Monday, May 16, 2011

Chub is second from the left in the back row.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Albert Adam (a.k.a. "Chub") Angus was 31 when Britain and Canada declared war on Germany on September 1, 1939. It marked a stage in his life that would colour the rest of his days.

The war provided millions of Canadian men with relief from the lost opportunities of the Depression. On the prairies in particular, it provided a much-needed outlet for thousand upon thousands of men who had few alternatives to life on the farm.

On June 3rd, 1940, Chub enlisted with the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders (QOCH) regiment in Winnipeg, joining his younger brother Jim (on right) who had enlisted a few months earlier. They both became privates in the infantry.

At 31, Chub was older than the average recruit, and below average in size as well. He stood about 5'6", and weighed only 150 lbs, with a slight but muscular build. His had well-developed forearms, and a ruddy complexion that was notable for both its heavy eyebrows and a ready smile.

Chub and Jim spent six months in basic training in Canada, then went east to prepare for being shipped overseas. They arrived in England on February 18, 1941, and were stationed in southern England for the next 18 months, before seeing any action.


Iain writes ....
In 1987 I had the honour of participating in the 45th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. I did so as a Member of Parliament, representing the NDP and as a son of a Canadian POW captured at Dieppe. As part of the commemoration trip I traveled with men who had served at Dieppe and the women who they married and spent the remainder of their lives with.

That journey, like the one that my brother and I are on, started in London. In the 1987 version, we were honoured at Canada House by the Canadian Government. This time around I arranged my own tour of the British House of Commons (more accurately known as Windsor Palace). Murray connected with me at our hotel just off the corner of Piccadilly Circus in early afternoon. We spent our day like any other tourist, wandering from place to place without a clear destination. As we would say in Scotland it was ‘grand’. Lunch was fish and chips, served by an Asian wait staff, in a restaurant called Scotch Steak. How appropriate. That night we caught Phantom of the Opera – it was Murray’s first musical (mine, ironically was also in London in 1976 when I was with the Select Committee on the Highway Transportation of Goods and saw A Chorus Line). Wandered through Trafalger Square wondering if our father did the same thing when he was either on leave from Newhaven, or after the war when he was convelesing in a London hospital.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Time for Waiting - and for a Wedding

Chub and Jim's presence in Britain was part of a gradual buildup of Canadian and other Allied forces that was being readied for an eventual assault against Hitler's forces on the continent.

The timing of an eventual assault was the subject of much debate and disagreement amongst the Allies. Russia had been bearing the brunt of Hitler's aggression and Stalin was demanding that the Allies open a western front to relieve pressure on them.

Britain, meanwhile, was at its lowest ebb, with the Battle of Britain having raged, and Britain's sea lanes were being ravaged by German U-Boats. While the US was lending Britain material support, it would not become a formal combatant until the Pearl Harbour attack in December, 1941.

It was against this backdrop that the Canadian military buildup took place. Eventually, there were tens of thousands of troops stationed along southern England, ready to defend the motherland if necessary, and all waiting for the day when they might get sent into action on the continent itself.

This photo was taken at Chub's base near Aldershott, August 1941.It was a time of considerable routine and even boredom for the thousands of Canadian troops stationed in England. Their time was filled with endless training (see pix)In Chub's case, the monotony was broken only by occasional forays into the countryside to assist local farmers, and more importantly, by visits to Gartocharn, Scotland, where he met his bride-to-be, Becky Forshaw. His subsequent military records revealed that he had only three 1-week leaves to meet Becky, and to get to know her, over a 14-month period before they were married in Kilmaronock church by Loch Lomond, on April 9th, 1942.Subsequent events would ensure that their marriage would begin on very shaky ground indeed.

Iain writes ...
From London, we headed off to Newhaven, likely on the same tracks that our father used to head north to Gartocharn to see his future bride.

The reader needs some background here. Dad did not just discover Gartocharne by accident. It was ordained. Years earlier a young man named Jimmy Forshaw emigrated to Canada to seek fame and fortune. He ended up working on farms in the Angusville, Manitoba area and eventually married Jessie Angus. Jessie had (amongst others) two brothers, Jim and Albert Adam(Chub).

So back to leave from Newhaven: apparently on alternate weekends, Jim and Chub would head north to Scotland to visit Jimmy’s family. We learned much later (after all of the players had passed away) that both brothers were ‘dating’ Jimmy’s sister Becky. Obviously, our Dad won out and the rest they say is history.

During that official trip in 1987 we visited Canadian military cemeteries in both England and France. Two elements stood out for me: “The phrase ‘we stand on guard for thee’ found within O’Canada took on a whole new meaning for me. The other phrase that my parent’s generation used “when the boys came home” also had new meaning as I looked at the ages on the tombstones – 15, 16, 17 etc. (When ever I go into a highschool class to talk about democracy I ask the boys who are in that age to stand up – then I tell that story.)

When we got to Newhaven, had checked in and were given a lift to the Newhaven Fort by the Scottish manager of the hotel we were at, we started to enter the past. The museum has a great collection of material related to WWII (as well as other wars that Newhaven had participated in), and in particular the Dieppe Raid. We got a bit of the sense of what it was like ahead of time. Over 10,000 troups were stationed there, some just preparing for what would come ahead, while others participated in defending the shoreline. They had lots of time on their hands.

When our uncle Jim, his wife Janet and daughter Jane visited Dieppe some years ago he took them to their favourite pub. The same owner was there and (without knowing who he was talking too) complained about those ‘damn Canadians’ who stole a barrel of beer from behind the pub. Uncle Jim did not let on that he was part of the crew who did the deed. We didn’t know the name of the pub, but we did find the church where both Angus’s stayed in for the duration of their 18 months in Newhaven. We bumpted into it by accident as we strolled through the old town. I had visited it before on my ‘official’ visit and recognized it as soon as we came upon it.

The church where Chub was billeted while he was in Newhaven.The harbour at Newhaven today

The Crossing

In the early hours of August 19th, nearly 5000 men, mostly Canadians, slipped away from the English coast in the dark of night and headed towards the beaches of France. Their goal was to test the strength of German defences. They were scheduled to hit the beaches as dawn broke, take the town and its surrounding defences, and then retreat back to England..
Murray writes ...
My thoughts are of the men who sailed out of this port at midnight on August 19th, almost 70 years ago. What must they have been feeling? Leaving Newhaven on ships, making their way through the darkness towards the French coast, clambering down into landing craft as the coast came within sight, standing crowded together as the crafts pushed their way over and through the swells, overwhelmed by the crude roar of their boat's engines, the crashing of the waves against the craft, and the increasing sounds of airplanes and their machine guns overhead. I imagine each man waiting in silence, alone with his own thoughts as they got ready for their run to the beaches. I imagine them reflecting on their lives, and savoring the memories of those most precious to them: their parents, their families, their friends, their communities. I imagine them holding them close as if clinging to the most positive aspects of life itself would add another shield to their armour. I imagine them feeling brave, and feeling scared, as they contemplated the unknown, which was fast approaching. They each had a past, but none had a future that was certain. No one knew what battle really would be like; no one knew who might pay a price. No one knew, as those craft approached the shore, who would be there tomorrow.

The Battle

It was a disaster from the start.

During the crossing, the troop ships encountered a German convey and exchanged fire, thus eliminating the element of surprise. On the main beach at Dieppe, the German gun positions on the surrounding bluffs gave them an open view of the entire beach.
The men were totally exposed, and many were mowed down as soon as they left their landing crafts.

The tanks that accompanied them were rendered useless by the stony beach and never made it away from the shore.

The men who did make it up the beach huddled against the sea wall to avoid the enemy fire. A few who did manage to make it into the city found themselves alone with no backup and were either captured or killed.The operation commander based on a ship offshore could not maintain clear commuication with the beach, and mistakenly sent in other regiments on the presumption that success was being achieved. Those sent in were obliterated on the beach.

Ross Munro of The Canadian Press, was assigned to cover the Canadian troops in Britain, and went ashore with allied shock troops that morning to get this first-hand story of the war's biggest commando raid:

"For eight hours, under intense Nazi fire from dawn into a sweltering afternoon, I watched Canadian troops fight the blazing, bloody battle of Dieppe. I saw them go through the biggest of the war's raiding operations in wild scenes that crowded helter skelter one upon another in crazy sequence. There was a furious attack by German E-boats while the Canadians moved in on Dieppe's beaches, landing by dawn's half-light. When the Canadian battalions stormed through the flashing inferno of Nazi defences, belching guns of huge tanks rolling into the fight, I spent the grimmest 20 minutes of my life with one unit when a rain of German machine-gun fire wounded half the men in our boat and only a miracle saved us from annihilation."


Dieppe today ...
The beach was deep in stones alone.The distance from the water's edge to the top of the beach.Those who made it off the beach then had to cross this wide, and totally exposed, promonade.The memorial in Canada Square in Dieppe.


Chub and his brother Jim were in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders from Winnipeg. They, along with the South Saskatchewan Regiment (SSR) had the job of landing at Pourville (a.k.a. "Green Beach") a village around the point to the west of Dieppe. Their job was to seize the town from the Germans, and head inland about 5 km to rendevous with the other Canadians who would be overrunning Dieppe itself.The South Saskatchewan Regiment landed first in the pre-dawn light and successfully secured the village, although their initial efforts were compromised by the fact that their landing craft had come ashore on different sides of the River Scie, which ran through the heart of the village.To consolidate their forces, the men had to traverse a short bridge that was under heavy enemy fire. Their leader, Lt.-Col. Cecil Merritt, earned the Victoria Cross for leading his men successfully across it.By the time Chub, Jim and the other Cameron Highlanders landed at about 7:00 AM, the town had been secured enough that they could make their way inland towards their objective. They worked their way successfully up the Scie river valley for several kilometres.Chub's party made it all the way to a cross-roads called Petit-Appeville, where they were supposed to meet up with the tanks coming from the main battle in Dieppe. But of course, the tanks never arrived because they had never made it off the beach, The Camerons therefore became the victims of their own success, having gone farther inland than any other group that day. By this point, the Germans were pouring reinforcements into the area, and Chub's group was effectively cut off from returning to the beach when the call to retreat came at about 11:00 AM. Jim was close enough to witness Chub being taken, but was not close enough to help (he did, however, get back to the beach himself, where he helped many other men make it through the trecherous rush to the landing crafts).

Today the following plaque is located at the cross-roads where were captured.Nearby, another monument remembers the efforts of the Canadians to liberate France.


By mid-afternoon, the disaster was complete.

No major objectives of the raid were accomplished. A total of 3,623 of the 5,086 men who made it ashore were either killed, wounded, or captured. The air force lost 96 aircraft while the Royal Navy lost 33 landing craft and one destroyer.

Chub was one of 1946 men who were captured that day.

For the next 32 months, he kept a diary of his experience. Here's how he described the day of his capture:

I was taken about 11 AM on August 19, 1942, four KM from Dieppe. There was six of us together, and our officer, Lt. Thompson, was taken a few minutes later. ... We spent most of the day bringing in our wounded, also theirs. They let us look after our own first. Late in the PM we were marched into Dieppe just in time to catch the rest of the prisoners as they were being marched off to the first nights camp about 15 miles away where we were given some tea and a loaf of bread.The next PM we were loaded on a train in box cars and travelled all night to another camp in France where we were searched and questioned. The eats were pretty scarce at first but the French Red Cross sent in some oat meal and some fresh vegetables which helped a lot. We were kept there for about 10 days when we were again loaded into box cars (40 to a car) and rode 4 days to our permanent camp at Lamsdorf, Germany.

Below is a pix of Iain standing beside the kind of box car that was used to transport Chub and the other POWs to Lamsddorf, in what's now southern Poland.


The destination in Poland was Stalag VIIIB, a huge compound that was the detention centre for tens of thousands of Russian and Allied prisoners throughout the war.

Chub recounted their arrival in his diary ...
We arrived at camp about 4:30 PM and were given some cabbage soup. After that, we were given our first Red Cross parcel, one parcel between four men - "were they good." We were just like a bunch of kids opening their parcels on Xmas morn. From then on we got a parcel on Mon. & Friday with bulk issues on Wed., Thurs., and Sat
He went on to describe the worsening conditions in the months after their arrival:

There was an epidemic of dysentry broke out (I had it for 5 weeks). After a couple of weeks we were marched to another compound where things were a little better ... Things went fairly good till the 8th of October when they took us back to our first compound, tied our hands and cut off our Red Cross issues. They said it was in retaliation for the treatment of German prisoners at Dieppe and the Channel Islands.

It has been pretty tough going ever since. There is not nearly enough to eat, just the German issue with some of the Red Cross stuff in the soup. It is now the 24th of Oct. and we are still tied + no end in sight. The weather has been wet and cold with no fires. We were lucky to be issued with a great coat which we have to wear all day to keep warm.

Jan. 7, 1943 - the first week of the New Year gone by. Three letters this week - two from Becky and one from Annie (Chub's sister). They hadn't heard from me yet. What a hell hole this is now. It's snowed every day all week + the snow tracks in + lays in puddles all over the floor. Your feet are damp all the time + you can't keep warm. I have all the clothes I own on now. More than I ever wore in my life before. Most days I have to wear my great coat all day and have to walk around inside to try and keep warm.

Jan. 16, 1943 - one letter from Becky this week. it was pretty cold the first part of the week. We darn near froze. the last part has been better. The snow is melting again. I hope it stays nice. We had a shower this week. The first in over three weeks. The rations seem to be getting smaller every week, if they get much smaller we will be a hungry bunch before too long.

April 11, 1943 - what a difference from a year ago. Becky and I were in Stirling on our honeymoon then + and were having a glorious time. I wish this damn war was over so I could get back to her. She is starting to feel the pinch now + by her letters it has nearly gotten her down.

August 8, 1943 - It's a year ago yesterday that I last talked to Becky on the phone. I'd give everything I own to just hear her voice again for a few min.

Sept. 3, 1943 - the mail is sure getting pretty scarce. We were moved again this week after a big row with the air force back to Block 3 + what a dirty place it is. Bed bugs and filth ankle deep + flies galore.

Jan. 9, 1944 - The weather has been hellish, rain, snow, frost + more rain and snow + its muddier than ever. I wish this was was over. I'm starting to get fed up with things + I want to get home to Becky.

Jan. 16, 1944 - The last letter from Becky she was in Stirling. How I wished I could have been there with her. We had such a happy time there together when on our honeymoon. I think as soon as I get back I'll just pack her off up there again for a few days. Just lock the door + put a note on it to say were away + would be back when we get there.

As the New Year broke, Chub and many of the other Canadians were relocated to another stalag near Stargard in northern Germany. Much of their time there was spent labouring on nearby farms.

Jan. 23, 1944 - all the Canadian privates are being moved away from here to another camp the next couple of weeks.

Feb 6, 1944 - We got moved OK. Left VIIIB Wed. p.m. + got here to Stargard Sat. morn. 40 in a boxcar. It was pretty crowded. It's a nicer camp, more sanitary. The boys are all being sent out to work on farms.

Feb. 13, 1944 - we were told this morning that orders had been given by the Supreme Command that owing to the good treatment of German POWs in Canada, we were to be given good jobs and treated as well as possible.

June 6, 1944 - the word is going around that the Second Front started this morning. Hope it's true this time.


Murray's writes ...

Poland is a beautiful country - rolling farmland with lush, thick forests. It also has a great air of prosperity today, with only an occasional glimpse of the old Stalinist architecture evident. First rate infrastructure etc. The weather is gorgeous.

We found our way to the little village where the POW camp had been and were given a nice tour of the museum. They've done a good job of it, and we were glad to have been here. We then drove down various back roads to see where the camp had actually been (it was destroyed after the war, but there are a few remains of buildings still standing).
Today, it's all the most wonderful forest. On this warm, sunny day, you should have heard the birds singing as we drove and walked through it. It just felt so beautiful, perhaps the most pleasant woods I've ever enjoyed. Doesn't that tell us something about nature's ultimate victory over men's folly and cruelty (and I do mean "men")? It felt to me like the area was being healed by those birds, and by the beauty of the woods that had grown up from this very earth which had borne such sadness and death.

The Final Marches

By early 1945, Russian and Allied troops were moving rapidly towards Germany. In a move to keep prisoners from being liberated, the Germans evacuated the camps on short notice, and marched tens of thousands of POWs around the German countryside. This final stage of their journey came in the midst of one of the coldest winters in memory, with temperatures dropping as low as -25 at times. The men were already weakened by years of inadequate diet, dysentry, and disease, and many subsequently died during what became known as the "death marches."

Chub's diary recounts the start of the marches, but then there is a gap of about five weeks in his recordings of his experience. Here are some of the most telling entries in his diary:

Feb. 2, 1945 - Back in the Stlag this morning. We were given 1 hr to get ready to leave. We left at 9 am, started out with our packs on our backs and all our grub in a wagon. We had the best team and teamster in the place. We were passed by team after team of evacuees, all in a panic to get away from the Russians who were five kilos behind them with tanks. We took back roads to get away from them and marched 43kilos that day and got to the Stalag around 7 pm. We were pretty tired + leg weary. We were the first party to come in. Everything is in an uproar. Our old farm was supposed to be in Russian hands the day we left. At present, the Russians have given our guards two hours to give up and a jerry officer said they were going to defend Stargard so we are not out of the woods yet.

Feb 22, 1945 - On the road. We left Stargard this morning of the 6th, marched 3 days, rested one, marched 3 more, rested on, marched 2 more + have been here ever since. Its a hell of a life. We were issued one full parcel each before we left + two days German rations. Our packages were pretty heavy to start with but they soon got lighter. A lot of the boys threw blankets and overcoats away but have regretted it since. We have to sleep in straw barns without lights. The first two days of the march were really the worst. We circled Stettin and are now somewhere north of Berlin, but are still in (illegible). We were pretty hungry for a few days, no rations of any kind. One day there was 7 loaves of bread for 200.

April 1, 1945 - Easter Sunday - Off the road at last... Things got pretty tough on the road. We never knew whether we were going to get anything to eat or not. We would march for three days and possibly stay in one place for a week then on again. They don't seem to have any definite place to take us. The roads are full of evacuees and civies. I had been bothered with my stomach for a few days + it really got bad after were were on the road for a day. It turned into dysentry. The third day I got so weak I had to fall out + go on the wagon. I laid over for a day + 20 of the sickest were sent by themselves. We were taken into (illegible) +put into a railway coach on the siding for the day. The French prisoners working around there treated us good, brought us milk, bread, coffee + spuds. The next morning we started off by coach but at the first stop we had to get out + make room for civies + were put into an open coal car. At (illegible) we spent all PM shunting around with the yard engine. We were on our way to the stalag at Lucknow. When we got there about 10 PM no one knew anything about a stalag. We slept on the floor in the station that night + next morning were taken to a French commando 3 km away. We stayed there all the day till noon the next day when we left for Schwerin. We got there around 11 PM that night. We thought it was going to be a big stalag, but it was just a small one, mostly French and Russians. It's a regular death hole. I was never in such a dirty place in my life, overcrowded, men sleeping on the floor, no medical care, no red cross or anything.

April 9, 1945 - My third wedding anniverary! Becky wasn't very far from my thoughts all day. I'll bet she has been doing a lot of thinking about me this last while. Wondering where I am and what's been happening.

I was into the civie Dr. on Wed. He gave me some medicine for my stomach, which seems to be helping a lot. No sign of getting any Red Cross yet, although we have been given lots of promises.

April 15, 1945 - A very eventful week. On Wed. we were taken 12 km to be de-loused as several of the boys had lice. Spent a good day with the rackets. Could have bought the town if we'd had cigs etc. There were a lot of American fighter planes flying around on Friday + we could hear them strafing + machine gunning all afternoon. The noise was terrific. The front is only about 60 km from us at present + moving fast. We got a full parcel last night and what a difference it makes to have a meal and a decent cig to smoke.

April 22, 1945 - A very good week. Lots of planes! There has been 5 or 6 Spitfires partolling the main roads in this area all week + straffing anything that looks like it might belong to the army. There has also been quite a few troops come past, they are all ready to call it quits and will sell anything they own for a few cigs. A full parcel each on Tues. and a 1/2 parcel each on Friday so we are getting filled up again.

May 2nd, 1945 - The end is in sight. Jerry troops have been pouring past all day retreating from the front. At present, the British + Canadian troops are 8 or 10 km away + are just followng up the retreating troops. The Jerries are just as glad as we are and are just waiting for a chance to give themselves up. We are on a kind of stand-in at present + will have lookouts posted all night to give us warning that our troops are coming ...

Post-war life

Chub was liberated on May 3, 1945 and reunited with Becky soon after. He was shipped home in July, after receiving medical treatment in England. Becky followed in November, 1945, on a ship carrying war brides to their new home in Canada.

They spent their first winter in Manitoba, staying with Chub's sister Opal and her family outside of Winnipeg. Becky found the climate and landscape of the prairies too bleak compared to the green hills of Loch Lomond, so they next year they moved to Fort William (now Thunder Bay) where they finally were able to build their life together.Chub gained year-round employment at Chippewa Park, a large city park along the shore of Lake Superior. In the summers, he and Becky together ran the Tourist Camp, where they made many friends over the years.Their home for eight months of the year was a small log cabin with a wood stove and no running water ("running water" meant running and getting it). In the summers, they lived in a different little house at the tourist camp.While their marriage had a very fragile start, it proved to be a good one, and the years that followed the war were the happiest of their lives. Two boys were soon born: Iain in 1947, and Murray in 1950 and they enjoyed a happy family life, blessed with a large extended family in the city, and a wonderful environment at the park in which to live, work, and raise their kids.The shadow that constantly loomed over their lives, however, was Chub's health, which never regained its strength after the war. He spent a part of each year in the veterans' hospital in Winnipeg, usually to have kidney stones removed. A request to the National Archives in 2001 brought forth over 800 pages of medical records for his fourteen years after the war, including a total of 391 days spent in the hospital.

On November 3rd, 1959, Chub died suddenly from a heart attack while at work. He was buried on November 5, on what would have been his 51st birthday. Iain was 12, Murray had just turned 9.

 Becky remained a widow and continued to live at the park until her death in 1983.
For her story, go to and scroll down to "Scottish war brides Becky Angus"

Iain and Murray in Krakow, Poland, at the end of their own journey together.