Chapter Five
After the war

Amersfoort was a very nice looking city.  The entrance was through an archway, with living quarters over it.  It must have been a fortress city in the olden days.  The streets were wide and clean.  This was typical of most of the Dutch cities we visited.
Our new quarters were in an old armoury similar to the barracks in England.  They were made of brick and concrete.  It was now summertime and the armoury was really nice and cool during the hot days.  It was located near the centre of the city so it was handy for our evening outings.  Most of the unit was scattered around in various places.
Shortly after arriving, we found ourselves on a different mission, escorting German prisoners of war back towards Germany.  A lot of carrier units were involved.  Each unit would escort the prisoners about twenty miles along the road and then hand them over to another unit who would continue on the same way.  They had been sitting around prisoner of war camps and some of them were not in very good physical shape.  After fifteen miles or so we had a lot of stragglers and we had to make a lot of stops.  It was an all day affair and we were glad to get back to our barracks.
John Marin having a nap while on escort duty
The author having a nap while on escort duty
Someone said that the brass had decided that the repatriation system was to be based on “first in, first out”.  That might have looked good on paper but, in reality, it was a joke.  Most of the draftees were home early in the summer, while the rest of us had to wait around for months.  Some of the boys volun­teered for service in the Pacific and they left at once for home.  They were lucky that the war ended by the time they arrived home so they were discharged early.


To keep everyone occupied, the Queen's Own Rifles built a small shack town and called it “Cabbage­town”.  They elected a mayor, council, and everything that was needed to run a small town.  The guys took their jobs seriously, but it was fun.
One of the first items of business to be carried out, was to have a canteen called the “Big 2 Club”.  Here beer and some food was sold during the evening.  When we had the first dance that the civilians were invited to, I was looking after the sale of beer tickets.  According to the rules, I was supposed to sell only one ticket at a time to a customer.  After a couple of drinks, some of the guys wanted more than one ticket at a time, so I gave them all they wanted.  Sales that night were almost ten times more than normal.  Of course when the canteen closed, many went back to the barracks with tickets in their pockets.  I don't think they cared too much about it.  They all had a good time.
Corrigan sleeping with Tran behind him and Germans further back
Corrigan (sleeping) and Tran with Germans resting in the background
I think that it was during the opening night that I spied a couple of pretty gals.  I wasn't much of a dancer but I asked one of them for a dance.  She turned out to be an excellent dancer, so I monopolized her the rest of the evening.  I think what clinched it was that I told her that I was going to take her home with me.  Her name was Aria.  It was the start of a great summer, having someone to show me around the city and the countryside.
To keep us from being bored, we started having morning parades and drill exercises.  Maybe it was a good way to sober some of us up in the morning.  The afternoons were taken up with sports and vocational courses to keep us busy.  It was a sudden change from what we had been doing, but we went all out to cheer our baseball team.
In June some of the old-timers were sent home on drafts and soldiers from other units were being sent to the Queen's Own Rifles.  It must have been confusing for them to start basic training all over again.  The top brass thought that they should be trained as riflemen.  The unit was losing a lot of the veterans and it wasn't the same.


Word came down that the unit had to shape up for a big parade in June.  Gallons of old paint arrived and we scrubbed down the trucks and carriers.  Someone came up with the idea of mixing gasoline in the paint so that it would dry faster.  It sure did the trick and the paint dried as fast as it was applied.  It was a good thing that we didn't have any rain until after the parade.  The first downpour washed it all off.
Some other units arrived and camped out in Amers­foort to get ready for the march past.  I had heard that the Lincoln and Welland battalion was in town so I went looking for them.  I located my brother-​in-​law, who had arrived in Holland sometime in April.  He was surprised to see me.  I don't think that he was overly fond of the army.
His unit was stationed in some buildings near the centre of town and it soon became a popular place for black-​market sales.  My brother-​in-​law was Dutch, having been born in the city of Terneuzen.  He had immigrated to Canada as a young lad in 1928 but could speak the language very well.  At night we would hang out around the black market area and listen to the civilians discussing how to cheat the soldiers.  The civilians were short of everything and the soldiers were short of money, so anything that wasn't nailed down was sold.  One despatch rider sold his motorcycle for the equivalent of 100 dollars and was charged 20 dollars for replacement value.  It was a good bargain.
A couple of weeks later, I went with the girl to visit a sick friend.  When we were in the bedroom, I happened to look out the window and there in the garage was the motorcycle, with the number “60” on the front.  This was the battalion identification number.  Back at the barracks, I reported the find to the military police and the bike was returned, with no charges laid.

A Dutch home

After a couple of meetings, the young lady took me to her home to meet the family.  Her mother was a very pleasant lady but could speak no English.  Her father was an engineer and had papers for the position of chief engineer for the large ocean going ships.  He spoke very good English, which was required in his job as chief engineer at the local Lever Brothers soap factory.  He didn't seem too keen on soldiers squiring his daughter around, especially when he found out that I was a Roman Catholic.  It seemed that Holland was divided by the various religions.  His next door neighbour was a Roman Catholic and they avoided each other.  The problem was similar to what we had back home, but they carried it to extremes.
The day for the big parade finally arrived and it was to be held on the 6th of June 1945, the first anniversary of the D-Day landings.  The parade was in the city of Utrecht and the salute was taken by General Crerar.  The Queen's Own Rifles had been practicing for the march past and they did so six abreast at 140 paces to the minute.  This is standard for rifle regiments but is very hard to maintain.  I was with the support company and rode in the carrier where I had a good view of the parade.  I think that the proudest soldier there was our Captain (now Major) Dunkelman.  I watched him strutting along, in front of his company, every inch a soldier.  He was one of the few officers who had lasted all the way from the beach.  Thousands of Dutch civilians lined the street and cheered wildly.  It was a great day.


Around the first of July, the battalion moved to the small town of Doorn, twelve miles to the west.  Our platoon was billeted in a big old house that had lots of room and spacious grounds.  The atmosphere was that of a summer camp.  Trips were arranged to various places for swimming and fishing.  Some even went sailing on the Zuider Zee.
Someone decided that we should build a small park complete with a concrete wading pool in a nearby area.  Someone also lost the blue­prints for the pool and it was a mess.  I was given 25 “helpers” and lots of cement and gravel and told to fix it up.  Back home I had done a lot of mixing, but didn't have too much experience in trowel­ling concrete.  However we went at it and mixed and poured concrete all day.  The pool was kidney shaped and turned out looking pretty good.  I still have a photograph of it.
park with a pond and some trees in the foreground and background
Pond and park at Doorn in July of 1945
I was transferred to the pioneer section and we made a few repairs to the building.  As part of our recreation, someone started boxing matches between the units, so we then built an outdoor boxing ring.  It provided a lot of excite­ment among the competitors.
The baseball team provided the most excitement, when they went on to win the Canadian Forces champion­ship.  I had never watched hard ball played before, but it was a great way to spend the day.  Some of the guys even played golf, with a Queen's Own Rifles corporal becoming Canadian Army golf champion.
Doorn was the home of Germany's Kaiser Whil­helm, who had been exiled to Holland in 1918 after the first world war.  He had lived in a large estate, that was now closed to the public.  I stopped at the gate house one day to ask for a tour of the grounds.  The care­taker agreed after I gave him a pack of cigarettes, but access to any of the buildings was not allowed.  I did have some photos taken in front on the house and one beside his white marble bust that was mounted on a pedestal in the garden.
Part of our billet was used as a storehouse for equipment and blankets.  When the rooms filled up a lot of material was left on the covered porch.  I noticed some of the guys heading for town with blankets tucked under their arms.  I found out that they weren't going to a blanket party, but that there was a good demand for them on the black market.  The cooks also seemed to be enjoying a lot of fine liquor.  The same thing was going on there.
There were a lot of rumors circulating about an inquiry on missing goods.  Shortly after, one of the large storage places went up in flames.  I guess that was a good way to balance the books.
We made a lot of friends in Amersfoort while we were stationed there, so a truck was laid on to provide transportation to and from there every night.  I used to make nightly visits to see the girl that I had met.  I happened to mention to her father that I had started learning to play chess while in England.  I think our first game lasted about ten moves.  He then agreed to teach me the opening moves and skills required to play a good game.  His daughter told me that he had been a contender for the world's chess champion matches before the war, but had never won.  We had a game nearly every night and of course I always lost.  To repay him for the lessons, I usually bought some pipe tobacco for him.
On one visit to their home I noticed a bump on his forehead, but he didn't tell me what had happened.  His daughter said that he had put the strong tobacco in his pipe and had gotten dizzy and fallen off the chair while at his chess club.  I had forgotten to tell him that he should have mixed it with his milder stuff.

Leave in Amersfoort

I had a leave coming due and was planing on going to England, when the old fellow suggested that I come and stay with them for the week.  When I put in for my leave, I asked for rations for a week.  The cooks got pretty snotty about it and started putting in a couple of potatoes, some vegetables, and some canned goods in a box.  I got mad and told them that if they didn't come with something better, the major would know where the rations were going.  That did the trick and I ended up with two full boxes and a Jeep to transport it to Amersfoort.
One of the cooks drinking almost finished him one morning.  He arrived at the cookhouse with a big hangover and thirst to match.  He looked around and spied a beer bottle with some liquid in it and thought that it might be stale beer.  When he took a couple of swallows he realized that it contained some kind of disinfectant.  He took the meat cleaver and split the top of a can of condensed milk and drank it down.  He was rushed to the medical officer's office and the doctor told him that the milk saved his life by coating his stomach.  He never drank again after that episode.
When we delivered the boxes of food, the mother started to cry, for she hadn't seen some of the items in years.  Nothing was wasted and could she ever cook.
The Jeep driver dumped me off and promised to pick me up in a week.  It felt strange moving in with the family.  Although I had visited almost every night this was different, being part of a family again.  They must have realized how I felt, as they went out of their way to make me feel at home.  The hardest part was to keep from staring at their lovely daughter all the time.  I had heard that in one part of Holland, if one took a shine to the daughter, a window was left open for him so that he could visit at night and become acquainted.
The first night her mother went all out and put on a great looking table.  It had been a long time since she had cooked potatoes and as a result they were only half cooked.  The old girl was embarrassed so I volunteered that she should have cut them up into smaller pieces.  At that there was a great outburst of laughter and I couldn't figure out what I had said that was wrong.  Later I found out that the word in Dutch means a lady's private parts.  What a hard way to learn a language!  This bit of merriment broke the ice and relaxed everyone.
The summer was moving along and the fruits and vegetables were becoming more plentiful.  Since there wasn't too much to do around the city, her father suggested that we could take the two bicycles and go to an orchard for some apples.  But first the bikes had to be fixed.  The one bike had been taken apart and stored in the attic for years.  It was pretty rusty and had no tires, just two old patched tubes.  To solve the problem, some cloth was wrapped around the rims and the tubes put on.  Next we took some two inch strips of old canvas and wrapped it around the tubes and rims, putting on several wraps.  As long as the tire pressure was kept low, this worked okay.
The girl and I took off early one morning and my legs were soon getting tired, so I asked her how much farther it was.  She said about twenty miles.  I almost fell off the bike at that.  We had to stop several times to pump air in the tires.  After three hours we finally found the apple orchard.  The apples looked very good and we filled up four bags, two for each bike and started back.  My bottom got so sore from the worn out seat that I had to walk most of the way back.  Of course the real reward was the wonderful pies that her mother made.
The highlight of the week came on Sunday afternoon when, after playing chess for nearly four hours, I finally won a game.  The old boy wouldn't play any more games with me, but would let me sit in when he was going over an unfinished game from his chess club.  I never knew whose position I was playing, but I didn't really care.  It was fun.
On the last day of my leave, we went for a walk along the narrow canal near Amers­foort and were watching the many sail boats going by, when a machine gun opened up behind us.  I gave a loud yell and three young boys ran out of a hidden bunker just behind us.  It was so well camouflaged that it had been missed.  We went over to have a look and the small bunker was full of weapons.  They must have been left behind when the war finished.  I reported the find to the military police and they turned the case over to the local police.
About this time we went to a local dance and I was not too light footed on the floor.  A friend of the young lady suggested that I attend his dancing classes for lessons.  Since there wasn't too much else to do we started going to the studio twice a week.  The cost was a package of cigarettes per week.  I took the lessons all summer and by fall I could dance pretty well.
Back at the billets someone started a photography club.  We started taking pictures of everything we saw and learned how to develop the films.  To keep the air out of the solutions, we put condoms on the bottle tops.  The major in charge didn't think that the condoms were being put to proper use.

Holland to England

We had put in a very pleasant summer in Holland but in October word came that we were to start packing to go home.  For some of us that had made an attachment with some of the people, it would be hard to say goodbye.
All the weapons, vehicles, and surplus equipment were turned in, during the latter part of October.  The Eighth Brigade was officially broken up and, on November 1st, we left for England with a stopover in Nijmegen.  Here we saw some of the families that we had met during our stay the winter before.  They were sad to see us go but glad that we had survived.  After a week's visit, we went by train to Calais, France and embarked for England.  There were a lot of sad looking faces, as the shores of France receded.
John Marin wearing a uniform and life preserver on board a ship
Last look at Calais, France in 1945
It was a fine sunny day, with no wind, a sharp contrast to the trip we had the year before.  This time we could enjoy the boat ride.  After a short drive we arrived at Horsham in the south of England, not too far from where I had spent a month in the Canadian Army hospital, two years before.
The month of November 1945 was spent mostly with dental and medical parades and having a last look at the country.  I made a couple of trips to my favourite city, London.
On one visit I found a tea house where chess players met to drink tea and play .  When I went in a distinguished looking chap came over and asked, “Care for a game Canada?”.  I said okay and we sat down to play.  I had learned a bit while in Holland and we had a very tight game.  After three hours, I ended up the winner.  He was a gracious loser and wanted another match.  I was pooped out and lost after an hour of play.  I don't know who the chap was but he certainly asked a lot of questions about Canada.
I spent a couple of days going around London looking at the old sites and some of the pubs.  One favourite pub was called “Dirty Dicks”.  It was located in the eastern part of London, not far from the Tower of London.  Inside it really was dirty, with dirt floors and wooden boards on the walls.  Along the wall, over the bar, were hundreds of different types of coins and paper money from countries all over the world.  I noticed that there were many names carved on the table tops and also on the walls.  The bartender said that that was the custom so I also carved my initials on the wall, along with the other soldiers who had been there before.
The “ladies” that were there left a lot to be desired, so I left and went up to the Russel Square area for a last look around.  While I was standing there day dreaming, a young lady came along and said that I looked lonely.  I told her that this was my last look at London and that we were sailing for home in a couple of days.  She said that she was all done working for the day and would like to entertain me before I left.  It sounded like a good way to spend the night, so I joined her and we went to her apartment.  She cooked up a fine meal.  I stayed the night.  When I left in the morning, I wished that I had met her earlier.  She was some gal!
Back at the camp, things were starting to move.  We all had a medical inspection and one last look around the town and one last pint of mild and bitters, our favourite drink.  Moving day finally arrived and we marched to the station and boarded the train for the trip to Liverpool.  The station platform was crowded with the town folk who had come to wish us goodbye.

Back to Canada

As the train slowly pulled out, some half-wit blew up some condoms and pushed them out the train window so that they could float in the wind.  I think some of the people were put off but most of them just laughed.  After an all day ride we arrived at Liverpool and got on board a ship called the “Monarch of Bermuda”.  It had been a pleasure ship before the war and it still looked pretty nice.  There were about sixty war brides on board.  They were quartered on the upper deck out of the way.
A party of three hundred of us were detailed for various duties and I was lucky to be on the bridge watch.  It was two hours on and ten hours off.  My shift was from 0300 to 0500 hours and from 1500 to 1700 hours.  Before the ship sailed I had one of the dock workers buy a bottle of light ale for me to take home.
The ship sailed early in the morning of December 9th, on the morning tide.  It was so foggy, that I don't know how they found their way out of the harbour.
Being on the work party meant that we slept down in the E deck.  This was a good spot, for you couldn't feel any of the rough seas and it was quiet.  I liked getting up at 0200 hours.  Morning was the time that most of the day's baking was done.  The small loaves of bread smeared with jam, along with bacon and eggs, made it a great way to start the day.  I was on the bridge watch just to the right of where the wheelsman steered the ship.  We were to keep an eye out for any lights that we might see from passing ships.  I asked the captain all kinds of silly questions, but he didn't seem to mind and it made the time go fast.
Around the third day we started encountering high winds that seemed to get stronger every day.  By the fifth day the waves were at least twenty feet high and the ship had to slow down to avoid crashing into them.  A lot of the guys were pretty seasick and there were fewer people for meals every day.  I never had that problem and I thought it just great that there was more to eat for the rest of us.
I think we docked at Halifax on December 15, 1945.  When we docked, everyone rushed over to the side rail to get a look at the city and the ship started listing over so far that it was in danger of turning over.  This was because there was a foot of ice all over the front of the ship, caused by the water spray.  The captain got on the horn and had us move to the centre, to even out the ship.
After a short delay, we finally got off and formed up on the dock.  Here an officer went down the line and had every tenth or so soldier step out of the line.  They then had to empty all their packs on the dock.  I guess they were looking for guns and ammunition that we were bringing home as souvenirs.  Lucky for me that they missed my pack as I had two pistols that I had found in the German slit trenches.
After this silly inspection, we boarded the train and the ladies from various organizations came alongside the train with apples, oranges, bananas, and sandwiches for us.  We hadn't seen these items in a long time and they were welcome gifts.  Later in the afternoon the train pulled out and we headed for home.
It was a long troop train and the cars were full.  We had to sleep sitting up, but with all the excitement of being back in Canada, it didn't bother us too much.  At most of the stops, someone would be there with some goodies for us.  I thought that this was a nice way to welcome us back.  During the second night, as the train stopped for water and coal at a station near Smiths Falls, one guy looked out and said that he lived near there.  He threw his equipment out the window and jumped out.  I guess he couldn't wait.
The train pulled into Union Station in Toronto on the morning of Monday, 17 December 1945.  We filed out of the train and formed up on parade and, accompanied by four bands, we marched up University Avenue to the armouries.  There, the 2nd battalion of the Queen's Own Rifles was lining the street.
We marched into the crowded armouries and stood there listening to some speeches from the former commanding officers.  A chap standing next to me started crying and I asked him what was wrong and he said that his wife was standing over by the wall.  I told him to go on over and when he left the parade broke up.  That was the end of the speeches.
I had a great visit with some of the guys that had gone home earlier and were already back at work.  I happened to look around and was I ever surprised to see my younger brother standing there, looking for me.  He had been in the navy and been discharged earlier in the year.  We had a good time that evening going to a girlie show.  We caught the train for home at midnight.
We arrived back in Cardinal the next morning.  When I got home, there was a lot of hugging and kissing and suddenly I felt tired.  I sat down in the old rocking chair by the window and had a look at the river.  I noticed the old spaniel dog lying under the kitchen stove.  The noise woke her and she looked up for a second and was dozing off when suddenly the old dog looked up again and made a mad dash, jumping up on my lap and licking my face.  It was sure good to be home again!
house with a large welcome sign above the door and five persons standing in front
Uncle Armand, brothers Joe and Al, Uncle Tony, John Marin


I was discharged from the army on the 4th of February 1946, after 46 months of service.  It had been quite an adventure and it should have been the end.  However, while attending Queen's University in Kingston, I applied for the Canadian Officer Training Corps.  I took the M test again and found out that I scored 204 out of 212 points.  I spent the summer at the officer training school at Barrie­field and it actually felt good to get back in the harness again.
I had been away from school for too long and found it difficult to keep up my marks, so I left after the second year.  This was also the end of the army career.
In 1969 we traveled to Europe, with some 34 other former members of the Queen's Own Rifles on a grand tour of some of the former battle sites.  The tour was arranged by an old mortar man, Jack Martin We also visited some of the cemeteries of the Canadian war dead.
Wherever we went, the people still remembered us and made us feel welcome.  One of the highlights was a grand parade through the city of Caen.  It had been devastated by the bombing in 1944, but had been rebuilt and the city folks gave us a great welcome.  The French government put on a big do for us and we had a great reunion with members of other units who were also there.
In Holland I managed to locate the young lady that I had met in 1945 and we traveled across the country to have a visit.  We still exchange Christmas cards.
All too soon the trip ended and it was back home again, with many more memories.
route of the Queen's Own Rifles drawn on a map of Northwest Europe
Map of Northwest Europe showing the route
taken by the Queen's Own Rifles
photo of a passenger liner with three smoke stacks and many soldiers on the decks
Newspaper clipping showing our arrival