Course), and would be held up at Fort Henry for a few weeks. The story still has not changed, and she is no wiser, and probably is better off not knowing; so,,, Dan,"Mums the word".
Kudos, on the feeling concerning the MG Pl, 6 Coy, 1st Bn Cdn Gds, there never has been; or perhaps, never again will there be a better assembly of the toughest of the TOUGH, all the throw-backs from all the platoons in the 1st Battalion We strapped a M1919A1 on our belts and of course the .50 Cal on the pedestal mount load everything into our Light Armour Vehicle (3/4) Ton and the Jeep and trailer, with yours truly," Dan MacArthur", at the wheel. Leader-less, charging off into the distance; The only thing that stopped us from entering East Germany and attacking the Red Necked Russians was, learning we had refilled the vehicle's gas tank with water. What!!!,,, some scum bag, in Fort York, broke; and without gas coupons, and wanting to go to town; had removed the petrol from the Gerry Can for his personal use. Now I ask you who would pull a trick like that knowing that someone somewhere would be confronted in the heat of battle with a vehicle breakdown and only a yellow flag to wave.
I fondly like to refer to the MG Pl as the," dirty dozen", for good reason.
Hello to your bride and keep in touch.
Best personal re-"guards", Ciao, Howie Pierce
Howie Pierce, a question for you, regarding your time with the Guards. Reading about your time with the regiment, I get the feeling that you are the same guy that came back to Germany to the first bn. after doing a tour with the second bn. I remember a Pierce and also Patty Pearce, both in mg pl. Both names pronounced the same with a slight variation in spelling. Of course you must of heard the story about Patty falling out off the tree down at the ranch house, true happening for I was there when he came crashing down. As a matter of fact I had already completed my ascent of that tree and was safely back on the ground drinking beer when poor Patty fell. Hope to hear from you soon, over and out.
Best regards, Matt Corbett. (June 19, 2008)
Hello Matthew Corbett, Guardsman MG Platoon
In response to your inquiries and most entertaining letter concerning our tour in Fort York with yours truly, Capt "Bill" Patterson and Capt Garth Clark, Platoon Commanders of the Heavy Machine Gun Platoon, 6 Company, 1st Battalion, The Canadian Guards, 1959 through 1962.
Yes, this is he; HC Pierce, the same person who returned to Fort York for another tour with the 1st Battalion Canadian Guards, commencing in 1960. Before I go on I must make it known; My drinking days are over, beer and whiskey or any other concoctions that contain alcohol, have not touch my lips for over forty years; well maybe thirty Yes like everyone else, even quit smoking; and turned into a bigger bore than I was when we were Guardsmen in MG Pl.,,, Ive even taken up the gentlemans game, golf.
The story you alluded to in your e-mail concerning our common friend and MG Pl member, from somewhere in Nfld, the late, Patrick Joseph Pearce. He had to be the person military folklore is written about. If his life's experiences in the military were to be assembled between the covers of a book, it could be one of the best sellers ever to be told about a Newfoundlander in NATO. That particular escapade you witnessed, about Patty coming back from the Ranch House (sober, of course), and falling off something as I recall it was a high tension electrical tower or a tree as he and his friends were trying to negotiate a six foot wire fence. This obstacle was adorned with three strands of barbed wire and making it more of a challenge. It was during the pitch black German night during a blistering rain storm,,, on and on,,, the story was often told at reunions and in passing . It still congers up fond memories of one of the most talked about platoon in Fort York. There were many many more Patty Pearce stories. I'm not sure, but did Dan Macarthur and Welch not wittiness this astonishing feat of survival? As you well know, these occasions placed a human face on an other wise long and arduous tour. Im sure you can recollect during the tour Patty was often hidden out of sight. And, appointed, Hut Orderly, rather than take him on Commanding Officers Parade; the reason was often obvious. For the protection of the innocent and deceased, we can leave it at that. His peccadilloes are the foundations of many good stories of how we would grow up and come to survive our five-year tour of duty in the fatherland.
There are photos on the Association s web site of the MG Pl and in particular, Matthew Corbett. You and other MG Pl members are standing in front of the Hut where we were quartered. As well, in the Comment section, some of your recollections are very interesting; to say the least. All are reminders of the times that we were Guardsmen in the best-dammed Regiment to ever be assembled. (mostly from the East Coast). Another one of our MG Pl members I see from time to time, Gdsm Whitwell now residing in Arnprior ON, is alive and well. Although, Whitwell had a run in with his heart, survived, and from last reports he now doing so-so, considering the severity of the coronary attack. In addition some of our crew has passed on: Rutledge ME, Smith RC, Gerry Kennedy, PJ Pearce, Sgt John Ferguson and no doubt others that we are not aware of.
How about Big Jim Ryan and Hans Richter, who later became a cook; cant for the likes of me, figure that one out. Oh, while on the subject of cooks, didnt CJA Darling end up in the kitchen, as a water burner? No insult intended!
Cecil James Ackerman Darling was a good and trusted friend, with his new black Hillman one of the few to have a means of transportation. On too many occasions, drunk or sober, Cecil got many machine gunner back in time to change and answer the roll call, great fellow. I recall he was one of the best dancers to hit the floor of the Oases Bar. (Sammy Best excluded)! If my memory serves me right, while parting in Soest, the Brigade called a "bug-out". Arriving in Fort York, in Cecil's trusty Hillman, somewhat under the weather, we took note, the platoon had already deployed into some barnyard out yonder. So rather than try to follow, half pissed and our webbing over our civilian clothes, Cecil and I tried to hide in the Hillman, thinking this was the answer. Yours truly, " Willie Mulherin, our commanding officer", caught us it the act. Driving along side of us, in his jeep, (where were his manners), calling out the pace, doubled the pair of us along to the crow bar hotel, as special overnight guests to of Sgt Joe Cripps and his cheerful lot of RPs. That night Cecil and I had to be the most motley depiction of Canadian fighting troops, if the Russians had caught sight of that scene; I'm positive they would have laughed them selves to death. Just think of the ammo we would have saved. for Canada; proving, once again, "There is always something good to come from an otherwise bad situation". We put this down as a slip in judgment, got over it, and picked up the beat of the drummer, and carried on as if it never happened Of course, after attending a course of 14 days extra work and drill and confinement to barracks to solidify our slip of judgment. Like all good summary trials, we were hopped in front of the Company Commander, given the opportunity to tell our stories and were found guilty; handed over to the CSIW for execution of the sentence. I can still hear the CSM Bull Imbull snickering during the solemn proceedings in the company commanders office when he heard that we had been in our webbing over our gray suit, white shirt and pant cuffs at regulation seventeen inches, rifles slung, helmets in place and ready for battle. Thinking back, it must have been quite good tale to circulate around the Messes.
Best sign off for this time. Do not be a stranger, let rip with some of those good old stories; perhaps we can place them on the web page and give the folks some of the fun times and noteworthy events which happened while under the bearskin.
Ciao, Howie Pierce
22 June, 2008
Hello Matt Corbett
Good looking bunch of fellows in the MG Photo. If I may mention, this photo is also on the Association Web Site under Albums. I expect, as you quite correctly pointed out, taken before replacements from the 2nd Battalion arrived, September 1960. (names below)
I recall at the time the battalion had just celebrated the," 16 October1960, Regimental Birthday". To celebrate the occasion the parade square was covered with tents and rides, it looked like a fall fair; of course the animals were missing: cows horses and other livestock. I do recall stories about other two legged animals, in particular, a lad named Gdsm Como. (a fondly thought of comedian on location). Apparently, Como, half pissed, was reported to have approached the an officers wife with some sort of an inappropriate proposal; too brash to mention in writing. In any event it didn't work out well for Gdsm Como; his offering of 10 DM was an insult, as the story goes,,, she claimed she was worth at least 50 DM. After a few days in the Gatehouse, Como was last seen on Staff Parade, as an active participant attending the Extra Drill Course; including how to carry marching order with weapons, in the rain and sleet and sun and snow. I'm sure you can agree, most Gdsm qualified on the same course. The Pony Express had as its motto "Through rain, hail,,, blah blah blah, the mail must go through". In the Guards it was said; "if you hadn't got into poop, you did not really belong".
If my memory serves me correctly, Gdsm Como was accompanied by a very large contingent of perpetrators having committed misdemeanors of one sort or another, of odious crimes; unrecorded, (IN THE BOOK); and recorded, (FORMAL CHARGE REPORT). Throughout the next two weeks in the same location on the sacred Parade Square. I must tell you while I'm thinking about it; much to the discontent of RSM Bennett, it was noted that some unknown scumbag, had taken a dump in front of the Saluting Dias, To this day the crime still goes unpunished. This was a crime worse than worse and carries maximum corporal punishment; if anyone has any knowledge of the participant, in confidence, contact, "Canadian Guards Association, Crime Stoppers". It is my understanding the evidence is still being held in the Guards Museum at Petawawa, and will not be removed until the case is solved; is it not time to clean up this stinkiest mess.
Staff Parade, a dauntingly formal occasion, almost as important as the "Troop'. Under the command of some young officer, whom I am told had shown equally poor judgment during the festivities. As a result he was given the privilege,,, to wear full dress complete with sword and to inspect the troops, daily at 1800 hrs. In attendance as his side kick was a mean poker faced Sergeant, whom I am led to believe also had a run-in with authority. All attendees, thirty or so, swelling the ranks, were wearing marching order; and doing the hokey-pokey, in double quick time, at the same location where the tents and rides stood days before. My first impressions of the 1st Battalion was not off to a good start. Had I arrived in the past, was I now a member of a second world war German Penal Battalion? Two years later I could confirm this may be the case. Through experience and having attended many of the same courses and advanced courses, through rain snow and sleet I became a well disciplined Guardsman/ LCpl (three times). With so much money to burn, 50 DM and a few Pounds, each month, what was a man suppose to do with his time?
I happened to purchase a book, not a bad read, written by Scott Taylor, he outlines what transpired over the years while Canada supplied a contingent as part of the BAOR. Low and behold a photo entitled," Guardsmen of the 1st Battalion Canadian Guards, taking part in exercise, Canada Cup". I have attached it for your inspection, just incase you had missed it. Dan Macarthur is seen at the wheel of the Light Mobile Anti Aircraft Armored Jeep, Pedicle Mount Platform, / Browning .50 Cal Heavy Machine Gun Carrier, and the crew commander is yours truly, LCpl Howie Pierce; and manning the gun is; Gdsm McKay? I had sent an e-mail to Dan with a heads up on the photo, never did find out if he got it, as he did not reply; perhaps he was trying to forget those days, or the mail never did get through, so much for the famous post office bravado! never did persue it any further.
Enjoy hearing your recollections, keep in touch.
Ciao, Howie Pierce
Special condolences for an excellent officer and gentleman COL. JOHN GORDON HAYNES (RET.) I say this because he was the one man who stood in my corner after National Defense Headquarters sent orders to release me medically after breaking my back while serving in Cyprus. Col Haynes was the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion Canadian Guards in Picton at the time and told them at the headquarters this was not justified as I had given many excellent years as a corporal infantryman and was capable of being employed as an administrative clerk. He did not back down and refused to release me but rather sent me on a 3 month administrative clerk course to prove I could do it. At the time our second child was born and job prospective as a civilian did not look good. After graduating and completing forty years service finishing off as the Administrative Officer of Directorate of History in 1994, he proved to Army Headquarters; he knew his men better than they.
My wife and I, (47 years married) and our two children and three wonderful grandchildren have Col Haynes to thank and are indeed grateful for his intervention on our behalf. Let his kind deeds be known, this will be his legacy. Howard and Helga Pierce and family (sent to Haynes family)
Remember When...... By Howie Pierce
The year was 1957 and The 2nd Battalion, The Canadian Guards bellied up to the railings of the Queen Frederica (link to Queen F info)as she came alongside in Rotterdam harbor. Crossing a stormy North Atlantic in the dead of winter, for many of us it was our first ocean voyage. Some spent most of the time hunkered down in their cabin not far from the comfort of the bunk and knowing the toilet was near. Most played cards, Hearts and Cribbage were the games of choice. Afterwards we feasted on gourmet meals in a most pleasant atmosphere. Later on when the sea let up we could stroll on the decks, basking in the cool winter sunshine, engaging ourselves in friendly games of deck shuffleboard. Taking on the façade of the Nouveau Riche knowing it would soon come to an abrupt end in the not so distant future. Then as if someone threw a cold bucket of water onto the dream, its back to reality, back to carrying the load of a combat infantryman, a most haunting feeling.
Alcohol was forbidden for lower deck occupants. Having said that, Cognac that tasted a bit like engine oil was available for a price from the crew; undercover, of course! After partaking in a scrumptious evening dinner complete with our version of cocktail hour in our cabins. We learned entertainment was available for the pleasure of all passengers in the comfortable lounges of the ship.
Most of us having hailed by way of Cape Breton Island, Newfoundland, and the back roads of the Ottawa Valley, not forgetting other far-flung places, had never experienced such royal treatment. A seven-piece orchestra accompanied by a curvaceous hourglass figure, with a full bosom, small waist, and wide hips singer, dressed in long evening attire belting out the classics. This was a step up from what we had left behind in Petawawa, the Irish Fiddler and a dancer step dancing to a lively jig. Now dont get me wrong, many a night we enjoyed the entertainment under the auspices of Jarvis, Furlott, Walraven, OQuinn and others whose names have faded from memory, mostly self taught down homers and great entertainers.
Most Guardsmen on board this luxury liner were asking themselves, why? Who would have thought from where we stood a few months before as Recruits of a newly found military lifestyle at the Canadian Guards Depot. Under the direction of Major Couch and RSM JJT McManus we would find ourselves here. Had there been some sort of a military blunder? It was overwhelming! What a great start to our overseas tour.
Finally the Frederica came alongside in Rotterdam with the band of the Royal Dutch Army playing "O Canada". Feeling like VIPs we filed down the gangway to board a troop train for Soest. Six or so hours later we arrived at the Soest Banhof, tired and feeling fatigued from all the travel. Loading on to the back of a deuce-anda-half for the final ten clicks through Soest and a few villages and into Fort York.
The first hours we spent looking over the camp and trying out the chains on the toilets. Later on in the evening a few found the wet canteen and got their first taste of the powerful Warfteiner Pelfener, Eine Konigin unter den Bieren. Not long into the night when the beer kicked in, the RCR, now rotating to Canada and the Guards could be seen in a power struggle on the lawns. Doing battle over why the Guards were the senior regiment in the infantry. Who would have thought the result of Gen Simons proclamation would have such a profound effect the poor jaws of both Regiments.
Reveille, in the fifties and into the sixties in the BAOR was precisely 0600 hrs. All ranks worked on Saturdays mornings, Commanding Officers Parade. Sundays, duties took their toll: TDM, Town Patrol, Kitchen, Fire Piquet, CSIW, Duty Cpl, Officer and Sgt and so many duties it was decided to place one company on duty for a week at a time. Of course, not to forget the daily Staff Parade inspections, to be followed by a lively pounding of the feet under the tutelage of the Duty Piquet Sergeant. There was no such thing as accumulated leave if you were unlucky to be placed on duty over the holiday that was just too bad.
I can still see Sgt Fred McLean and Lt Wasalowski, Cpls Wrabb, Handly, Willie Wachter, Gdsm Gay WE, Clyke ME, Michaels, Krieger, Pierce and the rest of 10 Platoon, 10 Company; standing at the foot the bed dressed in Battle Dress with our trusted .303 rifles, mattresses rolled and bed rolls in position and everything we owned on the springs of the bed and in the Barrack Box at the foot of the bed waiting for the CSIW to scream out, ROOM.
Enter Major Roberts and CSM Don Grant to commence their inspection; heaven forbid if something were missed during the inspection. Following closely behind the next entourage, L Col HEC Price or his trusted sidekick, RSM Silver Lee and a full complement of other dignitaries; Adjutants, Drill Sergeant, "Jim Baird, all making little notes. After hearing the mutterings from an inspecting officer identifying a twisted boot lace or other peccadillos concerning the kit layout someone could be heard shouting out, PUT HIM IN THE BOOK.
Then it was off to the parade square for a few rounds on the gravel with the Pipes and Drums playing Scotland the Brave, 2nd Battalion,or the rainmakers of the 1st Battalion serenading us with, The Old Gray Mare. Then along comes another group of VIPs, and more yelling and mashing of teeth. Everything seem to be wrong, what were all these guys looking for?
The Officers were dismissed; the Senior NCO s and Warrant Officers disappeared into their respective messes in behind the Chapels. What was left would make a right turn and move into the huts to make ready for the big night in town. The exception being those who didnt meet the standards. They were invited back for Staff Parade at 1800 hrs, which is story for another day.
Then the order of the day was, get dressed quickly before you were nailed for a duty and off you go to Soest via Banhof Bus Lines. Arriving at the Roxie Bar/Oases Bar or to see Karol at the Red Patch Club and indulge in a tray of Special or Cognac and Coke. In the early days before the advent of civilian mufti from Alexander Tailors or the German Taylor Shop, we dressed in itchy Battle Dress, spit and polished low black shoes and black socks. We would assemble, usually two by two at the gate with our Red Pass Book. With twelve or so DM and a few Pounds for refreshments and culinary delights offered up at a Schnell Imbiss. The NCO IC of the Guard Room and his Regimental Police Staff would measure pant cuff, ensuring they were a minimum of 17 inches. Then they would reluctantly turn us loose to wreak havoc on the villages and towns in and around Fort York.
At 2200 hrs, now broke and feeling tipsy and filled with bratwurst, it was back on the bus heading up the road to Fort York. The walking wounded (drunks) usually arrived by Taxies; the Bus to Fort York stopped running after ten. Often on the road to Fort York before curfew at 2359 hrs were occupied by a fleet of speeding Taxies filled with sleeping patrons trying to put 10 DMs together to pay the fare. Making their way through the front gate, now singing at the top of their voice, mostly out-of-tune and shouting profanity in both English and German as they made their way to the huts. Waking up everyone within hearing distance. The exception of course were the lads who left through the hole in the fence, if you knew where to look they could be seen stalking their way through the under brush and crawling out of sight line of the RPs posted along the back fences of the camp to catch these villains of the night. By the way no need to keep these secrets hidden away, you are now protected by the grandfather clause and cannot be tried for such horrendous crimes
If you were broke and still in a local bar the Town Patrol would help out, giving those left behind and those who fell asleep on the beer table, a ride back to camp.
In the back of a ¾ ton SMP vehicle with six other members of the Town Patrol always crowed and the strong smell of exhaust and stale beer, an experience of a lifetime. Especially reinforced when the spillage was drawn back into the vehicle by the back draft. There was always an abundance recycled bratwurst and kartoffel salad spilled over the tailgate on these rides back to camp.
Those who couldnt make it back in time, arriving late were reluctant guests of the Crow Bar Hotel. Sgt Joe Cripps NCO IC of the Guardroom and his Regimental Police porters made everyone comfortable in the guest room known as: "the Bull Pen". These accommodations came furnished with wooden pillows and mattresses and the facilities of the toilet for the regurgitated stale beer. In the morning, after being turned loose and promising not to show up there again; you made your way back to the hut bidding. "good morning", to the smart ones that stayed in. A good morning, could be heard by the not so sick as they scurried on their way to the chapels at the top of the parade square where it all started hours before.
Those who choose to stay in Camp, The Social Set, those on duty, and those just plain broke, could make use of the facilities including the Globe Cinema, Maple Leaf Services Canteen, and Womens Royal Veteran Services Lounge. Skating, pool, table tennis or stretched out on top of the bed reading and listing to the radio, was a good cost-free night for most.
Think of it; in a shack of thirty Guardsmen we probably had one radio. Not so, after four months into the tour everyone had a radio or tape recorder, all tuned to a different station, volume to the maximum. Privacy at its best! However, at 1800 hrs on weekdays all listened to the Red Patch Round Up, over Radio Canadian Forces Europe out of Werl Germany with Gdsm Ray MacKinnon, at the mike. Being a request program, there was always some smart-ass asking for, Dont Take Your Gun To Town, going out to all members of the RCHA. How many times did we hear that request?
Each evening the dry cleaners in a yellow VW Kleinebus would arrive on the road in front of the shacks with our freshly cleaned and pressed suits. The same high fashions that we purchased to climb over fences, fighting hand-to-hand battles in various Gasthof and finally do the belly crawl under the fence. Oh ya, romancing the Frauleins. Would they again stand the rigors of the inspection? Decked our in white shirts and ties we would be allowed out to once again to wreak havoc and to do our weekending adventure training over and over again until we got it right. This went on over the five year period with a few variations and changes in character, some bear more scars than others but the experiences remain pretty much the same.
In the late fifties for the 2nd Battalion and later on in the sixties for the 1st Battalion, the ranks were mostly young single Guardsmen in our late teens and early twenties; all volunteers and looking forward in anticipation to our tours of duty in Fort York with the Canadian NATO in 4 Brigade in Soest West Germany. We were a proud lot and good at our job, second to none.
Such were the glory days for of a great group of young and not so young officers and men from all parts of Canada. They were serving with distinction as the 1st and 2nd Battalions of Regiment of The Canadian Guards, at Fort York Germany, November 1957 through December 1962.
In December 1962 some boarded RCAF Yukons out of Dusseldorf and others departed from Rotterdam Holland on board the SS Ryndam and made our way back to Picton and Petawawa.
Then out one day of gratitude for our service, the Government of the day decided we were no longer needed, and like the .303 rifles and Bren Gun Carriers we would be crushed like so much junk. We were taken out of the Order-of -Battle, or whatever they called it and ordered to turn in our hat badges.
Many went on to complete a full tour of duty at different posts, never to forget our origins, Once a Guardsman always a Guardsman.
Most of had given seventeen good years in the service of our country, as Guardsmen, to this day we still live on in our Guards Association. A Mari Usque ad Mare. (April 2008)
Fox and Feather, The Mess Tin Brigade
Another year has passed us by; those of us remaining and still standing can see the reflections of a slight hunched graying older man, staring back in dismay as we look in the mirror of life. A memory of a time past when we Guardsmen stood strong and tall is evidence that life has been good. We have lived hard, loved and hated, suffered and rejoiced and are still capable of one more battle.
In front of us life looks even more inviting as we are blessed with relatively good health. Living in the comfort of heated homes and in most cases with the love of our families within hearing distance. We are hunkered down in the best country on earth.
We old folks take pride in having served our Canada. As we snap our issued Police braces in unison; we are reminded to share our RRSPs, pass on our wisdom and dispense to all who will hear, our tales of woe. Not to mention the never-ending sharing of our hard-earned savings to charities, and the grandchildren; heaven forbid, never forgetting the taxman. We hitch up our pants, tighten our suspenders, attend funerals of friends, have our fill of hockey on the tube; some may even venture to purchase their last place of rest. All this seems to be a continuing challenge for old soldiers. Some have long given up those dreams of building that castle, marching in the parade and would only be willing to take the salute if a chair is provided. There are still those among us having dreams and energy enough to contemplate circumventing the globe in a yacht; only the Black Bear would consider such a grandiose adventure.
Our Canadian Guards Association, Ottawa Chapter and others, form up, with beer stein in hand at the Fox and Feather on Elgin Street in the heart of downtown Ottawa. This excellent group of elderly gentlemen answers the bar's call on the first Thursdays of the month and for the most part is a heart warming monthly event. With friends we hold our postmortem of our past military adventures. An outing of sorts to celebrate, thanking God we are still alive, a replacement for, Thank God Its Friday; we are a collection of odds and sods looking forward to our outing without fear of breaking the bank or soiling an otherwise sterling reputation. Those who choose to gather can always find two ears; one to hear with, of course with the assistance of those DVA sponsored hearing aids and the other one An Ear For Beer "Listen to your beer." Part I Orders would post it as follows: A pint or two; a hardy lunch; a few jogs to the parking meter and back; three or four times up and down 2 flights of stairs to the urinal; and then, Fall Out. The time has arrived for that all encompassing afternoon nap; In most cases, it is the replacement for what was commonly known as the Nooner.
It is not difficult to get a laugh or two as we recycle old jokes. To hear booming belly laughter over the continuous hum of conversation is not unusual. Even the worst of the worst jokes, thought long forgotten, will conjure up a faint giggle. God only knows there is an abundance of bellys to shake as we reminisce of who done what to whom.
As the noon hour winds down, the voices become hoarse trying to be heard. Yelling at each other it seems the more we drink, the tempo picks up and the louder the conversations are. Another culprit, "the hearing aid". Batteries are now wearing down from over use, whistling and tweaking, the wearer is seen to be fiddling with the buttons, to no avail! By this time gentlemen of the clan are paying their tabs, glancing at their watches; most are on a tight schedule taking the wife to the shopping mall after which we will prepare supper and other tedious items that make up the daily routine. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you! As we scatter in all directions bidding our farewells to the pretty barmaid, half deaf by now from all the yelling, our last thoughts are, was that fun?
Find solaces, sic. Communication of positive pleasure, hope, and strength, as well as by the diminution of pain; acceptance, anger, attitudes and dispositions, behavior, bitterness, that we are able to enjoy each others company. Rank has long been forgotten; together we are brothers-in-arms, old soldiers having a common thread holding us together. As we age there are past times we would rather forget, but for the most part; under the street-light of time, we gather our thoughts; when we were young and cocky. When we weld our common memories of those precious experiences into a book, the story might easily be called, When we were Canadian Guardsmen .
Our strength and our bond is still the Regiment. Until the final Canadian Guardsman is put to rest, and his is "the last memory"; then and only then, will the Regiment of The Canadian Guards be forgotten, if ever?
Happy New Year to all the Guardsmen I have come to know before.
Howie Pierce A Mari Usque ad Mare (Jan 08)
Memories of Remembrance Day - Howie Pierce
I had decided early in the week that this 11 November 2007, I would march with the Veterans in my hometown Arnprior. I must tell you for the past year or so I have had a problem with my feet. My MD called it Planter Fasciitis, a fancy diagnosis for dammed sore feet, not unusual for a guy in his seventies. Got me to thinking, a good pair marching boots were in order. A few days earlier I noticed sitting there alone in a dark corner of the basement my old army boots. Old soldiers knew these boots as the Commanding Officers Boots, highly shined and not to be confused with our field or combat boots. These boots had steel hobnails and clickers you could hear a soldier coming from a mile off. They were worn on special occasions only, this was their day! They had a slight glisten remaining from a day gone by, still there below the dust. This got me thinking me think, Ill polish them up and wear them one more time.
With my new hearing aids in place, arch supports in the old boots, knee bandaged, out the door I go. Backing out the driveway I could see my bride of forty-six years standing in the doorway waving good-bye, wishing me the best. After a half hour drive up the Trans Canada, I arrive at the Arnprior Legion. I now see the band practicing and different groups of odds and sods milling about forming little cliques. Finally I stumbled upon a group looking a lot like me, gray hair and slightly bent over; so I signed in. Some of the faces I recognized from other years, we exchanged greetings and a feeling of camaraderie was instant, we were brothers again.
The Sergeant-at-Arms, with his red sash in place was busy getting the parade together on a narrow lane way beside the legion. Cars were still using it as they made their way to the parking lot at the back of the Legion. As you can well imagine it became more difficult for the man with the red sash to organize the parade. I now recognized the lad with the red sash, Gary Dowd, we had served together at a Nuclear Bomb Bunker, fondly known as the,Diefenbunker.
On this day he said because I had been a Guardsman, I was appointed Right Marker and instructed to keep the pace down to crawl as older gentlemen, some in their eighties are marching with us and they would be challenged keeping up. In addition to his instruction he installed a governor out front in the form an eighty six year old WW 2 Veteran, Mr Charbineau.
Off we go to the Cenotaph a couple of miles down the road. Arriving in front of the hospital, where the Cenotaph is located got me thinking, we must be a rifle regiment, the beat had to be at 140 paces per minute. We gallantly tried, the old boots were now starting to pinch and my toes were getting numb. As we headed down John Street we were fading quickly passing the old haunts, Moscows Sugar Bowel. I could still see Peter, Leo, Tina and old Jim and his wife all dressed in long white aprons going about their chores; all gone, now just a memory. Passing A.A. McLeans house and the church, Saint Andrews United, I had attended as a boy. This brought to mind a rush of memories of how our family of seven welcomed their generous gifts of food, dropped off at our door during those hungry war years. Then we could see the crowd assembled in front of the Cenotaphs. As we approached we could hear them clapping indicating their appreciation of our service. They could have been clapping because we made it, if they only knew how my poor old tired feet felt.
Standing there looking at the cenotaph I could see the names of first war vets. Those ones that did not make it back. One name stood out, Alexander Ring; was he the brother of Eward Ring, a WW 2 Veteran? After the war we knew Mr E Ring as the custodian of the Public School, the strictest of strict. I can still hear him dressing us down after he caught us young wiper-snappers swinging on the water pipes in the basement of the old school. Standing in the cool sun soaked day, I was missing some of my old friends who stood there with us in years gone by, now gone to a better place: Bev Shaw, Leo Moscow, Harvey Ellis got me thinking. Where was Gerry Lapierrie? He usually stood with us.
The service was winding down, with the wreaths now in place we made a right turn and marched past in columns of route, pasting an assembly of Veterans. As we gave them an eyes right, I could now feel my old knee giving out. In addition to the pain in my feet the boots now felt like a hundred pounds each. By this time my hearing aids were screaming. The eighty something veteran still at the front and was chugging along in fine fashion, I got the feeling he would like to jog in the last few blocks, dammed show-off!
Into the Legion we go, the normal thank you to all (and drinks for parade participants) was graciously accepted and appreciated. Milling around I spotted a gentleman in his RAF uniform, navigator wings, metals in place, braging of how he still could wear the uniform he was issued in 1943. Being a non drinker I was not going to give him my beer ticket, after hearing his bragging. Instead I gave it to a former Provost.
That was enough to put a damper on the hot food being spread out in front of us. Having promised to be the Right Marker on the Stittsville parade at 2 pm, I was obliged to part company with the Arnprior crew. Limping through the parking lot to the old white Buick, as I headed out on my ride back to Stittsville got me thinking, should I wear the old Commanding Officers Boots next year?
The call went out on the 1st of November 2007, for Honorary Pallbearers for Karl Luebcke, 1st Battalion Canadian Guards, Trades Pioneer Platoon. It was answered by: Gerry Wharton, John Barkley, JAS Haley, Bill MacIver, Al Johnston and Howie Pierce. Dressed in Blazers, Guards accouterments, the funeral at the National Military Cemetery was above and beyond and fitting the Guards' high standards.
Bernard (Ingrid), Barbara (Walter Arksey) Thomas, Sandra, Marieka, Natasha, and Christopher were filled with pride that his Regiment thought so highly of their father and grandfather.
We in the Guards will always remember Karls welcoming smile and ever-present optimism. His special place in his heart for his life long love and mother of their two children, Bernie and Barbara, Annegrete passed away six years ago. Karl and Ann (some will remember Anna in 1963, working in the Kyrenia Club, Picton ) lived a life full of travel with the Military and External Affairs, meeting different folks on four continents. Winding their way through a lifetime of challenges throughout those difficult years of constant adjusting to the demands of the times.
In the military, Karl was our Trades Pioneer supervisor with the lst Battalion Canadian Guards, among other tasking he was charged to produce rotation boxes for the unit through rotations to Germany and back to Canada. Cpl Luebcke went the extra mile stretching the budget and making sure all ranks had what they needed to ship their personnel effects safely an ocean away. This is the mark of the man who cares. Even after all these years we can cite examples of his generous contributions. Yes, the crystal and stereos arrived in Canada in one piece due in large part to Karls superior construction of the rotation boxes.
He administered his life with careful and diligent thoughtfulness towards others. Their caring guidance preparing their children with education personnel guidance will guarantee their legacy and will live on in the children and grandchildren. We will remember Karl for all he has contributed to this country of ours through his two careers with the Canadian Armed Forces and Canadian Foreign Service.
On Karls final week on earth we were to bring him along to a Guards Association Luncheon in Ottawa. He was delighted to accept and was looking forward to the occasion. This was not to be as he passed away, a day too soon.
Now that life on earth has passed Karl and Ann by, we take comfort knowing they are at rest&ldots; together again.
Our heartfelt condolences to the family and may the love of God guide you all through these difficult days. Howie Pierce (Nov 2007)