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Memories of a Boy Piper The Wartime Story of MacAllister Ellis [In   1990,   Rev   MacAllister   Ellis   sat   down   with   a   high   school   history   student   from   the   Yarmouth   Consolidated   Memorial   High   School. What follows is a transcript of what Rev Ellis shared of his wartime experience] I   was   first   stationed   in   Westmount   after   which   we   marched   to   Farnham,   sixty   miles   away.      It   was   rout   march   so   we   didn't   do   it in   a   day   or   anything   like   that.      Anyway,   one   of   the   things   about   Farnham   was,   it   was   all   sand.      In   those   days   it   was   called,   'Little Libya'.      There   was   a   prisoner   of   war   camp   there   and   it   was   a   great   place   to   establish   the   military   particularly   under   canvas.      We were in tents and there were several other Battalions there as well as ours. I   got   up   in   the   night,   sleep   walking   and   I   was   wandering   around   and   I   guess   somewhere   I   tripped   over   a   guy-rope   on   a   tent   and I   woke   up   with   the   feeling,   'where   on   earth   am   I'   …   and   one   tent   looks   like   another.   Talk   about   boxes   in   the   suburbs.      You   get   lines and   lines   of   tents   going   for   miles,   you   know.      Where   was   mine   …   with   my   straw   mattress   that   we   were   sleeping   on      And   I   tripped around that night.  God knows how I ever got back.  But   in   many   ways,   I   figure   that   was   sort   of   a   'dream   paradise'   of   things   that   went   on   in   my   youth.      It   had   its   high   points. There are other things that I … I've just chosen to blot out. I don't want to talk about or think about again, you know … but there are other things that I remember. Now,   how   I   won   the   Victoria   Cross   …   (laughs).      Well,   they   never   really   gave   it   to   me;   they   never   realized   what   a   splendid soldier   I   was.   It   was   1942   and   that's   when   the   Japanese   conquered   Hong   Kong.      In   Hong   Kong,   there   were   two   Canadian   Battalions, the   Winnipeg   Rifles,   and   the   Royal   Rifles   of   Quebec.      They   along   with   other   British   troops   were   taken   to   prisoner   of   war   camps   and terribly   used   and   all   that   …   but,   as   soon   as   that   happened   the   word   went   out   that   Canada   was   going   to   replace   those   two   battalions that were lost.  Right   away,   the   Black   Watch   …   you   see   in   those   days   we   did   things   by   regiments   …   and   the   Black   Watch   said,   'we   will   replace one' and I think Winnipeg replaced the other. Now,   at   the   time,   I   had   been   a   piper   in   the   Black   Watch   73rd   Battalion   reserve.      I   was   a   boy.      I   started   when   I   was   twelve years   old.      In   1942   I   was   fourteen   or   fifteen.      Anyway,   they   were   mustering   from   the   reserve   battalions.      We   had   two   reserve battalions.      We   had   one   battalion   on   active   service,   the   13th,   and   the   73rd   were   on   reserve.      Lots   of   guys   were   going.   I   wanted   to go.      In   our   regiment   we   had   a   tremendous   sort   of   'family   feeling'   sort   of   like   a   good   parish   in   a   way.      It   was   very   friendly.      It   still   is.     I still feel that the Black Watch was family to me in a strange way. I   went   before   our   Major.   Every   one   of   us   was   called   before   him.   I   was   a   company   piper   …   'A'   Company.      He   knew   about   me,   my age and all that stuff.  He said, 'Well, MacAllister, this really is not terribly important to you is it?' I   said,   'Well,   I'd   like   to   enlist   and   I'd   like   to   go   on   active   service.'   He   hummed   and   hawed   and   finally   he   said,   'Well,   if   you   can get your father's consent I'll cover for you.' So,   I   went   home   and   I   whined   and   I   think   at   that   age,   a   fifteen   year   old   boy,   my   family,   mostly   my   father,   was   glad   to   say,   'go on,   let   someone   else   look   after   you   [laughs]   …   had   enough   of   you   around   here.'      So,   he   gave   me   the   letter   and   I   went   and   I   enlisted at the Montreal amateur athletic grounds and they shipped me to St. John and also to Farnham for basic training. I   was   in   the   Second   Battalion   then   and   everyone   was   aware   that   I   was   a   child.      There   was   enough,   sort   of,   'ordinary'   people around   us   that   they   saw   to   it   that   I   never   got   into   bad   stuff.      I   never   drank.      I   never   touched   a   drop   while   I   was   in   the   army.   If   I cursed or blasphemed I would have got a fist across the face because I was a youngster and that wasn't right. At   the   same   time   we   had   other   kids   in   the   Regiment,   maybe   some   younger,   maybe   some   older;   but,   mostly   the   same   age   who came   from   an   outfit   in   Montreal   called   the   Highland   Cadets.     The   Highland   Cadets   could   strike   fear   into   the   hearts   of   soldiers. They were   tough   and   they   were   mean.      They   came   out   of   a   definite   Celtic   tradition.   They   were   fighters.   Hobnail   boots   to   be   issued   for sure   for   pleasure,   but,   did   you   really   need   a   bit   of   razor   blade   in   your   balmoral?   These   sorts   of   guys   …   I   never   got   involved   with them, except in a friendly way.  No contempt or anything like that. My   training   continued   as   a   piper,   and   also   in   Frist Aid.      I   was   too   young   to   drive.     You   see,   pipers   are   supposed   to   do   something useful   besides   look   beautiful   and   be   glorious.      So,   I   learned   First Aid,   painted   a   lot   of   rocks   and   did   things   with   the   regular   infantry.     I   became   a   fair   dab   with   a   light   machine   gun.      I   think   I   can   still   strip   and   put   it   together   in   the   dark   and   probably   shoot   as   well   with it in the dark as I could in the light. Then,   it   was   overseas   and   I   was   beginning   to   become   a   bit   frightened.      I   think   it   appropriate   to   my   age.      I   didn't   want   to   die.     Some of the other guys, they seemed to be so damned blood thirsty. After   five   months   training   in   England,   I   was   delighted   to   be   seconded   up   to   Perth,   the   home   of   homes   of   the   Black   Watch, where   the   Imperial   Black   Watch,   that's   the   51st   Highland   Division   Black   Watch   [were   located],   in   order   to   do   a   piping   course   up there.     This   was   not   the   category   of   what   was   going   on   in Edinburgh   Castle   with   Pipe   Major   Ross.     This   was   more   military   piping,   but it was good and I enjoyed it.   Then   I   was   seconded   from   that   to   combined   operations   at   Loch   Linnhe   in the   Highlands   and   the   Great   Glen.   Largely   under   the   instruction   of   Lord   Simon Fraiser,   we   were   being   prepared   for   commando   operations.      He   was   strange man.  He was a Lord. His castle was in Beauly above Inverness. He   was   a   strikingly   handsome   young   looking   man,   probably   45   at   the   time.     He   had   six   children.      He   always   walked   with   a   stick.   When   he   enlisted,   he brought   with   him   his   company,   men   he   paid   himself.      He   was   in   charge   of   this combined   operations   thing,   training   us   for   all   sorts   of   'irregular'   military   actions. This   eventually   became   the   Commando   groups   of   the   British   army.   Lord   Simon Fraiser, known in Gaelic as 'MacShimidh' was [called Shimi by his friends]. I think it would be a beautiful thing if in everyone's life they could  come across such a gallant and 'strange' man as was he. He   was   very   exciting.   Any   man,   when   he   goes   into   action   …   he   takes   his piper   in   highland   dress,   both   he   and   his   piper   naturally,   and   his   stick   ….pointing with   his   stick   at   enemy   soldiers   and   telling   his   men   'someone   to   be   shot   over there'   then   just   smiles   and   quietly   walks   along   into   God   knows   what   sort   of idiotic    things    …mostly    in    Northern    France,    in    German    submarine    depots, nicknamed 'pig pens' where the Germans repaired and re-outfitted their subs. From   there   I   went   back   to   the   mother   battalion   and   for   a   while   I   was shipped   down   to   Italy   as   far   as   Naples.   It   was   under   Allied   control   …   the   most god   awful   poverty   and   wreckage   of   war   I've   ever   seen   in   my   life.      I'm   sure   it was   just   as   bad   in   many   other   places,   but   Naples   for   me   was   the   [worst]   of what   can   happen   to   people   in   war.   I   was   around   there   for   a   while.      I   was   still piping.      I   got   some   work   with   Provost   guarding   prisoners   …   not   Germans,   not Italians, but Canadians who were bolting. Then   I   moved   off   to   follow   along   on   the   tag   end   of   what   was   going   on   in France   and   Holland.      I   never   was   in   Germany.      I   saw   it,   waved   to   it,   but   I   never went there. I was in Holland when the war ended. Before   that,   when   I   went   to   France,   the   Government   in   its   wisdom,   they   realized   my   age   and   they   said,   'This   isn't   a   man,   this is   a   boy'.   There   is   still,   in   the   British Army   a   category   of   'boy'. At   that   time,   I   was   'Piper   Private'.      Then   I   was   switched   to   'Piper   Boy' which   meant   that   my   pay   was   reduced   to   65   cents   a   day   …   which   was   not   a   lot   when   compared   to   $1.30.     At   one   time   I   was   up   to $1.70 doing special duties, piping and that. When   the   war   ended,   I   was   finally   old   enough   to   enlist.      I   was   glad   it   was   all   over.   I   came   back   and   I   had   to   go   to   school   then.     At   15,   I   was   perfectly   happy,   at   the   time,   to   be   out   of   school.      I   found   it   a   crushing   bore   when   I   enlisted.      When   I   came   back   I,   at best,   had   to   have   high   school,   you   know.      So,   I   went   back   to   school   and   sat   amongst   children.      There   were   courses   set   up   for   guys that wanted to do it on the 'quick, you know. I   did   my   high   school   in   one   year.      Then,   I   went   out   to   work.     As   the   time   passed   I   became   not   a   pacifist   but   I   sure   as   hell   would   not make   a   good   soldier   anymore   except   I   have   a   tremendous   affection   for   the   Regiment   and   the   people   I   knew   and   I   can   only   say   that   I was   used   most   gently   …   well,   not   all   the   time   of   course,   but   most   of   the   time.      They   were   great   guys.      But,   if   I   had   my   life   to   live over,   I`d   rather   be   a   regular   teenager   and   go   to   the   malt   shop   or   whatever   teenagers   do   …   drive   around   in   convertibles   and   have fun   …   not   paint   rocks,   not   strip   machine   guns   in   the   dark   and   not   be   involved   in   killings   and   carnage,   not   getting   scared   ...      Maybe it`s good … I don`t know. But   now,   you   see,   I`m   at   an   age   that   I   couldn`t   do   any   of   that   stuff   if   I   wanted.      I`m   too   old   which   makes   me   feel   bad   to.   I`d like to have the option to say, 'aye' or 'no'. Lots   of   idiocy   when   it   comes   to   military   action   ...      God   knows   what's   going   on.      One   can   read   a   book   about   it   and   they   say, 'well,   now   look,   here's   this   battalion   lined   up   …   this   battalion   here   …   and   this   is   the   object,   the   artillery   is   going   to   shell   for   so many   hours   …   soften   it   up   and   then   we're   going   to   advance   in   this   manner   and   so   on.      But,   when   you   are   just   a   line   soldier,   you don't   know   anything.      I'm   not   altogether   sure   our   Lieutenants   and   Captains   knew   a   hell   of   a   lot.     You'd   stand   around   waiting,   getting wet   and   getting   cold.      Then,   all   of   a   sudden,   you'd   make   a   great   move   and   you   didn't   know   why.      Then   you   stood   around   and   got cold   some   more   …   have   rotten   food.      Then   a   little   burst   of   sporadic   action   over   there   or   over   here,   some   other   place.      Then   you'd move and there'd be action in your place. One   of   the   things   that   is   engraved   in   my   mind   now   is   that   the   whole   thing   was   very   dream   like   because   you   just   didn't   know what was going down … you know. You   weren't   told,   'this   is   your   objective,   this   is   what   we're   going   to   do   …   we're   going   to   capture   the   castle   …   no   way.   You're   just standing   around,   moving   here,   moving   there,   pointed   in   that   direction,   shoot,   advance   into   this   village   and   so   on.      Then,   back   and paint rocks. So,   that   is   essentially   it   …   what   I   remember.      There   are   a   lot   of   other   things   but   the   memory   just   sort   of   erases,   you   know.     That is what it was for me.   [R ev.   MacAllister   Scott   Ellis   aged   79,   of   Yarmouth   Nova   Scotia,   passed   away   on   May   5,   2007,   in   the   Yarmouth   Regional Hospital. He was born in Ottawa, the son of J.H.Scott Ellis and Jean (McAllister) Ellis. His   education   in   Montreal   was   interrupted   in   1943   when,   already   a   boy   piper   in   the   3rd   Battalion   Black   Watch,   he   enlisted for   active   service,   his   military   career   as   a   private   was   brief,   however,   as   he   was   discovered   to   be   only   15   years   old.   Nonetheless his interest in piping and Scottish traditions was to remain with him throughout his life. He   taught   piping   for   many   years   and   in   many   places.   In   the   late   1960s   he   led   the   formation   of   the   Gathering   of   the   Clans Pipe   Band   in   Pugwash.   He   also   served   as   a   Chairman   of   the   Pugwash   Gathering   of   the   Clans.   He   was   a   member   and   President   of the   Atlantic   Canada   Pipe   Band   Association.   He   also   belonged   to   the   St.   Andrews   Societies   in   Baltimore,   Amherst   and   Yarmouth. Other   enthusiasms   and   interests   led   him   to   become   a   Canadian   Legion   chaplain,   to   join   the   Order   of   St.   Lazarus,   the   NAACP,   the Lions Club and the Associates of Holy Cross Monastery. Before   finishing   his   education   he   worked   variously   on   the   lumber   drive,   in   a   mine   laboratory,   in   advertising,   and   in   Montreal as   a   reporter   and   editor.   He   then   began   his   studies   at   McGill   University   and   the   Montreal   Diocesan   Theological   College   intending to become a priest in the Anglican Church. He   was   ordained   a   priest   in   1953,   working   his   first   two   years   in   the   parish   of   St.   Columba,   Montreal.   In   1954,   he   brought   his growing family to Baltimore, Md., where he was a curate and eventually rector of Mount Calvary Episcopal Church. In   1966,   he   came   to   Nova   Scotia   to   serve   the   Parish   of   Pugwash   and   River   John,   spending   10   happy   years   with   parishioners, pipers, colleagues and friends. Then   Father   Ellis   moved   to   Yarmouth   to   the   historic   parishes   of   Holy   Trinity   and   St.   Stephen's.   He   maintained   a   strong vocation and was active as a priest well past his retirement. Father   Ellis   conducted   many   retreats   and   quiet   days   throughout   the   province.   He   was   a   fine   and   poetic   writer   and extemporary preacher. His weekly reflections in the church bulletin were treasured by many, as were his letters.]  (Obituary from The Halifax Herald, May 8, 2007)
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Memories of a Boy Piper The Wartime Story of MacAllister Ellis