17th Duke of York’s Royal Canadian Hussars.
Every last Thursday of the Month, the 17th Hussars association members gather at Picasso’s for their monthly breakfast. On this particular day Bert Carlson, and this writer arrived at 9.00AM on the dot, chose a table near the front door, and within minutes our table included Bruce, Stan, Gordon and Paul.
Alan Canavan, President of the Association walks by, and shakes the hand of his entire troop, including guests.
The atmosphere is jovial as each member’s attitude jumps into high gear. They greet each other with “so nice to see yah Joe and “what a pleasure Leo” and who can forget the ever smiling Hyman.
It was an honour on this day for me to sit directly across from Paul Goyer D+ 18, a former Sgt. in the 9th troop “C” squadron. Paul had his training in Sherbrooke, and Farnham, Quebec. One day after a ten-mile route march in 92 degree, he decided to try the Navy. He arrived at the Navy recruiting office five minutes too late. They told Paul come back the following Monday. While spending the weekend in Longueuil Army barracks, he met trooper Auger and trooper Papillion who convinced Paul to enlist with the 17th Hussars. They told him that everybody rode a motorcycle. To Paul that was better than walking. From Longueuil Paul caught up with the regiment in Debert, NS. For further training with the recce regt. Then it was off to England aboard the troopship Stratheden. In July 1942 Paul was promoted to Corporal, and never rode a motorcycle.
Before the war Paul was a good amateur boxer. He fought as a featherweight (126lbs.) and had a record of 26 wins and two defeats. So when the Regiment decided to form a boxing team they asked Paul if he would help along with the Sgt instruct the fighters. It became a pretty good team, winning the Brigade and the divisional championship. The nucleus of the team was formed around Danny Webb, Larry Sloan, Tommy Matthews, Gerry Walker, Lt. James, and Tom Jones. Webb went on to become lightweight champion of Canada after the war.
Paul will never forget his first night in action. On an island just outside Caen he was sent to lead a patrol and try locate a sniper. After a while he heard an explosion to the left and behind him. He went to investigate and found out that Lt. James had triggered a Teller Mine and had seventeen pieces of shrapnel in him. At 6’4″ and 220 lbs. Lt. James was the heavyweight on the boxing team, and he lived to tell about it.
During another skirmish on the way to closing the Falaise Gap, Paul and his crew were subjected to a heavy fire coming from behind them. The culprits were his own tanks and infantry. They found a shallow trench to the hide. Paul figured that a white flag might stop the firing. So he asked his crew for something white to use as a flag.
Trooper Parker said he had something white, so he tore a piece of his undershirt and gave it to Paul. Paul looked at it, and started laughing even under the dangerous position they were in. The undershirt was black from lack of washing.
The firing ceased and Paul and his crew crawled back to safety. Of the three only Paul survived the war. Paul talks about the war being just that and says that if you are part of the frontline troops, you have to be very lucky to survive.
Not only do you have to deal with the enemy, but you’re also subjected to shelling, and bombing, from your own side.
Three days after the war was over, Paul was given a mission to search house to house for weapons etc. Paul and five of his men were riding in a Bren Gun Carrier when it hit a mine, three of his men died of their wounds. Paul lost his right leg below the knees, and suffered severe burns on his face and arms.
While laying down on the road after the explosion Trooper Auger who was also nicknamed “Shorty” gave Paul some morphine, and thinking that Paul would die told him that he would look after Paul’s English wife Ivy. Paul looked at “Shorty”, and said I’m going to look after Ivy myself, and that’s what he has been doing for fifty-seven years.
Paul always was an athlete and although he wore an artificial leg, he played bowling and golf. In the eighties, Paul lives in Laval, Quebec with his wife surrounded by seven children and six grandchildren.
Paul final thoughts on the war -“They were the best years of my life”.
To his dear friends, Paul left us recently, suffering an Aneurysm of the brain. Story completed on the first week of December 2000.
Montréal, Qc, H3H-1X2