Calgary Highlanders in Foreign
First Special Service Force
|John G. McQueen
In 1942, the United States and
Canada collaborated on a unique composite formation known as the First
Special Service Force. The Force was to later gain fame as "The Devil's
Brigade" and became be the subject of a 1968 movie by United Artists.
The force was comprised, at first, of an equal mixture of Canadians and
Canadian of the unit upon its inception was a Calgary Highlander named
John G. McQueen, pictured at left in a photo taken in late 1939. The
Force went on to great fame in Italy, highly trained in mountain and
amphibious operations, they terrorized much larger German units in the
Anzio bridgehead (including the crack Hermann Goering Division), and
eventually were disbanded at the end of 1944.
member of the Devil's Brigade was Ernest Edgar Terry, born 14 Aug 1914
in Lac Vert, Saskatchewan, the first born to father James Terry
(1871-1942) and mother Sarah Matilda Quinn (1880-1977). In 1936 he
married Mabel Ellen Govenlock (1919-1970). They bore two children;
Doris and Bryden (Buck). In 1936, Ernie moved his family to Hines Creek,
Alta., traveling by way of covered wagon with his brother John, and he
tried his hand at trapping.
in August 1941, in Military District 13, and was given Regimental Number
M66361. Volunteering for the First Special Service Force, he broke his
foot during parachute training in the United States, and was apparently
repatriated to Canada when it was learned he was married. By 1945 he
was a member of D Company of the Calgary Highlanders, and was badly
wounded during the Hochwald fighting on 20 February 1945, being injured
by a German mortar bomb.
After the war,
Terry moved to Dawson's Creek, separated from his wife, met Gail Churchill
with whom he had two more sons, then separated from her as well, with the sons
being put up for adoption. Ernie worked as a camp cook for oil exploration
companies, but also worked at a variety of other jobs such as hunting guide,
farmer and working on the Alaska-Canada highway. Terry passed away at
Kamloops, British Columbia on 7 April 1995 at the age of 80.
CSM N.S. Lawson
In order to gain
battle experience, men from throughout the Canadian Army were sent to North
Africa. On 9 December 1942, the unit was advised to submit two names for
attachment to the British First Army, then fighting in North Africa, one
officer and one NCO. Major Cyril C.A. Nixon's name was put forward, but he
did not go to Africa. However,
M10622 Company Sergeant Major N.S.
Lawson did go, and a letter was received in the United Kingdom that was copied
into the Calgary Highlanders War Diary.
Lawson was attached to 'C' company of this Battalion. He was found a most
excellent Warrant Officer by all officers of the company. His capabilities as
a leader were extremely high. I should say that any of the men in the company
would follow him anywhere. His ability on patrols was especially noteworthy.
In fact, it is impossible to speak too highly of him, and his company were all
sorry to see him go."
S. J. Linden Kelly
Lieutenant Colonel, Commanding 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers
Laloge, DCM, MM
to serve in North Africa had been Sergeant Emil Laloge, a member of the
Seaforth Highlanders of Canada who would later be twice decorated while
serving with the Calgary Highlanders. He served with the First Battalion
Royal Lancashire Regiment and saw action at the tail end of the fighting in
Tunisia in 1943. Sent back to the Seaforth Highlanders holding unit, he was
soon tasked in England as an instructor. After D-Day, he went to the
continent and in October transferred to the Calgary Highlanders. His
experience must have served him well; he joined the battalion on the 22nd and
ten days later won the Distinguished Conduct Medal at Walcheren Causeway,
going on to also win a Military Medal at Wyler in February 1945.
By early 1944,
the British Army found itself short of officers, especially for the infantry
and ordnance corps. Canada, on the other hand, had a surplus, and through a
scheme called CANLOAN, these young Canadian officers (mostly lieutenants) were
assigned to duty with the British Army. In the end 623 infantry officers and
50 ordnance corps officers were so employed, the infantry officers being used
as platoon commanders, company second-in-command, and in some cases as company
commanders. An attempt was made to have these officers join their affiliated
units. Four Calgary Highlanders were selected to participate in this program.
Of the 673
volunteers, 465 became casualties, 127 of them fatal, and over 100
decorations for bravery were made, including 41 awards of the Military
Cross. Of the four Calgary Highlanders to volunteer, two were killed in
action, the other two were captured at Arnhem.
Earl Harcourt was assigned to the 8th Reinforcement Holding Unit, and
sent up to the 8th Battalion, Royal Scots, on 14 July 1944. He was
killed in action only two days later. In the battle of Esquay,
conducted by the 15th (Scottish) Division, no less than four CANLOAN
officers were lost by the 8th Royal Scots alone.
John Robert Harrison lied
about his age to join the Calgary Highlanders, and even though he was
discovered, he eventually made it overseas and served in England with
the battalion from 1940 to 1943. He returned to Canada to get his
commission and then was made an instructor. He joined the CANLOAN
scheme when it came about, and went back to England as part of the
second flight of CANLOAN officers, being given number CDN/80.
1945 he was a captain and commander of the carrier platoon of the 7th
Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. This was part of the
famous 51st Highland Division, and Harrison saw action from Normandy
onwards. He was killed in action on the 17th of April, becoming the
last CANLOAN officer to die in combat. He was twenty two years old.
was a good friend of Bill Lyster; one of Lyster's grandsons was named
Harrison in his honour. John Robert Harrison lies in Grave IV. H. 9. of
the Holten Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands.
Larry Kane was given CANLOAN
Number CDN/482, and served with the 7th Battalion of the King's Own
Scottish Borderers at Arnhem, where he was captured. Like James Taylor
(see below) he had been an instructor in Canada.
John Robert Harrison and his mother.
Photo courtesy of Eswyn Lyster
Taylor’s military career started when Sergeant Les Kemp of the Calgary
Highlanders arrived in a wheat field west of Nanton early in September
1939. After annual threshing was completed, Jim reported to the
regiment on 23 September. Number 10 platoon of "B" Company became his
home for the next four years. Major Glenn Lockwood commanded the
company, Herby Dann the platoon - a group of farmers, miners, ball
players and several men who had just arrived in town via the local
freight train. For a time Jim functioned as company clerk and assisted
the physical training staff with their duties.
travelled with the Regiment to the United Kingdom in August 1940 (his
name is found on the nominal roll of those who sailed on the SS
Pasteur); training and moves throughout the south of England
continued for Jim for the next three years. Battle drill courses, small
arms course, support weapons courses, physical training course and
pre-officer training and eventually a return to Canada for
commissioning. He sailed on the Queen Mary with Sir Winston Churchill,
the King of Norway and other high ranking officials on board. In the
hold, four hundred fifty Afrika Korps prisoners of war. On arrival in
New York nine prisoners escaped via a port hole with the aid of rope
from their hammocks. As they climbed the dock an alert American naval
sentry took them prisoner. Jim’s first experience with the phrase "for
you the war is over" (but unfortunately not his last). A short time
later nine naked men were standing at the gang plank.
Montreal, Calgary, and Gordon Head, BC followed in quick order. In
August 1943, Lieutenant Taylor was given a temporary commission and
posted to Currie Barracks where he quickly became an instructor for a
junior NCO course. In January 1944 Jim reported to Vernon Battle school
where he was earmarked to become a battle drill instructor for the rest
of the war.
Vernon Jim heard of the CANLOAN program. Much to the annoyance of the
senior staff at the school Jim volunteered, and travelled again to
Calgary for processing and transfer to Sussex, New Brunswick for special
officer training fitting he and others for British service. Jim and five
others on his draft were quickly moved to the instructional staff of the
Empress of Scotland sailed out of Halifax early in May 1944 with a very
large draft of CANLOAN officers on board, and after arrival in Glasgow
these men were moved to London in record time for posting to the various
British regiments. Taylor was assigned to the 7th Galloway Battalion The
Kings Own Scottish Borderers, an airlanding battalion with the first
Airborne Division. Two flights in a Horsa glider qualified him as an
airborne soldier, and tense months followed as fifteen planned
operations in a row were cancelled because the drop zones were overrun
by the Allies before the operations could be mounted.
MARKET GARDEN was the sixteenth operation. Taylor landed with the first
troops in Holland in his first operational role, the guarding of the
drop zone for the two brigades of paratroopers scheduled to arrive a
short time later. Two days later Taylor and his company, less two
platoons (each rifle company had four platoons), arrived at their final
battle area, the village of Oosterbeek. After seven days of close
quarter fighting against a well-equipped, battle trained and determined
enemy, Taylor was wounded and put out of action. Medical help consisted
of field and shell dressings which he wore for the next six days, after
which he was re-bandaged with German paper dressings and put in a box
car on his way to a German prisoner of war camp.
the camp was dreary and sometimes frightening although Taylor as usual
had a role to play. He was instructed to train eight men in the use of
machine guns to protect the camp against the local villagers who it was
felt may try to overrun the camp. By 31 March 1945, the camp was
evacuated when the British American advance in the west pushed ever
closer. After a forced march east for 150 kilometers and 14 days, the
guards deserted and the news that the American President had died was
received. The prisoners were free, and three days later found
themselves being flown to Brussels. On 18 April 1945 Taylor and thirty
other ex-prisoners were loaded onto a Short Stirling bomber for the
flight to England, coincidentally Taylor’s 25th birthday. On take-off
the aircraft got a tail wobble and left the runway crashing into a
German pill box. The right undercarriage came through the fuselage
injuring five passengers.
Still on his birthday,
Taylor was reunited with his wife Dorothy and met for the first time his
two month old daughter. In June, Taylor returned to Canada and a
hospital in Calgary. In 1947, after a short taste of civilian life he
re-enlisted as a corporal in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light
Infantry at Currie Barrracks. In 1951 Taylor receives a permanent
commission as a lieutenant in the Patricias, and went from the Third
Battalion to the School of Infantry instructing junior officers, the
first of many postings to the school for instructional duties.
still at the school Taylor was promoted captain and in September 1954
found himself on posting to Vietnam with the International Supervisory
Commission. Whilst on staff for several weeks in Hanoi, he did duty as
liaison officer flying the length and breadth of the country, as well as
a trip to India as a diplomatic courier. Fixed and mobile team duty in
several towns and cities in Vietnam followed, and in May 1955 Taylor was
the Canadian representative on the mobile team turning the Hanoi/Haiphong
enclave from French control to the Viet Minh. Following the handover,
Taylor took a much needed rest in Hong Kong and in August 1955 returned
to Camp Borden and the role of assistant chief instructor.
because of his war time injuries, Taylor is not permitted to complete a
parachute course and is forced to make a unit change. He selected a
unit serving in Western Canada, the 2nd Queens Own Rifles of Canada.
Arriving in Gordon Head on Vancouver Island, he was appointed adjutant.
In November 1957 the battalion was posted to Germany for duty with NATO.
Adjutant and company commander appointments, followed, with more courses
in England and Canada and on return to Canada he was made General Staff
Officer Grade III (operations) at Headquarters Western Command,
Edmonton. Promotion to major and return to regimental duty soon followed
with posting to Calgary. In 1963 another posting to the school, this
time to command the officer training division, but because of an injury
playing hockey for the officers mess team Taylor receives a category
that will not permit him to continue in the role of instructor and was
posted back to Alberta. Mewata Armoury became his base for the next four
years where he served as SOLAM. (Staff Officer Logistics and
Administration Militia). Finally after 29 years service Taylor retired
to a role as a social worker in British Columbia.
In 1970 The British
Columbia Dragoons approached Taylor and he was given command of an
armoured squadron. In 1972 he assumed command of the regiment, with
promotion to lieutenant colonel, finally retiring in 1974. He and
Dorothy returned to Calgary in 1984 and later moved to Cochrane. During
their long life together Taylor and Dorothy had four children one of
which followed in his fathers footsteps and retired as a lieutenant
colonel from the air force.