The homecomings for Calgary
sailors, soldiers and airmen began in June 1945. Some of the returning groups were
actually volunteers for the Pacific theatre of war, where Canada was planning to send a
full division of soldiers to participate in the invasion of Japan, in addition to the men
of the RCN and RCAF who were still engaged in that theatre. In July, repatriations
increased in number - on 28 July alone three seperate trains brought over a 1000 service
personnel back to the city. The war against Japan was concluded on 2 September 1945,
and still more soldiers returned home - one day in mid-September brought 2600 personnel on
ten trains, to be greeted by the usual reception of military band, Red Cross and Legion
volunteers, and happy relatives.
The first formed unit to arrive
back in Calgary was a company of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps that had served in
the First Division. They had been the first Calgary unit to go overseas, and their
arrival in October was met with flags, two bands, a speech from the mayor, the senior
RCASC officer of the 4th Armoured Division, and a formal march-past.
Three weeks later, the 13th
Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers, received their homecoming in Calgary.
At 1430 on 24 November 1945, a
train at the Canadian Pacific Railway station on 9th Avenue (located where today's
Palliser Square stands next to the Calgary Tower) brought three units back home - the 23rd
Anti-Tank Battery (a component of the 2nd Anti-Tank Regiment), the 91st Field Battery,
Royal Canadian Artillery, and at long last, The Calgary Highlanders.
The Calgary Highlanders formed up at the
CPR station; the Pipes and Drums can be seen at centre.
Of the 476
Calgary Highlanders on the train, only thirteen had been original members of the battalion
that left Calgary in 1940 for Shilo.
A route between the CPR station
and Mewata Armoury had been decorated with red, white and blue bunting, streamers, and
flags of the nations that had defeated Germany, Italy and Japan. The unit formed
into ranks and the Pipes and Drums - in full ceremonial dress - took positions at the
front of the column. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Heyland and RSM Bowen,
the battalion marched through appreciative crowds and clouds of confetti - first to a
reviewing stand and brief address by the Mayor of the City of Calgary, His Worship Andrew
The First Battalion, Calgary
Highlanders, occupy a warm spot in the hearts of all of us. As one of the senior
units which left our city early in the war, your progress has been watched with special
interest. We have gloried in your accomplishments and are justly proud of your
record. Perpetuating as you do the famous "Fighting Tenth" of the First
World War, you have lived up to their glorious traditions and have added lustre to their
outstanding acheivements. We welcome you home in all sincerity. We thank you
for a difficult job splendidly done. Again, thanks a million from a legion of
grateful friends and admirers and the best of everything to you all.
One of the artillery units marches north
from the CPR station (just visible in the background) on 24 November 1945. At bottom
right, one of the military bands has just wheeled west onto 8th Avenue and the artillery
are about to follow.
And finally, the battalion
set off down 8th Avenue, to the home station where the first recruits had been mustered
over six years previous. According to Farran's history "Spectators manned
roof-tops, fire escapes and balconies to welcome home their unit - the famous Calgary
Highlanders - with the warmest reception in Calgary history."
It had been a long war, and the number of men
on this final parade was deceptive. The number of men to pass through the Calgary
Highlanders during the Second World War actually numbered in the thousands - Bercuson
states that 3,220 men joined the battalion as reinforcements from July 1944 to May 1945
alone. Few can claim to have served continuously from September 1939 to
November 1945. Over 400 men had been killed and left behind in cemeteries ranging
from the Normandy beachhead to northern Holland. There were over 1,300 instances of
Calgary Highlanders being wounded in action; some never to return to service, indeed, some
still in hospital in November 1945. Many other Highlanders transferred to wherever
the Army felt they were needed most. And a few were captured by the enemy and held in
camps until war's end, such as Drummer William Campbell, or Private Einar Stokke who was
Mentioned in Despatches posthumously before word of his capture had been made known.
Some old faces
were discernible, either on parade or in the crowd. While Pipe Major Sutherland took
ill on the train and could not play with the band during the parade, Lieutenant Colonel
Ross Ellis had actually travelled to Halifax after his early arrival in Calgary in order
to meet the battalion and travel back to Calgary with them. Ellis and Heyland, whose
friendship had been forged overseas, went into business together now that the war was
And one last
time, lined up in front of Mewata Armouries, the battalion was dismissed. A
reception was held inside, and the men went their seperate ways on thirty days leave,
followed by - for most - discharge from the Canadian Army. At right, Drummer H.E.
Douglas of Bowden, Alberta hugs his wife at the homecoming reception. Above, Calgary
Highlanders sample the local brew - "Calgary Ale". All returning soldiers
were given brand new uniforms to come home in. The soldier at centre has received
the ribbon of the France-Germany Star to wear alongside his Canadian Volunteer Service
Medal ribbon. He also wears a brass Wound Stripe on his left sleeve, representing a
serious injury suffered in a combat zone and inflicted by hostile action.
The wearing of neckties was a
privilege extended to Other Ranks after the start of the Second World War - a dress
distinction that had traditionally belonged to officers only. Returning veterans
would notice other far more important societal changes in Canada in 1945. The
smiling women in the photographs saw a continued trend towards equality in terms of
job opportunities. In 1990, many veterans of the The Calgary
Highlanders attended the presentation of a new Queen's Colour to the Regiment - a
parade on which female infantrymen, proudly wearing the kilt and carrying rifles - were
If any of the veterans had felt that it might have really been the final war to end
all wars, they found out differently just five years later when Canadian soldiers again
saw combat in Korea. Floyd Rourke, awarded the Distinguished
Conduct Medal after taking over platoon at Gruppenbühren, was just one
Calgary Highlander who went on to serve in Korea. War crimes of the
types perpetrated by the Nazi regime or by
the Japanese in Asia have, sadly, been repeated in the lifetime of many of the veterans who
had sacrificed so much in the Second World War trying to bring an end to such things.
Canadian soldiers have been able to intervene in some cases - such as Medak Pocket
in the former Yugoslavia
- and been held powerless in others, such as Rwanda.
The lesson - always clear to soldiers of the Regiment - has been that
men and women of
conscience must always be prepared to defend the way of life which Canada
and its allies has evolved. The Regiment continues to perpetuate the tradition of hard work,
teamwork and tradition that the returning veterans in 1945 so
painstakingly established, furthering those same traditions forged in the trenches by the
members of the Fighting Tenth.