A WWII story at Bailey’s Bridge
17th Duke of York’s Royal Canadian Hussars
The Regiment crossed the Bailey bridge that the engineers had built in the Rees area. The general plan was that the British forces would head north-east in the heart of Germany and the Canadians would swing left, after crossing the Rhine, and head north for Friesland following the River Ijssel. The towns of Emmerich, Zutphen, Deventer and zwolle being prime objectives. In this way the escape routes for the German armies in western Holland would be sealed off; thus preventing them from defending their homeland.
There was some tough fighting along this route, but by the 13th April, Zwolle was occupied.
After the crossing of the Rhine, the Regiment met, for the first time, a new type of German soldier. Hitherto we had met some hard bitten types, and even quite fearless S.S. troops, but now we were meeting the fanatical Hitler Youth; the Hitler Jugend. These were lads, thoroughly indoctrinated in Naziism and devotion to the Fuhrer (Hitler), and who were prepared to die for the Vaterland without question. They would leap out from ditches or from behind cover and blast away with their Schmeisser machine pistols and Panzerfausts (Bazooka anti-tank weapons) screaming, “Heil Hitler!”
The words “surrender” or “kaput” were not in their vocabularies, and sad to – relate, they had to be shot or run down if the advance were to continue.
From Zwolle the regiment swept on to Leeuwarden, and then turned eastward to Groningen in Friesland.
The German border was now a mere 40 kilometers away. As we approached the German town of Leer on our road to Emden we were on the left bank of the Ems River, and the 1st Polish Division was supposed to be on the right bank, both heading north; but we had no information as to their troop disposition, so the Colonel told me to go over and find where they were.
I took a jeep and headed for the Ems. Somehow, I cannot remember exactly how, I crossed the river and set about finding where our gallant Polish allies were. Finally I located their tactical headquarters and asked to see their Intelligence Officer. Showed him my map with dispositions of our troops marked on it with chinagraph pencil. He looked at me incredulously, and said, “You know ver effrybody iss?” I assured him that I did, and asked him to indicate where his troops were. He shook his head and pointed northward. ” zey go zat vay. Ve chust poosh!” he declared proudly.
When I returned to the C.O. all I could tell him was that the Poles were on the other side of the river, and “pooshing northward!”
The words of the poet have often come to mind over the years since the war:
“For oft when on my couch I lie in vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude;”
Memories do indeed often “flash upon that inward eye”; but they are not always “blissful”
One incident comes to mind more often than others. I had been on a foot patrol, somewhere on the Schelde and along the way the body of a young soldier from the Regiment de la Chaudière was lying face down with his rifle and bayonet under him; and his steel helmet tilted backward. There were no other bodies — enemy or our own — anywhere nearby. Presumably his regiment had attacked, he alone was killed, and his unit had passed on. It would be reported that the attack was successful and casualties were light.
Often, we had passed the scenes of fire-fights where many of our men, and Germans, lay dead. I remember them too, but on the return journey I stopped by this lad, and thought, “You poor little bugger, you’re all alone.” I hopped that someone would pick him up and bury him near his buddies.
The facts stated are from interviews with the members concerned. The Royal Canadian Hussars (Montreal) Association disclaims any liability with respect to accuracy.
Montréal, Qc, H3H-1X2