British Officers and NCOs recruiting in Canada in 1940

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British Officers and NCOs recruiting in Canada in 1940

Joined: October 6th, 2010, 8:29 am

October 6th, 2010, 8:33 am #1

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am seeking information, documented or anecdotal, regarding the presence of British Officers and NCOs recruiting in Canada in 1940.

I have personal correspondence detailing the presence of British personnel at then Camp Borden, ON (and ostensibly other camps) recruiting Canadian soldiers for "Special Service with HM Forces".

My source tells me he and 3 others joined nearly a company of men from regiments all over Canada near Ottawa (?) about Christmas-time 1940. This after being singled out by their parent commands for interviews "by the visitors".

Their training continued at Camp Debert, NS, Quebec and western Newfoundland (opposed landings, cliff assaults, etc.) and as far northwest as the vicinity of Churchill, MB (skiing). Rumor among the men was that they were going to Scandinavia.

The group of about 100 was apparently sub-divided into smaller groups. The overall numbers are unclear, but my source was part of a group of 36 which lost several over the course of training.

Their training was intensive to the extreme and casualties were sustained as "reception committees" using live ammunition and explosives were standard operating procedure. After one particularly brutal exercise which resulted in several deaths, the group was interviewed by the same British Officers and all were offered a chance to withdraw if they so desired. I'm told none did.

This group, or parts of it, continued to Scotland via Iceland where the training continued and got worse.

I have no evidence whatsoever that this group, or parts of it, formed a commissioned Canadian unit per se and I'm not suggesting it did (although it would be easier to trace that way). More likely it served as a manpower source for existing British units (Commandos and the like). There is evidence of Canadians serving with Commandos both early and late, but British records on this topic are dismal in the extreme. I am still trying to locate Canadian records, official or otherwise.

My gut feeling is that this group(s) helped form the nucleus of other groups later on such as the FSSF, No. 14 (Arctic) Commando, units supporting SOE operations and others and perhaps SOE or SIS themselves, but that is 100% speculation at this point.

What is also unclear is how Canadian soldiers integrated with their British counterparts once abroad. The mechanism is so far unidentified and probably non-standard. I am willing to bet that many Canadian volunteers fell through the cracks in the UK and elsewhere; some of this is just bad admin and some may be intentional due to the nature of the operations units like these were engaged in.

I would appreciate your thoughts and recommendations on the pursuit of this topic to include names of personnel, locations, possible units involved, etc. I consider this a brain-storming session so don't hold back just because you might lack documentation at this point.

v/r

Jeff O'Connell
Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
West Africa
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Christopher Furlotte
Christopher Furlotte

October 7th, 2010, 10:53 pm #2

Jeff,
Interesting topic! Have you've tried in contacting Department of National Defence's Military Heritage Section?

They may be able to assist you?

Here's a link on 14th (Arctic) Commando.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._14_(Arctic)_Commando (Note-This link for some reason doesn't want to upload when you click on it??) So try google it again apart from this website?

There it mentions Canadians belong to it's unit's establishment.

http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/index-eng.asp

Also perhaps the Library & Archives Canada may be able to become of some assistance!?

http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/index-e.html


Chris
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Jeff
Jeff

October 8th, 2010, 7:45 pm #3

Chris,
I've seen the Wikipedia article and will be picking up whatever records UK National Archives have on No. 14 Cdo and others in December. I've got a few other snippets on No. 14 that are interesting as well...namely that the C.O. eventually recommended it was a failed experiment because the combination of Canadians including "Red Indians" (as one source puts it...yikes there goes political correctness), British, and Norwegians were just too difficult to build any significant esprit d'corps.

I've got a query in to Canadian National Archives and am waiting for a response.

Didn't know about the military heritage group at ND. Will try that.

Thanks for the response; I was beginning to think all of Canada was rolling around laughing at me or something.

There IS something to this; I'm just not sure what it is.

Best,

Jeff
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Christopher Furlotte
Christopher Furlotte

October 9th, 2010, 2:05 am #4

Hi Jeff,
Glad to be of some assistance to you. I also think you may be unto something as well,...don't get discouraged, and above all, keep looking! Remember that secrecy was a paramount in that war time era, so anything written might have been destroyed ie, official records that were covered on the DND act or the Official Secrets Act, during this stage of recruiting Canadian service personal for special services in H.M. Forces etc.

Quite a number of Canadians were attached and saw 'active service' in the British Forces at this time, so no surprise there!

14th (Arctic) Commando had a number of Canadians attached to it, and I even read about a Petty Officer with the Royal Canadian Navy was seconded to the R.N., for various missions in Norway.

Hopefully something might just pop up info wise ie, DND Heritage section or LAC to assist you in furthering your research on this subject?

I have found one must be above all patient, and dedicated to the ultimate goal discovering what your after and of course, writing about it!

Best of luck and keep us posted if possible?

Cheers

Chris
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Jeff
Jeff

October 9th, 2010, 6:08 am #5

Chris,
Well, with that kind of enthusiasm you have made it onto my Christmas card list. Naturally, I feel the same way, but not all historians are so welcoming and curious about the facts while some have been over the moon.

The document I have is personal correspondence between my source and myself; 16 hand written pages from him and personal discussions in person. The level of secrecy demanded far outweighs what I would've considered "SOP" on the average commando raid. I believe these are buried deeply for a reason.

The source mentions that to the best of his knowledge "no records where kept all these years" and one of the reasons was "fear of embarrassing those with whom we were allied". The source went on to say that he "hoped the details (if kept) were never released". Without going on ad nauseum, what does THAT tell you? Tells me quite a lot.

Anyway, I'll pass more as I have it. I'm off to the UK over the Holidays for a few more pieces of information and what I hope will be a break-through on one of the tentacles of information I'm following; the family records of my source's best mate (British) who was killed on ops and yet doesn't appear on any Roll of Honour in the official files or any Commando nominal rolls. Proving this man existed goes a long way to proving these raids happened. My source witnessed his death and yet....nothing.

Best from Africa,

Jeff
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Christopher Furlotte
Christopher Furlotte

October 9th, 2010, 11:42 am #6

Morning Jeff,
Many thanks and glad to be of some help? Glad to know I've made it on your Christmas card list

Information and the level of secrecy was of utmost in importance during this time! As a example of it, The British Security Co-ordination had all of it's records destroyed in 1946-47 and only the ones of historical importance were kept in order to write their organizational history, ie The book of it's activities in The Americans. Then these too were destroyed and most of the books had previously been kept locked up in a vault! Only a handful of these were given out, and they were not reprinted until 1998 in the UK for the general public to read and study about.

The recent publication of the "official" history of MI6 (The Secret Intelligence Service)by Professor Keith Jeffery 2010. In it he mentions most for of the records of MI6's operational activities were destroyed, and only a few that pertained any historical value were kept in it's archives for them to view alone. He is the only person outside of this organization to see them for the first time

Anyways, I just thought to share that little bit of knowledge with you as insight on how these things tend to go.

What about contacting the Regiments museum on these lads were recruited from? It may give some other info on there roles there before bring recruited in this unknown unit??

Just a thought.

Cheers and all the best!

Chris
CANADA.
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Jeff
Jeff

October 9th, 2010, 1:37 pm #7

Chris,
I'll be picking up a copy of the SIS book at Kew when I get there in December. I saw this a few weeks back whilst on their site and its on the shopping list.

Past SOE historian's Gervase Cowell and M.R.D. have both seen my data and feel sure it happened...although likely unprovable.

I've gotten the German angle involved by hiring a researcher in Freiburg to "have a walk thru the stacks" armed with a list of questions, dates, rough locations. I'm hopeful that even if the Brits classified everything (or destroyed it) the Germans would have documents such as after-actions reports, etc. Casualties were sustained by both sides and prisoners taken by the Brits. Its a very narrow window of time I'm looking for and if the source gave me the accurate approximate locations this may pan out. Pends.

Funny you mentioned the BSC; one of my sources quoted a scene in "A man called Intrepid" from several decades back as being particularly germane to the kind of operations he was involved with although not the specifics. I've always kinda thought BSC might be involved. In short? They were sent in to get key people....and to "either bring them back to Britain alive or leave them there.... of no use to the Germans". I have my suspicions of the kinds of folks we're talking about, but no specific as yet.

I'll look for the documents you mentioned. If you have an ISBN or any other identifying information it would be helpful and I'll order it ahead of time.

I sent an e-mail to several FSSF sites this morning asking if any of their members or their families recalled where their "special services" journey started hoping (assuming) that at least some of them might have come from a previously trained cadre vice straight from parent regiments.

On the subject of parent regiments; my source's parent regiment had never heard of him until I provided his enlistment papers and a photo. Seems he was recruited during his 20 week initial training at Camp Borden before he had "technically" joined the unit in garrison. If I do happen to find any names in the process I will absolutely try regimental records.

I'll keep you posted and if ANYTHING jogs your memory please drop me a note.

We'll get this solved.

Jeff
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Jeff
Jeff

October 9th, 2010, 2:43 pm #8

Morning Jeff,
Many thanks and glad to be of some help? Glad to know I've made it on your Christmas card list

Information and the level of secrecy was of utmost in importance during this time! As a example of it, The British Security Co-ordination had all of it's records destroyed in 1946-47 and only the ones of historical importance were kept in order to write their organizational history, ie The book of it's activities in The Americans. Then these too were destroyed and most of the books had previously been kept locked up in a vault! Only a handful of these were given out, and they were not reprinted until 1998 in the UK for the general public to read and study about.

The recent publication of the "official" history of MI6 (The Secret Intelligence Service)by Professor Keith Jeffery 2010. In it he mentions most for of the records of MI6's operational activities were destroyed, and only a few that pertained any historical value were kept in it's archives for them to view alone. He is the only person outside of this organization to see them for the first time

Anyways, I just thought to share that little bit of knowledge with you as insight on how these things tend to go.

What about contacting the Regiments museum on these lads were recruited from? It may give some other info on there roles there before bring recruited in this unknown unit??

Just a thought.

Cheers and all the best!

Chris
CANADA.
Chris,
If you'd like to discuss a few details please drop me a good phone number directly to my hotmail account (Researcher1941@hotmail.com)
Jeff
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Christopher Furlotte
Christopher Furlotte

October 10th, 2010, 3:15 am #9

Morning Jeff,
Many thanks and glad to be of some help? Glad to know I've made it on your Christmas card list

Information and the level of secrecy was of utmost in importance during this time! As a example of it, The British Security Co-ordination had all of it's records destroyed in 1946-47 and only the ones of historical importance were kept in order to write their organizational history, ie The book of it's activities in The Americans. Then these too were destroyed and most of the books had previously been kept locked up in a vault! Only a handful of these were given out, and they were not reprinted until 1998 in the UK for the general public to read and study about.

The recent publication of the "official" history of MI6 (The Secret Intelligence Service)by Professor Keith Jeffery 2010. In it he mentions most for of the records of MI6's operational activities were destroyed, and only a few that pertained any historical value were kept in it's archives for them to view alone. He is the only person outside of this organization to see them for the first time

Anyways, I just thought to share that little bit of knowledge with you as insight on how these things tend to go.

What about contacting the Regiments museum on these lads were recruited from? It may give some other info on there roles there before bring recruited in this unknown unit??

Just a thought.

Cheers and all the best!

Chris
CANADA.
Please check your e-mail.


Regards.

Chris
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