History

Valour in Saint-Lambert-sur-Dives by Ben Moogk

////

“Photographer: Lieut.D.I.Grant – Roll 84 and 85 – 19 Aug 44
Location: St.Lambert sur Dives
Story: “B” Coy Argyll Sutherlands have a field day with Jerry.

Today we got as far as Trun and find it well in the hands of the 4th Div a rumour was circulated that the Americans had linked with The Canadians at St.Lambert Sur Dives – we made the run to the town and found the 54 men of “B” Coy Argyll and Sutherland  Highlanders capturing and controlling the town with a terrific number of prisoners.  We joined them shortly after noon today.”

The actions of Major David Vivian Currie at Saint-Lambert-sur-Dives earned him the Victoria Cross, and an important part of the story is a photograph taken by Lieutenant Donald I. Grant MC of the Canadian Film and Photo Unit. The photograph was captioned by Colonel C. P. Stacey in his official history “…as close as we are likely to come to a photograph of a man winning the Victoria Cross.” Currie’s medal was purchased in 2018 for the Canadian War Museum so that it would be available to all Canadians.

What has not been available to Canadians is the cine footage that goes with the photograph. Off to the left edge of the frame in Grant’s photograph, and often cropped out, is Sergeant Jack Stollery MM filming the scene. Somewhere to the right and with the jeeps is another cameraman, Sergeant Lloyd Millon. Somehow their footage was never made available to the Canadian public, despite it being one of the most dramatic scenes filmed in Canadian history. Fragments of the footage can be seen in the Canadian Army Newsreel, and in “Canada at War: The Norman Summer”, but the most stunning scenes are missing and what remains is intercut with other events which obscures the story behind the footage. The two examples where most of the footage is still largely intact are with foreign newsreels and still there is no recognition of the significance of these scenes.

The photographer, Donald Grant, only took fifteen photographs, frames 38872 through 38886, that day with his Speed Graphic, a bulky and complex camera that took generously-sized 3¼ by 4¼ inch negatives. Frame 38879 is the famous photograph. The cine cameraman seen on the left of the frame 38879, Jack Stollery, shot four rolls of one hundred feet, his rolls 34 through 37. The other cine cameraman, Lloyd Millon, shot another three rolls, his rolls 47 through 49 with his last roll being censored. Nothing of that last roll survives. The day ended badly for the film and photo section when everyone in their party, except for Grant who had been wounded the previous month, were wounded by German machine gun fire on the way back to their camp. They were pinned down for five hours before they could get themselves out of chaos of the Falaise Gap.

Why was the footage suppressed? My best guess is that it was suppressed in order to avoid the perception that Currie was awarded the VC because he had been lucky enough to have someone film the drama of that day. Currie appears several times in the photographs and cine footage wearing his camouflaged helmet and with his revolver in hand while taking prisoners in at least two incidents. I believe he is in front of the the cameras so often, not because he was seeking publicity, but because he was making himself visible to his men. This isolated group of Canadians were at risk of being swept aside by the stampede of Germans trying to escape the Falaise Pocket and Currie’s men needed him to set an example of courage.

His courage was not unique that day. The Poles were fighting even harder just down the road, but only a handful of photos were taken during that action and the Victoria Cross was not available to them as they were not serving under our King. They were in a such a desperate state on Hill 262, the Maczuga, that they did not expect to survive the night as waves of Germans tried to eliminate them from the hill top. I suspect one of the reasons Millon, who spoke Polish, went to Saint Lambert was in case the film and photo section made contact with the Poles. However the allied units trying to block the German retreat could not keep in reliable contact with one another until the next day and the Poles might as well have been on the other side of the planet.

Curries investiture for his Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace was, in contrast, covered in detail and was striking because he refused to change out of his “pixie suite”, the insulated overalls worn in battle by soldiers in the Armoured Corps. His refusal to abide by the tradition of presenting himself in a clean and pressed uniform can be interpreted in many ways. Likely it was not meant disrespectfully, but that he felt that taking time to see the King in London was just taking him away from doing his duty. By then the Allied victory in Normandy was old news, and the cine footage taken on 19 August was of no interest to the newsreels. Sadly the original negatives were lost in the NFB fire of 1967.

Who gets medals has much to do with one’s superior officer as the bravery shown. Some officers felt that those under them were doing the job and recognizing one man’s bravery over another’s to be unfair, while other officers could be quite generous about giving their men recognition. Stollery’s Military Medal was given because of how he exposed himself to enemy fire to get the cine footage he took in Ortona. Donald I. Grant got his Military Cross because he had been wounded trying to recover the body of Lew Currie at Carpiquet. Both Stollery and Grant were recommended for their awards by their Colonel, Dick Malone.

Awards and recognition have proved to be a mixed blessing for many recipients. Once invested they are often called upon to be public figures, a job many were not prepared for. Looking at the lives of others who were awarded the Victoria Cross one often finds controversy. Smokey Smith was opinionated and a rogue which made him a misfit in the Army. Paul Triquet’s support of Quebec independence later in life embarrassed many of his peers. If these men did not have the Victoria Cross, then none of these things would be notable as they would be the kind of behaviour we would expect to find in normal individuals. Thankfully, one of the traditions of the Victoria Cross is that it cannot be taken away because their bravery stands no matter what else the individual does. A good thing too, considering the kind of trouble in which most people can find themselves.

Many veterans have expressed discomfort at being called heroes, a title which leaves little room for their humanity, and a few have made the comment that the only heroes are those they buried and left behind. A number of people identified in the photographs and footage taken in Saint Lambert did not make it home. We known McAllister was killed in action in October 1944 trying to rescue a comrade. Millon’s roll 49 was censored, but his notes identify Private Joe Hoopes of the US Army. Hoopes had escaped German captivity and found salvation with the Canadians in Saint Lambert, only to be killed in action in April 1945. Lloyd Millon himself was killed in action in November 1944 and has no known grave.

Once one becomes familiar with these images taken at Saint-Lambert-sur-Dives, one sees them everywhere, recycled in too many documentaries to count, stripped of context, and becoming B-roll material to keep audiences engaged during the telling of other people’s stories. The story behind the images was lost and the images became a mask to hide our history. After David Vivian Currie died, his wife sold his Victoria Cross for a fraction of money spent by the Canadian public to buy it back. The original footage of his actions were destroyed out of neglect. Copies of the footage are now scattered in fragments around the world.

“Prod. No. SC 1040 A
Cameraman: Sgt. Stollery.
Story: “B” Coy Argyll and Sutherland have a field day with Jerry.
Location: St. Lambert sur Dives.
Date Shot: 19 Aug. 44
Also covered by: Lieutenant. Grant. Sgt. Millon Length:400 ft.

Roll 1(Stollery, roll 34)
2 shots of prisoners being brought in by A&S Regt. Several shots of a German office as he drove into out forward lines. He evidently didn’t know how far advanced we were and he was so dumb struck that we had him stopped and unarmed before he even knew what it was all about.  He came in on a m/c [motorcycle] sidecar and there was a heavy vehicle following him. They were also take prisoners.

Roll 2. (Stollery, roll 35)
Film and Photo takes more prisoners, with the help of Major D.V. Currie, Moose Jaw, Sask. of the South Alberta Regt. We found this German in the house and Major Currie at (sic) [Leiut. D.I.] Grant and myself took them prisoners. There were several shots the first one as Maj.  Currie stood by the building ordering them to come out. The rest were as they kicked over a shuttered window and stepped through it into our hands. Another shot as they grouped in the road, and the last of Major Currie as he marched them away. The balance of the roll was taken of more Germans as we showed ourselves and ordered them to put their hands up they broke and ran. The first shot was as they ran but it is very short as they started to fire on us.  We then brought a tank up, and it fired through the orchard, and I shot the trees tracers going in and ricocheting off the trees etc.

Roll 3 (Stollery, roll 36)
Am (sic) Argyll and Sutherland runs past a burning Sherman tank and ducks into a house for cover.
3 shots of a burning tiger tank which has just been knocked out by a Piat gun.
The A.& S run down the street advancing to the corner of another house.

Roll 4 (Stollery, roll 37)
2 shots of A & S running down the road, hugging the edges as a Bren Gunner keeps them covered as they go after snipers. An A & S fires at a sniper in the bushes up ahead.  The balance of the roll was taken as we took more prisoners the majority of whom turned out to be Mongolians of some sort, whom the Germans were using as a xx labour battalion. Note: The rank of the officer captured on the m/c [motorcycle] was said to be a Capt. But from another source I am told that he was at least a Col. so I am not sure.  The most of these pics were taken under great excitement and some may be a bit unsteady. Hope not. See Lt. Grants. and Sgt. Millon for more details of this show.

Prod. No. xxxxxxxxxx SC 1040 B
Cameraman: Sgt. Millon
Story: St. Lambert Sur Dives
Date Shot: 19 Aug 44 Length: 300 ft.

St. Lambert Sur Dives was attacked by “B” Coy of the Argyll and Sutherland early this morning.  Capt. I. H. Martin I/c of xxxxxxx Coy Lt. A.J.Dalpe (who was wounded and carriedon throughout the day) Lt. Armour, together with 57 men, all through the day, this company has been bringing in prisoners about 1000 to 12000 (sic) [1,000 to 1,200] in all. Pte McAllister E. H. of Hamilton himself accounted for 150 prisoners “B” Coy also captured a Tiger Tank, 3 Half-tracks and a S.P. 88mm gun and one American jeep and 12 other vehicles.

Roll 1 (Millon, roll 47) Various shots of Nazi prisoners surrendering to the Argyll and Sutherland.  LS Capt. Martin, firing down road where Germans refuse to give up.
MS More prisoners coming in. Showing Jerry leading horse and buggy. Various shots following a patrol to clean up St. Lambert Sur Dives. A number of snipers are still about.

Roll 2 (Millon, roll 48) About two hundred prisoners, giving themselves up. MS Pte McAllister, E.H. Hamilton. Ont. in Jerry Jeep, who accounted for at least 150 prisoners. MS Prisoners arriving on top of horses.

Roll 3 (Millon, roll 49) MS Pte. Joe H. Hoopes, 39677859, Bois, Idaho of 825 Tank Destroyer Bty 3rd Armour, American was a prisoner who broke away from the Germans, saved by the Argyll and Suth. Talking to Capt. I.H. Martin (Toronto) and Major Currie, D.V. Moose Jaw. CU Pte. Joe Hoopes. MS Argyll and Suth. Boys talking to Pte. Joe Hoopes. MS Jerry prisoner with hand on hip.”

*In the interest of fidelity, I’ve included all typos in these documents.

© Ben Moogk 2021

Alicia Chambers – RCAF – Leading Aircraft Woman

///

Phone conversation originally recorded, March 8th, 2013. Edited by Dale Gervais, January 1, 2021.

Alicia Chambers : I was born in Lethbridge, Alberta and we lived in New Dayton, which was sunny southern Alberta (said with a sarcastic chuckle).

Well, once I graduated from high-school, I went to Calgary, and I was supposed to become a teacher. We would be teaching within three months, and I didn’t think it was a good enough education, and when the newspaper made the WD (women’s division) ad survey attractive in saying that the photography trade had opened to individual women, that appealed to me and I went in and I told the recruiting officer that I would like to be a photographer, he said, “Oh no no, we’ll put you where we need you”, and I said “No, thanks, I can’t go back home and tell my Dad that”, so I got a letter from both the WD’s and the Airforce telling me I could be a photographer.

What drew your eye to that vocation?

Well, in high-school most of the boys were leaving high-school to go immediately into the airforce, or into the army. My brother went to the Calgary Tanks. I preferred the Airforce.

Was it the most attractive vocation at the time?

Well I had heard rumours about GD’s, General Duties, and you had no control about where you went. And so I couldn’t go home and tell my Dad I might be working in a kitchen or something. And he seriously wanted me to become a teacher. At the time, the trades for women were nursing and teaching, and of course clerks, but I actually wanted a University education, and I was given to understand the length of time you put in the service, you could have in University following the service. That was also a big attraction, because this was the Depression we were coming out of.

How old were you exactly when you enlisted?

19.

What happened after high-school, and enlistment?

Well, there was a whole coach-load of girls going down to Rockliffe. They were Red Cross, CWAC’s and Airforce, and I was designated to come to Rockliffe for Manning training, (Manning Depot, Rockliffe).  And it was completely full because there were so many girls coming. On the course I was in, there was 22 girls and 10 men. They wouldn’t take a man into photography unless he had previous experience, but the girls were welcomed. The men sorted of resented this, we could get in with no knowledge period.

After I graduated Manny, we were sent to Dauphin, Manitoba. This was in the fall that we went to Dauphin, Manitoba, and it was for contact training. And there we learned all about the photography trade and taking pictures, developing film, mixing chemicals, and everything that went along with it. And a little bit of aerial. We thoroughly learned the aerial cameras, and it’s gearbox. The aerial camera was, in theory, if we were up in the air and something went wrong, that we should be able to repair it. We learned the intervalometer which would time the spacing of the pictures. You could set the camera, and it would automatically take the pictures at the intervals we required.

We were trained on aerial cameras and view cameras. There was two aerial cameras, one was the F24 which was a larger one that was mounted in the belly of the aircraft, and then there was a handheld oblique that we could shoot at an angle out the window.

At the station we had view cameras, they were big cameras, they took film. The smallest film that they took was a 5 x 7 sheet. You could go up larger but then the 4 x 5 came in, and the Speed Graphic, which you see in the movies with the big flash gun. If we were taking a picture on a course photo we would be carrying the big view cameras down the stairs with its tripod and setting it up. With us, film was at a premium. Everything was scarce. Every shot had to count. What we used to do the odd time if we had some scraps of film leftover, we would go in the darkroom and cut it down to fit the Speed Graphic camera, and then rather than waste it, we used it on the side.

How long did the training at Manning last?

Training would have been three months. It was very concentrated. But with the contact training it was not a big problem.

Manning was No. 7 Manning Depot in Rockliffe. Rockliffe was a big photo centre for all Canada. And if you had heard about the White House, it was the big training centre, when we went there, there was even a movie theatre there, and it expanded, and it was a centre where all the mapping, the Canadian mapping was done. Actually they had a large medical division in there. It was a very busy place. When we went in for initial training, there would have been over 300 people. They took a picture of us with a panorama (camera). All 300 ! It would be September the 3rd, 1943, that the picture might have been taken. Around that time, between September and October.

What happened after training?

We were asked what area we wanted to be, and we took eastern air command because I had come from the west and I wanted to see the country, so they sent us to Dartmouth to await posting. And it was interesting while we were awaiting posting, they had us waiting on the Officers in the Mess. I had never seen lobster served, and I thought that was a pretty sickening experience, throwing these poor lobsters in the boiling water! And then, having to cut their stomachs with a cleaver, and spreading the guck around, and my girlfriend, Betty and I had met on the train going to Dauphin, all her postings coincided with mine, and we decided to pull the legs off the lobsters because they didn’t look nice, and that was a delicacy. So, we were soon told not to do that! I don’t know if we were there for a matter of two weeks, and then we went to Summerside (PEI).

What did you do at Summerside?

Summerside was a ground reconnaissance school, and thats where the pilots, navigators, and observers were posted before going overseas. What we did there, it was a training school. We would load cameras, the F24’s. The instructors would assign a point to go and photograph, and we would go and get the photograph, get the film out of the camera, develop it and then return it to the instructor, so then the instructor could see how knowledgeable these people were. What we would do when a new course would come in, Betty and I were sort of the designated girls to do it. They would be thirty or so many, we would line them up outside with the view camera, we’d get their names, and then we would annotate the negative with the name on their chest and give it to the instructor, and the instructor could look at the picture and know who to call up.

What was your designated rank by then?

I was an LAW (Leading Air Woman), A Group. There was not much room for promotions for the girls, cause these positions were already held by men. Not too many female officers there, lots of Corporals and Sergeants. The positions were already filled when we got there.

What did your uniform patch look like?

To designate my rank there was a prop, a propellor and then the trade, it looked like a washing machine, it was a little aerial camera, it was a little badge with an aerial camera. Yes I still have it. They found out early when sending younger girls overseas they got homesick. It was quite an adjustment to go over to England where there was the bombing and everything. I think you had to be 23 or something before they sent you overseas. There was a lot of older girls. In my course there was a former teacher with a B.A. She was to be considered to become an officer.

Did you ever get overseas?

No, I didn’t get overseas. I was only in a matter of two years. Once there were no more course going through, people to be trained, I was sent to Rockliffe again, and I was attached to the Medical Division there. As the POWs and airmen that were injured overseas came back, we would photograph them and the ones needing plastic surgery. We would do a progress record of them, of their healing, and their faces being restored. You’d see a man with one eyebrow, and then the next time you would see him, he’d have his other eyebrow! We would not take the pictures ourself, we would have been developing all that film and making the big record books. I would imagine they would have used the 4 x 5, the Speed Graphic, and the Crown Graphic, one of those cameras that took a smaller film, 4 x 5. The 35mm now were just coming in from Germany, the Leicas and the Rolleicords, cameras like that. We did all the preparation of the films.

Actually before I left Summerside when the other stations were closing, the libraries were sending all their books to Summerside, and I went and worked as a Librarian for two or three months, helping the librarian catalogue all these books that were coming in, and then I was posted back to Rockliffe. My fiance was posted to the Pacific so we got married in Halifax.

The end of the war came, and my fiance didn’t go to the Pacific. He was just released, so I was married to a civilian, and at that time all the married girls that were married to a civilian were automatically released. It was a very good life, and it was a very interesting life.

What were some of your photo assignments as a Leading Air Woman?

Graduations. Always graduations, and of course anybody that was promoted that was of any consequence, we did portraits of them. When I was in Dauphin Manitoba I used to have to carry a projector out and set it up and show the training films. We were in charge with anything that pertained with photography.

Do you have any photos of you posing with your camera?

No, there are no pictures of me, but I have a picture of my husband in his flying gear, with a helmet on and everything.

What happened after you got married?

I stayed with photography. I liked my photography, and I married a photographer, and with a third photographer partner, we opened a photo studio, and we named it Alicia Photos. That was in Belleville. We moved to Belleville. It worked out pretty good. We started out with 2-1/4″ square cameras and worked into the 35mm’s. And one time everybody shared the same cameras but, they weren’t taking very good care of them so we decided the smartest move would be to assign a reporter a camera and then they would be responsible for it. There was another pair of lads that came in from the air force, and they opened a studio, and all of a sudden there wasn’t enough business for everybody. 

Where did you work next?

I went to the newspaper, The Belleville Intelligencer. The newspaper didn’t have a photography department as such, and they didn’t have engraving. We had one reporter that had a Speed Graphic camera, and he was to take all the pictures, and then the pictures would have to be sent to Kingston to be engraved, and it was kind of neat because they’d drive them to Kingston, and then people in Kingston would meet them partway back, so they wouldn’t have to make the whole trip to get the pictures. The pictures turned into the engraving plates to put on the press. So what happened, that was the time when they put in oil furnaces and the coal bins was vacated so they tiled it and fixed it all up and that became my photo area. And I had an engraving machine called a Klischograph, and I would engrave, I’d make the photographs and engrave them. I was a pretty busy person. I taught the reporters how to take pictures whether they wanted to or not. So I worked there for 30 years. At the newspaper I was in charge of photography, and when Trudeau came to Belleville I covered that, and I covered Roland Michener. It was an interesting career because I was in a central position where I did all of the photography for the commercial printing for books being published. I took pictures, I did engravings, yearbooks, and in 1967, when there were so many centennial things going on, we got quite involved. I did advertising photography, and I always had something to keep me moving.

So, my photo course did me well !

Gallery pictures courtesy, Alicia Chambers, and The Memory Project – http://www.thememoryproject.com/stories/1189:alicia-chambers/

To learn more about the RCAF Women’s Division, be sure to read, We Serve That Men May Fly by Mary Ziegler.

Forever Changed – Stories From the Second World War

/////

Currently available to the public until September 6, 2021, is a new exhibition entitled : “Forever Changed – Stories From the Second World War,” is now on at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

What is of specific interest to visitors of the CFPU website, is that Sgt. Hugh McCaughey, combat cameraman of the Canadian Army Film Unit, is one of many Canadian stories featured in this exhibition.

Divided into four ‘zones’; ZONE 1: SUPPORTING AND DEFENDING, ZONE 2: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY, ZONE 3: THE WAR AGAINST JAPAN, and ZONE 4: A COUNTRY SHAPED BY WAR.

It is within ‘Zone 02’ that visitors will find more information about Sgt. McCaughey. But you will not have to wait until then to see Sgt. McCaughey; Hugh is also featured in the online banner for the exhibition; threading film into his 35mm Bell & Howell motion picture camera.

For those fortunate to be in the Ottawa area, or for those looking for something to do, I highly recommend visiting the Canadian War Museum to see this exhibit, along with many of the other exhibits and displays available to the public.

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

For Canada, the Second World War was a global conflict. For individual Canadians, it was personal. Developed to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Forever Changed weaves together a diverse range of stories with 175 compelling artifacts, exploring the personal experience of war across Canada and around the world.

“From a parachutist penning one last letter before being dropped into danger, to a “bomb girl” who was burned on the job; from a prisoner of war who turned to art to cope with the misery, to a Japanese Canadian teenager forced to move 600 kilometres from home; this new exhibition brings to life the impact of the Second World War on the lives of Canadians.”

Please browse through the gallery in this post to view many of the details to what you can be sure to see in the Forever Changed exhibition featuring Sgt. Hugh McCaughey, and a few images of some of what awaits.

Lastly, many thanks to the McCaughey family for sharing their families legacy by donating the collection of their fathers letters home during WWII , now available for research purposes at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit the Canadian War Museum online…

Forever Changed: an exhibition developed by the Canadian War Museum.

1 2 3 11