Captain William Leslie Lyster

William Leslie Lyster was born in Empress Alberta on 20 February 1920 to Joseph Lyster. “Bill”, as he preferred to be known, joined the South Alberta Regiment in 1938 at age eighteen and in September 1939 went to Medicine Hat to join the Calgary Highlanders.

He became a qualified signaller in the Signals Platoon, and transferred to the 3″ Mortar Platoon in October 1940, being also appointed Lance Corporal. Promotion to Corporal followed in May 1941, and in January 1942 he was made Platoon Sergeant of Number Three Platoon (Mortars).

During the Dieppe Raid, he and Sergeant Bert Pittaway sailed on LCT 6. Lucky enough not to be ordered to disembark on the beach, they manned an anti-aircraft gun and were credited with shooting down a German warplane. They became the first Calgary Highlanders to be rewarded for bravery in the Second World War, being Mentioned in Despatches.

Lyster was promoted to Company Sergeant Major of “C” Company in December 1942. He want on to instruct at an NCO school, and was recommend by Lieutenant Colonel MacLaughlan to attend #161 Officer Cadet Training Unit at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in April 1944.

CSM Lyster and his English wife, Eswyn, on the day of their wedding 21 August 1943. Photo courtesy Eswyn LysterLyster not only attended the course, but passed out at the top of his class, becoming the first Canadian ever to win the Belt and Sword of Honour, the traditional reward for the first place student. Under wartime circumstances, a Sword could not actually be bestowed, so Lyster accepted a Sam Browne belt and a medallion. The promised sword never materialized after the war; Eswyn Lyster commissioned Wilkinson to produce one; it is currently on display at the Museum of the Regiments in Calgary. Commissioned as a lieutenant, Lyster returned to the Highlanders on 17 October 1944, as the fighting near South Beveland was reaching its height.

He found himself Left Out of Battle, as new man in the company, during the fighting west of Hoogerheide. At the end of October, he found himself tasked with helping the padre retrieve the dead.

“That was an experience for me. It was a little hard picking up fellows that you knew personally. (One man) was on his knees and he had his hands in his stomach. He had stuffed his field dressing into his stomach. And he looked as if he had been praying. He was stiff as a board; rigor mortis had set in.”

Christmas 1944After the Scheldt battle, the Highlanders went into static positions in the Nijmegen Salient. Even here, though, no one was safe from harm. One of Lyster’s tasks on Christmas day was writing to the parents of Austin N. Yeoman, a private belonging to his company. Lyster was now acting company commander, and Yeoman had been killed the day before. “I remember sitting down and writing a letter to Mr. Yeoman…I told him what a brave son he had and all this sort of stuff and I didn’t even know the lad. That was our job.”

When the Highlanders left the salient in February to participate in the drive to the Rhine, Lyster was in command of “C” Company. While planning an artillery shoot on February 27th, along with the CO and a Forward Observation Officer from the 5th Field Regiment, a shell landed next to the farmhouse they were standing in. Nixon and Lyster were both hit and evacuted. Lyster had received some shrapnel in his nose; the FOO had been hit in the temple and died shortly after reaching the Regimental Aid Post.

Lyster returned to “C” Company very shortly afterwards, and was wounded once again on the 22nd of April, one day from being confirmed in the rank of Major. He had been conducting a recce near Oldenburg when he was shot in the chest and arm.

When the Regiment returned to Calgary in November 1945, Lyster was still in hospital, and in fact remained hospitalized in both Calgary and Edmonton until November 1946.

After the war, he was given a courtesy title of Major by the Regiment; he worked as a sales manager for Canadian Bakeries Ltd. and later became the Chief Park Warden in Banff. In 1968 he moved to Vancouver Island with his wife.

Lyster passed away in December 1996.

Explore Our History