Posts - Page 2

A father and son remember the Canadians in the Pas-de-Calais in September 1944

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I was recently contacted by a visitor to the website seeking information on the Canadian involvement during WWII around the Boulogne and Calais area of France. Specifically, Steve Ann, from Suffolk, England, was seeking the whereabouts of the Canadian Army Film & Photo Unit (CAFPU) for his research during the Fall of 1944. In exchange for information, Steve agreed to share some images of he and his son posing as U.S. Signal Corps cameramen. Looking at the images, I could not help but note that in many of the images Steve and his son Jordan posed in, were eerily similar to poses taken in many of the images of the CAFPU. So, in collaboration, Steve and I agreed to juxtapose his images with those of the CAFPU. Thanks to Steve and Jordan. Enjoy!

 

My name is Steve Ann and together with my son Jordan, We have been visiting the battlefields of the Pas-de-Calais, France for the past 17 years. We live in Suffolk, England and are approximately three hours from the battlefields of France. For us our trips combine several hobbies, world war two history, photography, re-enacting and collecting ww2 artefacts including cameras.

I am putting together a collection of my own black and white photographs of the remaining elements of the Atlantic Wall and the V Weapons sites. Many of which have been destroyed or lost to the sands of time over the years. As you know the Canadian 1st Army swept up the channel coast after D-Day, and the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division liberated the Boulogne and Calais area. In September 1944 it was one of the most heavily fortified parts of the Atlantic Wall, being nearest to England.

Where the infantry and armour went, so did the Canadian Film and Photo Unit (abbreviated to CFPU). 35mm movie footage was shot of the battles for Boulogne, Cap Gris-Nez and Calais. Cameras such as the Bell and Howell 35mm Eyemo were the main weapon of choice for the CFPU cameramen. Not only were they used hand-held or on a tripod, but some were attached to tanks in combat to capture the up close action.

When my son and I display at re-enactment shows in England, we remind the public that all the photographs and movie footage they see was actually taken by the brave men such as the CFPU; who risked life and limb to get “the shot”. Combat units featured in the headlines at the time, but the camera units were there at the front too! Brave men such as Lt. Grant and Lt. Bell

Jordan and I have often walked the Pas-de-Calais battlefields in the footsteps of the CFPU; sometimes standing on the spot where original photographs were taken. Some of the most famous photographs taken by the cameramen are the cross channel guns, of which some still remain to this day, including the Todt Battery of four casemates. One of which is now an excellent museum. I am at present researching the 25th of September 1944, and the battles of Cap Blanc-Nez, Noire Mottes and Belle Vue. All won by the Canadian units and accompanied by the CFPU.

I hope you have found this article interesting. Kind Regards, Steve and Jordan.

Engelen Research: Tracking the Canadian Army Film & Photo Unit

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Dear reader,

My name is Wilton Desmense and I live in The Netherlands. In this article I would like to show how researchers, even from abroad, can benefit from the work of the Canadian Film and Photo Unit. I never had a special interest in World War Two. However it was aroused by the discovery of a document with mysterious abbreviations in the archives of Angrisa, the name of a local historical society in Engelen, a township near ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the south part of the Netherlands. One thing led to another, and so my simple research into the meaning of the document has grown into an extensive study of the Engelen liberation months. As a retired teacher (I am 69 years old) of the ancient Greek and Latin languages, I had plenty of time for it. Finding images also proved challenging. In addition, I came across a computer program, which was very easy to use for coloring black and white photos. Sometimes the results add to the contemporary experience. So do not wonder about the origin of some of the color photos that come with this article.

Every 5th of May, the Netherlands commemorates its liberation from the Germans. This year the 75th Liberation Day could not have the attention it deserves (due to the pandemic). The south part of the country however has already been celebrating its liberation in September, October or November last year. In those post D-Day months, English, Polish and Canadian soldiers drove off the Huns from the land south of the Maas river.

I am living in Engelen, a small village near ‘s-Hertogenbosch and the Maas. Here the Germans had left in the still of the night, and the following day, November 5th, soldiers of the English Highland Division arrived. But the Maas prevented further advancement to the north and remained the front line until the end of the war. This situation was full of danger for the civilian population, so it was decided to evacuate the area along the south bank of the river, leaving just the military to hold the Germans back. From then on several regiments were stationed in these parts, among them from Canada, the Lincoln and Welland, the Lake Superior (Motor), and the 19th Field and the Army Service Corps. Each day and every night patrols would guard the riverbank; from time to time they even crossed the water on reconnaissance missions or to catch a prisoner of war. The Germans did the same and hardly a day passed without shooting and mortar fire back and forth.

Until now little was known about the things going on in Engelen during these months. Recently however a curious document popped up from the local church archives. It most definitely was a military boat timetable between Engelen and the nearby Fort Crèvecoeur situated on the south bank of the Maas, but it contained no further useful information. My curiosity was aroused right away and turned into an extensive investigation into the subject, “The Municipality of Engelen from Liberation to Liberation Day”. Information came forth from various types of sources.

Engelen along with the neighbouring village of Bokhoven was mentioned in books such as the memoirs of Charles D. Kipp (“Because we are Canadians”, ISBN 978-1553651123), military reports and war diaries. One day I was looking through G.F.G. Stanley’s book “In the Face of Danger” (published by The Lake Superior Scottish Regiment in 1960, ISBN B0007JIHZY), when an image caught my attention. In it a sign was visible showing the names of Engelen and Bokhoven. It was a painting  by the war artist Bruno Bobak. I wondered if there was more imagery to be found for my purpose. Et voilà, the Bobak war paintings collection was found at the Canadian War Museum (www.warmuseum.ca), and comprised more of Engelen and its surroundings. Following this surprising result I also searched for photos and films. And so I came upon the website of the Canadian Film and Photo Unit  and read several news bulletins published by Dale Gervais with interesting information about its activities, cameramen and photographers during World War II. In particular the mention of the online availability on YouTube of the Canadian Army Newsreels and British Pathé footage put me on the track of beautiful material, so far unknown to me and other locals or, as I suspect, experts of that period. Thanks to a happy coincidence – on one particular day, the CFPU website seemed to be not functioning anymore – I made contact with Dale. As a free-lance researcher, and volunteer at Library and Archives Canada, he had recently been scanning some ww2 photo albums of Canadian regiments (Army Numerical). He gave me very useful tips in which albums I might find pictures that could be of interest for me. This way I discovered a great number of photo’s of the former concentration camp Vught transformed in  ‘First Canadian Field Punishment Camp and Detention Centre’ (LAC Army Numerical Album No. 94).

There also was the photograph (see below) of a bridge named Sue. Amicably her Canadian creators had called her Sagging Susie. She and the text from the War Diary of the Royal Canadian Engineers (6 Field Park Squadron, 15 November 1944) are a nice couple to use in ending my story, that shows how the help of Dale, and that of Library and Archives Canada in general, benefits investigators researchers like myself:

“Field Stores have one TD 18 and one D4 (Tractor/Bulldozer types) working near SAGGING SUE MR E288443 (Military Region coordinates). The job is the repair of the canal banks where FBE BR (Folding/Floating Bridge Equipment) used to be. This FBE was replaced by SAGGING SUE, a Cl (Class) 9 Bailey. The banks were cut very deeply for this FBE Br. Our Mech Eqpt (Mechanical Equipment) is repairing bank.”

The photo was taken by Lt. Aikman of the CFPU on 17 December 1944. (Army Numerical Album no. 085, LIBRARY & ARCHIVES CANADA) This was the canal the Highland Division crossed 4th November ,1944 in the evening, the day before they reached Engelen, a film of which can be viewed online at film.iwmcollections.org.uk/record/34151.

Cameraman Mike Angelo in action, 1 February 1945. He visited Engelen to film soldiers of The Lake Superior Regiment bringing supplies to the Fort Crèvecoeur. (Army Numerical Album no. 086, LIBRARY & ARCHIVES CANADA) Soldiers of The Lake Superior Regiment transporting supplies to the Fort Crèvecoeur, 11 December 1944. Still from Sgt. Angelo’s film (Canadian Newsreel no. 52).

4 February 1944 war artist Bruno Bobak made a little drawing of the demolished church in Nieuwkuijk near Engelen and worked it out a day later. The picture however was taken in Calcar Germany, as became apparent from one of the albums scanned by Dale. Photographer (Lt. B.J. Gloster) and artist staged a play, according to the album on March the 8th. But the final stage of this enquiry was produced by Bobak himself stating in his day by day report, 3 March 1944: “I was visited by Lt B.J. Gloster, the Film & Photo Officer.”

Aerial picture, taken in 1975, showing the part of Engelen, where an Observation Post of the allies was located. From the attic of the high building next to the church they kept an eye on the Jerry activity. Canadian veteran Len van Roon (born 1921) from Charleswood Winnipeg shared this and more experiences of the time spent in Engelen with the local historical society Angrisa.

Two pictures taken near the Observation Post of the 19th Field Regiment in Engelen. On account of the continuous threat of gun fire by the Germans the men went there by tank (this one was baptized Calamity Jane). Sitting on top of the tank is Len van Roon.

Aerial picture of Engelen, 2010. Above the river Maas meanders, bottom left side on the bank of the canal is Engelen, many times the size it was in 1945.

In Search of D-Day: Charles E. Beddoe

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Click on the image to view the video

In celebration of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, I am reposting this video I did about Charles E. Beddoe, a Royal Canadian Navy Cameraman, who witnessed D-Day aboard LCG939…

When my father first sent me the article on Charles Beddoe, I was surprised to see that there had been a RCN Combat Cameraman living right here in Ottawa since 1958, the same year that I was born! I immediately contacted the Ottawa Citizen, who graciously provided me with his contact information; residing at the Perley & Rideau Veteran’s Health Centre, at 1750 Russell Road.

What happened next became an interesting mix of straightforward interviews, discoveries, and…even more discoveries. Charlie had only recently moved into the Perley & Rideau, when the family had come across a cache of films in their old residence on Browning Avenue, only a few blocks away. This treasure trove launched a series of searches into the vaults at Library & Archives Canada, where I was fortunate to come across footage shot by Charlie.

Was it his D-Day footage that he describes shooting aboard LCG939? This video documents that journey with interviews of Charlie Beddoe, and a step by step account by myself as I mine the vaults at Library & Archives, in search of Charlie’s D-Day footage.

I want to thank the following people in helping me along in the making of this video; Douglas Gervais, Lionel Goddard, Greg Boa, Stéphane Larivière, Tina Harvey, and Greg Eamon. Of course none of this is possible without the participation of the Beddoe family, especially Charlie’s daughter, Margaret Lawrence, and son, William Beddoe.

This film is dedicated to Charlie Beddoe, and all the men and women who served, and continue to serve Canada as military photographers.

Charles Beddoe passed away April 1, 2018 – his films remain a permanent record of Canada’s involvement during WWII, and a testament to Charlie’s will and bravery during a tumultuous moment in world history.

*To view the video copy and paste the following url: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnF1JoJfTqc&feature=youtu.be

(Originally Published: May 13, 2018)