ALL TANKED UP - the Canadians in Headley during World War II
John Owen Smith

Cover of All Tanked Up ISBN 1-873855-00-1

Compiled from the memories of Villagers and Veterans

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In English, but click here for an introduction in French

Front & back cover: Montage of Tanks and notable locations in the village [by Hester Whittle]

Paperback - 98 pages, includes photographs and maps
John Owen Smith; ISBN 978-1-873855-54-6; April 2008
(replaces ISBN: 1-873855-00-1; May 1994)

See the full text of 'All Tanked Up' on the BBC WW2 website

Associated title: Liphook, Bramshott and the Canadians by Laurence Giles

Other information on the Candians in Headley during WW2

Youtube clip of reminiscences of Dave Friesen, a veteran of the Fort Garry Horse Regiment


Description . Author's Note . Introduction . Preface . Contents . Illustrations . Excerpt . About the Author . Further information . Reviews


Description

A story of the benign 'invasion' of a Hampshire village by Canadian tank regiments over a period of four years, told from the point of view of both Villagers and Canadians. Includes technical details of tanks used, and the full Order of Battle for Canadian Regiments in 1945.

Compiled from the memories of Villagers and Veterans – and dedicated to those for whom 'Peace in our Time' came too late.

In this book:


Author's Note

During a summer visit in 1993 to a particularly peaceful location in our area with members of The Headley Society, talk turned to recollections of other less restful times. Thoughts of the 50th anniversary of D-Day, coming up in June 1994, brought back memories to those who were in the village then, of tanks negotiating narrow lanes and Canadian troops packing the pubs. Surely someone should write a history of it all, while people were still around to tell the tale, they said. And so the project started.

We had a certain amount of information to hand locally: lists of regiments which had stayed in the village, back copies of local newspapers, parish magazines and, of course, the memories of those who were here. But to get the Canadian point of view, I decided to advertise in their Veterans' magazines, both in Britain and in Canada, for anyone who remembered Headley. I'd thought this might draw a blank, but I needn't have worried - every week seemed to bring new letters and fascinating stories from across the Atlantic and, conveniently, addresses of several Canadian ex-servicemen now living in England.

In particular I wanted to discover facts about Erie Camp, the military detention centre situated where Heatherlands now stands, and was delighted when one of the letters from Canada turned out to be from an ex-inmate, who was able to give me an informative and amusing, if in parts unpublishable, view of life behind the wire.

Visiting museums, reading regimental histories and talking to those who had served in armoured divisions gave me background material to add to the personal stories of men who had passed through the village on their way to Normandy or Italy, and one lucky find in a local house-clearance sale brought me notes from a wartime course on 'how to service armoured vehicles'.

Stories of wartime are bitter-sweet affairs - a mixture of pride and poignancy extends through both personal and public events. The story I'm telling belongs not to me, but to the people of Headley and Canada who entrusted me with their memories, and I thank them for so willingly volunteering their information. I have tried where possible to let their voices speak, and keep my own comments and additions to a minimum - after all, I wasn't there at the time and they were. I sincerely hope both they and many others will enjoy reading the book.

John Owen Smith
Headley, 1994

Additional Note to the 2008 Edition:

Since All Tanked Up was first published, in May 1994, I have had the happy experience of meeting and corresponding further with a number people, some original contributors and some new, many of whose extra stories and pictures I have been able to add to this edition.

In particular I would like to thank Gord Crossley, Fort Garry Archivist, who visited Headley in 2000 while he was doing research for the regiment and has been of great help to me in subsequent matters related to Canadian military history. He was kind enough to present the village with a Fort Garry Horse regimental shield, which is now a prized possession.

I was also touched to receive, out of the blue, some Fort Garry Horse lapel badges from Erle Kitching via a mutual friend who met him during Normandy commemorations in 2002. My thanks to him.
My thanks, indeed, to all those veterans who have looked me up when revisiting Headley since the book was published - I have enjoyed swapping yarns and sharing a beer with you!

Sadly, I am all too aware that some of my original contributors are now no longer with us. As I explained in my original note, this project was originally proposed to me as a way of keeping alive memories which might otherwise soon disappear, and I hope I have in some measure achieved that.

However, do please do keep the information coming in - there are still plenty of blank spots to fill in the history. Those with internet access may like to look up www.johnowensmith.co.uk/canadians.htm to see any new material we may gather, and also use this as a means of getting in touch with me electronically.

John Owen Smith
Headley, 2008


Introduction

The village of Headley sits just across the River Wey from Bordon Camp. This was constructed at the turn of the century on land first purchased by the army in 1863 for use as a training area and, until the end of the 1920s, formed an integral part of Headley parish. Through the years, therefore, the village has become familiar with the presence of the military close at hand. Older residents tell of hearing the bugle calls from the Camp, and today we can hear quite distinctly the firing coming from the Woolmer ranges.

During the First World War, villagers saw troops, led by their military bands, marching through from Bordon to Ludshott Common in order to practice digging trenches. They remember a meat depot and bakery being established on the Village Green, bread being baked in open ovens for the soldiers of several local camps, and the Institute adjoining the back of the Congregational Chapel (both since demolished) being used to give soldiers a cup of tea on Sunday afternoons.

Sadly, all too few years were to pass before the village and common were again used for similar purposes.


Preface

When Canadian troops arrived in Great Britain during the Second World War, they were given quarters in old, cold, damp barracks buildings in the military town of Aldershot. For these young men thousands of miles from home, and in many cases away from their families for the first time, it was a depressing experience.

Imagine their joy then, when they found their next station in England was not another military camp, but a charming rural village with pubs, girls, dances - and a welcome for them from the local population. As one Veteran put it: "We soon got to know the natives, who we found very agreeable - it was really nice meeting our first English folk".

'All Tanked Up' is the story of their benign 'invasion' of a Hampshire village over a period of four years, told from the point of view of both Villagers and Canadians. The troops involved were mainly from Armoured regiments, using the local heathlands to practice manoeuvres, and many were destined to land on Juno Beach in June 1944.

Veterans in many of the regiments arriving with the 3rd Canadian Division, and later with the 4th Armoured Division, remember Headley well. It was the village which first introduced them to the 'real' England.

Les Canadiens à Headley pendant la deuxième Guerre Mondiale

Quand les troupes canadiennes arrivèrent en Grande Bretagne pendant la deuxième Guerre Mondiale, on les caserna dans de vieux bâtiments, froids et humides dans la ville militaire d'Aldershot. Ce fut une expérience déprimante pour ces hommes jeunes, à des milliers de kilomètres de chez eux, et pour beaucoup, séparés de leurs familles pour la première fois.

Imaginez donc leur joie quand ils réalisèrent que leur prochaine garnison ne serait pas un autre camp militaire, mais un charmant village rural avec des pubs, des femmes, des bals - et un accueuil chaleureux par la population locale.

'All Tanked Up' est l'histoire de l'invasion inoffensive d'un village du comté du Hampshire, pendant une période de quatre ans, racontée à la fois du point de vue des Canadiens et de celui des habitants. Les troupes concernées appartenaient pour la plupart à des régiments blindés qui firent leurs manoeuvres dans la lande des environs et beaucoup devaient participer au débarquement à Juno Beach en Juin 1944.

Les Ancients Combattants qui arrivèrent avec la '3rd Canadian Division' et plus tard avec la '4th Armoured Division' se souviennent bien de Headley. Ce fut le village qui les a introduit à la 'véritable' Angleterre.


Contents


Excerpt

Some Memories

For every event which was reported there must have been dozens which remain only in the memories of those involved. Joyce Stevens, right opposite the Holly Bush, recalls hearing "an awful kerfuffle at turning out time when Sally Stevens, the landlady, was saying goodnight to everybody as she always did. I remember she was wearing a white blouse, and she'd got blood all down the front of it because one of the soldiers had broken off a bottle or something and cut someone."

Sally is fondly remembered by the troops; as Major Macdougall writes in his Short History of the South Alberta Regiment: "We must not forget to mention that 300 lb bundle of good humour, whose only regret was that, while she had played with Canadians in the last war, in this war she could only mother them." He also recalls Christmas here in 1942, when "all ranks enjoyed themselves to the full, and I mean to the full." He continues that: "Apart from a few slight run-ins with our friends the Elgins, who were at Headley Down, the day passed peacefully enough."

Elsie Johnson (née Pearce) was living with her parents in their shop (now closed) in Fullers Vale at the bottom of Beech Hill. She says: "I can remember one incident on a Saturday night. Mabel and I had come home from work - we often didn't get back till nine - and mum and dad were scrubbing out the shop. We had a plain white wooden floor and stairs, and every Saturday night without fail they were scrubbed. Newspapers were put down, and the lights were on downstairs, though you couldn't see much of them through the shutters, and some Canadians walking back down to the village tried to get in. They thought it was a pub. Father shouted to them that we were shut and we didn't sell liquor, but they climbed the bank on the left hand side, and walked in through the kitchen door. I can see dad now, coming up the stairs with a scrubbing brush in his hand - and with brute force we all pushed these lads out. We didn't know any of them, but they were determined it was a pub and that they were coming in for a drink."

John Ellis at Headley Mill found a different way to deal with such things: "One night after midnight, a party of noisy Canadians, obviously the worse for drink, took a short cut past the mill to get back to Bordon Camp. When they got to the house they stopped just under our window, and created the most frightful din. The house was not then modernised, and each bedroom had a wash hand-stand complete with wash bowl and water jug. I got out of bed, in spite of Dorothy's protestations, eased up the sash window, took the 3 gallon jug of cold water and poured it over them. There was deathly silence. We didn't hear another thing - we didn't even hear them move away."

Betty Parker remembers talking to a Canadian motorcyclist and his pillion passenger outside Eashing Cottages in Arford - the passenger decided to get off, but the other drove away. Almost straight away he ran into a lorry at the corner, and was killed. "Those Harley Davidson machines always looked powerful to us", Jim Clark says, "and so did the 'Indians', which were the other motorbikes they used." He too remembers a fatal motorbike accident nearby: "One of them hit a tank by Arford House - went straight into it as he was coming down the hill." Not a nice place to meet oncoming traffic even now.

Mary Fawcett, living down Beech Hill at the time, recalls a Canadian on a Harley Davidson crashing through the hedge at the Honeysuckle Lane bend, hitting an electric pole and taking out the whole of the public electricity supply in the area. She also remembers a tank coming along Fullers Vale failing to take the bend at the bottom of Beech Hill and hitting the post box which was then in the gatepost at the bottom of Kenton House drive. The post box was then moved to its present safer place.

Joyce Dickie, on her way home from Bordon telephone exchange where she sometimes had to work until midnight, was walking up Barley Mow Hill when she heard a girl screaming her head off from a piece of common land opposite Barley Mow House. "I thought, 'Oh my golly, now what do I do? I can't just walk by and not do anything when somebody's screaming for help'. And yet I had in my mind what was going on, but I didn't know what to do. Anyway, I put on as gruff a voice as I could, and I said, 'What's going on over there?' And this girl came out, and the soldier with her. Well, she was terrified, and I think she'd taken on a bit more than she'd realised. She begged me to take her home, and I thought, what if I meet the fellow when I come back up again? I did go home with her, but that chap plagued me for weeks afterwards - wanted me to go out with him, but eventually he got fed up."

Altogether, Barley Mow Hill seemed to be quite a centre of activity at this time. "The 'provos' were always busy up this road", says Grace Barnes speaking of Glayshers Hill, "because we had an 'interesting' house just round the corner where the telephone exchange is now." Glayshers Hill led from the Provo's quarters in Erie Camp down to Barley Mow Hill. "We didn't dare get out and about in the road much - you kept yourself pretty quiet", she said.

However the Provost Corps themselves, according to 'Battle-dress Patrol', the official war memoirs of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, felt that: "Despite long years of training and waiting and the consequent boredom, I think it fair to say that our troops were well behaved. Provost units had much less trouble with them than might be thought. We like to think our approach helped; provost men were taught and encouraged to help soldiers who were in trouble - sick, broke or overdue off leave. At times more stern action was necessary when dealing with public disorder and drunkenness, but these causes were surprisingly rare."


Reviews (of the original publication)

Wheels & Tracks No.49, 1994
While of particular interest to the locals and the Canadians who were there (Headley is near Bordon Camp, in an area where thousands of Canadian troops were stationed) it is entertaining to read for others as well and contains information, illustrations and appendices of general military interest (including Grant tank starting procedure!)

TDB - Army Quarterly and Defence Journal, October 1994
In 1944, there were dozens of towns like Headley in different parts of southern England. In the south-west, for example, the Americans took over Okehampton and, near to the coast, Kingsbridge.

On 10 September 1939, Canada declared war on Germany and the first soldiers arrived by a Canadian troopship on the Clyde on 17 December 1939. In the summer of 1941, the Royal Canadian Engineers of the 3rd Division arrived to build a military prison camp with Canadian timber. It took three months, and then tank training began.

The rest of this fascinating story is in 'All Tanked Up': the Canadians, and all who know that delightful part of Hampshire, owe a debt of gratitude to the author for the care with which he has carried out his research. Apart from the excellent descriptions, six appendices include a list of the Canadian regiments that served in the Headley area, a calendar of events from 3 September 1939 to 8 May 1945, the Order of Battle for Canadian regiments in 1945 and specifications of tanks copied from sheets of notes taken in early 1943.

Mr Smith's book is a skilful labour of love. The illustrations and delightful drawings and maps could not have been bettered. The scholarship of his work is of an excellence that could well be followed by others.


About the Author

John Owen Smith was born in 1942 and trained as a Chemical Engineer at London University, but spent most of his working life designing commercial Information Systems for the paper-making industry. Following redundancy, he 'fell' into researching and recording the local history of east Hampshire, where he now lives. His output of historical community plays, lectures, articles and books includes:-


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