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The Canadians in England "Engulfed by a Military Tidal Wave"
Within two months of Canada’s entry to WWII on September 10, 1939, the first contingents of Canadian troops began arriving in the United Kingdom. In 1942, Canadians, initially serving in the United Kingdom, would participate in the Battle at Dieppe, and in 1943, the Sicily and Italy Campaigns; however, between 1941 and June of 1944 Canadian soldiers served in the defence of the United Kingdom. During this time the defence of Sussex coast was largely in the hands of the 1st Canadian Army.
The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions and other formations spent many months in Sussex. Although most were based in southern England there were few places were at one time or another Canadians could not be found. Among a collection of wartime souvenirs, carried home by a Canadian soldier, was a newspaper clipping describing the Arrival of the Canadians in a English village.
With almost shattering suddenness our little village of Winton was engulfed by a military tidal wave. It’s quiet “off the map” atmosphere vanished in an instant as trucks swirled down the winding street engulfed the garages, and spilled a flood of khaki out on to the pavement. I stood dazed and aghast. Beset on all sides with the nosy din of arrival, my ears were deafened with the lively voices of ringing Canadian voices. That was the way Winton was occupied by the Canadian Army. It filled the pubs, It filled the cinema. It swept the shops bare in a week. It stuck notices painted with bright yellow maple leafs all over the place. In short, the Canadians were everywhere and we hated it like hell! We heartily detested having our quiet ordered peace disturbed in this rude manner. But there was nothing we could do about it. IT was just another unpleasant effect of the war like bombs, blackout, and rationing. That is how it was at first. Then a subtle change came about and a different aspect of the situation began to make itself apparent. The Canadian lads cast their engaging eyes on the Winton lasses. Canadian arms began to appear about Winton waists. After that the infiltration began in earnest. Canadians began to appear in our homes. We found them dropping in for an occasional cup of tea, always ready to occupy themselves with any little old jobs that wanted doing about the home. They seemed to appreciate homes. So gradually, in spite of ourselves we grew fond of them and found that we were laughing indulgently at the larks which had previously filled is with such horrified disgust. They had some endearing ways too. For instance, they one and all appeared shy of accepting anything to eat. This puzzled me at first. Did they think we were trying to poison them? Then it dawned on me that they were reluctant to take other folk’s rations. What nice boys they were when one came to know them. Units came. Units went. But always the quota was full. The entire village was caught up in a new life. Dances were held twice a week. National Service Association Entertainment shows arrived – to which the Canadians took their English friends. Never in its life before had Winton known such gaiety, such excitement. There was always something doing! Then D-Day Came. They have all gone now. The village of Winton is deserted. Empty-seemingly like a house after the kids have gone to school. We wander about gazing sadly at the few battered tin maple leafs which have got left behind. We sigh deeply for the sound of Canadian voices. It seems a long time now since that first noisy day. We look back on our early horror with astonishment. How could we have been so stupid, so short sighted. I saw a Canadian in Winton the other day. I suppose he had returned on leave. He was a tough=looking guy but oh boy, did that scarlet diamond shoulder flash look home-like. Cheerio Canada! Come back again some day, won’t you.
The Wartime Heritage Association presented the article in “Echoes of the Forties - Songs and Stories of a Wartime Generation” in its Nova Scotia performance tour during September, October and November of 2007. Photo Gallery
Audio version of the article presented by Chantal Boudreau during a live performance in November 2008.