“C” Company, sometimes referred to phonetically as “Cork” Company, or in the last years of the war by the new phonetic “Charlie” Company, was organized as a standard rifle company.
The following two articles are taken from the July 1945 issue of the regimental newsletter “The Glen”. Some historians may be inclined to dismiss these “souvenir” articles as a simple form of high school yearbook for soldiers, and therefore unsuitable for reproducing on a website. The webmaster feels it is fitting that the officers and men who comprised these companies in action should have their voice preserved in this manner – and that while some hyperbole should be taken with a grain of salt, the significance of certain events are revealed in no uncertain terms as the important and noteworthy events they were to these men. Each company had its own character, generated by the personalities of the men on its rolls.
In fairness to the original authors of these pieces, they were probably requested by the highest level to put together some words regarding their companies for this souvenir edition. Fighting men – especially those who have seen 11 months of continuous operational service – are not necessarily the best ones to expect literary genius from. In traditional yearbook style, some of what is written below may indeed include in-jokes or other observations indecipherable to the modern reader. But for what they are worth, below are reprinted the articles, in the words of those who were there, with slight editing of abbreviations.
This is my third session as a member of “C” Company, The Calgary Highlanders. My first tem was in 1943 as a Corporal and later as a Lance Sergeant. The Company was under the command of Captain W.H. Buchanan (now Lieutenant Colonel) and my Platoon Commander Lieutenant R.J. Kerfoot is now a Captain. Even back in those days as a unit in training in England, there was a Company spirit in everything we did. “C” Company, it seems to me, has always possessed that drive and pride in accomplishment that has made it a Company second to none, in a unit providing the keenest of competition.
Although I was never given the honour of serving in “C” Company in action, still, from the first this final year of the War in Europe until VE Day, I was able to watch the work of all Companies from the “I” [Intelligence – webmaster] Office and I know that the Company fought side by side with every other subunit in the Battalion. One needs only to glance through the Regimental History of The Calgary Highlanders to feel “Pride in a Company of a Unit to be Proud of.”
To each and every member of “C” Company I say: “You have every right to hold your heads high amid any company. Whether you be a new or old member of the Battalion you can throw your shoulders back, wear your balmorals at a cocky (but correct) angle, and look any member of this or any other army in the eye as if to say “I am a Calgary Highlander and on top of that I belong to “C” Company.”
I would like at this time to speak for any officer who ever commanded “C” Company and thank each and every one of you for the fine spirit and co-operation you have shown.
-W.H. Powell, Captain
For the purpose of this souvenir issue of the “Glen” let us first turn the calendar back to the first days of July, 1944, when “C” Company as a part of the Calgary Highlanders first came to grips with the “Hun” in World War II. A large size book could be written on the exploits of “C” Company, and individuals who have helped to make this company second to none on the field of battle. However, here space does not permit this, therefore in mentioning some names and places we hope to stir up memories for many an “old” soldier of “C” Company.
Normandy – what hundred memories that name stirs up! Remember the crowded busy beaches; the rolling grain fields that reminded you of the farm back home; every orchard and field crammed with supplies and equipment; and the DUST. Remember the narrow cobblestone streets and high stone walls of what was left of the towns of Var-sur-Mer, Coursuelles, Cussy, and St. Germaine. Then of course there were the “Mademoiselles”, the wine cellars, the Calvados, and the kids asking you for a “cigarette pour papa” and “chocolate pour mamma.”
Perhaps the fiercest battle that old men of “C” Company will remember when Normandy is mentioned is that of “Hill 67” when “C” Company battered their way up those barren slopes to the summit under withering enemy fire. The company had its first heavy casualties in this battle.
From Hill 67 “C” Company pushed on to battle the Hun at such places as St. Andre sur Orne, St. Martin de Fontenay and Tilly la Campagne. Back those days too “Jerry” was making use of what remained of his Luftwaffe, and the Normandy skies at night reminded one of the 24th of May fireworks celebration back home.
Clair Tizon, St. Germaine la Campagne, Totes and Orbec are a few more names of places where “C” Company came to grips with the Hun, and sent him reeling back.
At Dieppe the men of “C” Company brushed off the dust of battle and polished up for what was to be their first victory parade. They accepted the cheers and gratitude of a liberated people with humble pride, and moved on to new battles and victories. At Loon Plage the company got mixed up with Jerry’s 20mm shells and “Balls of Fire” in a heavy battle.
The months September and October of 1944 found “C” Company crossing canals and charging dykes across flat, flooded country under some of the worst fighting conditions of the whole European campaign. Such names as the Albert Canal, Turnhout Canal, St. Leonards, Hoogerheide, Ossendrecht and the Schelde Estuary will ever remain etched in the minds of all men who took part in these battles. In Hoogerheide and on Beveland we first met the Dutch people and at once became their friends. Men from Canada began actually to see for themselves, what they had only read about in books – wooden shoes, windmills, and dykes.
After a well-earned rest which was spent at Lierre getting more acquainted with our Belgian friends, the unit moved on up to Nijmegen where the men of “C” Company spent the winter in dugouts in the Malden and Groesbeek areas. The order of the day at this time was patrols and more patrols, and long hours of cold, shivering guard duty, when many a fellow dreamed longingly of home-warm firesides and soft clean beds. Remember that Christmas dinner in the trenches?
Then came the famous 8th of February that heralded the beginning of the last lap of the long journey. At Wyler, “C” Company fought its first battle on German soil. The Hochwald forest will ever be remembered as one of our bloodiest battles in the war.
Across the Rhine and up into Northern Holland swept the victorious Canadian Army. After a scuffle with the Hun at a place called Groningen the unit pushed on into Northern Germany and arrived at the German town of Oldenburg, where on May 5th the “Cease Fire” order was given.
This was what all fighting men from Normandy on had dreamed of and hoped for – it was over – all the dirt, the sweat, the blood and the hell of ten long terrible months had ended. But our job was not over; the unit was called to perform occupational duty in Germany, and were stationed at the town of Varel. During the time of occupation “C” Company lived up to the high standard it had earned as a fighting Company, in its occupational role. The men maintained the strict non-fraternization order, despite the pretty little German “Fräuleins.”
The War in Europe is over but there are still the Japs to finish up. In this regard “C” Company is proud of the fact that a large number (33) of the volunteers from the unit are “C” Company men. To these men we all wish “Bon Voyage” and “the very best of luck.”
We are sorry to lose Lieutenant Rosentrater who informs us he is the last officer to finish up with Fighting Charlie. He came to the company at the Hochwald, and did a fine job in the last round against “Jerry.”
“C” Company has also held its own with the best in the field of honours and awards. Those who have won honour for gallantry in battle and have served with “C” Company are:
- Major Alex Keller, Military Cross, Military Medal
- Captain “Bill” Lyster, Mentioned in Despatches
- Lieutenant Vernon Kilpatrick, Mentioned in Despatches
- Company Sergeant Major “Swede” Larson, Military Cross
- Acting Company Sergeant Major Michael Melnychanko, Military Medal
- Sergeant Roland William Williams, Military Medal
- Sergeant “Ken” Crockett, Distinguished Conduct Medal
- Private Raymond Austin, Military Medal
- Private N. Brudy, Commander in Chief’s Certificate
- Corporal Ferdinand Kublick, Mentioned in Despatches
It has been impossible to name all the “Johnny Canucks” who added to the fine battle record of “Charlie” Company, however, two men who have been members of “C” Company from away back should be mentioned, namely Private Bob Kelly and Private Charlie Potvin. Their job, perhaps one of the most thankless in the army, carries no parades, medals or awards. Through thick and thin they kept the men of “C” Company fed, and that in itself is no easy task. We take our hats off to the cooks.
Most of all, we, the living, honour those of our comrades who fell in battle, for theirs, after all, was the greatest price paid; to them we owe the greatest debt. Our deepest sympathy goes to their loved ones back in Canada. When we are anxious about getting back home and are worried about points, and getting fed-up, etc., give a thought to those thousands of our “White Cross Comrades” who will never go back.
Under the fine leadership of men like Major Baker, Major McQueen, Major Heyland, Major Campbell, Captain Lyster, Captain Kerfoot, Captain Powell, and all the platoon commanders, and company CSMs Roberts, Eden, Larson, Morris, and Melnychanko, we the present men of “C” Company, speaking on behalf of all the men who have fought with the company, can say, with heads high, in the years to come, “We have fought a good fight and are proud that we once belonged to “C” Company, of the Calgary Highlanders.”