Sergeant-major Gordie Bannerman on the battle of Otterloo
This web page originally consisted of links to pages from the
online second world war memoirs of
After his death, his website, a collection of a long series
of emails, was taken down.
On this page I have combined the Otterloo pages from his website
into one continuous narrative with some copy editing.
Abbreviations and acronyms in the original have been
A number of digressions in the original emails
have been omitted but several others have been retained.
The photographs are from a variety of sources including
The subtitles and table of contents have been added.
I have also added the two sets of co-ordinates, converted
from grid references found in other documents.
During the battle of Otterloo, Gordie Bannerman
was the sergeant-major of Fox Troop of the 76th Battery
of the 17th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian
and we were in Arnhem.
The advance parties had been called to go forward once again.
This time I did not go, as the Easy Troop and Fox Troop command posts were close
together and I was left as the senior person.
The reason for this was that our gun position officer, Art deBelle, was
An officer from each troop went with the advance party.
Lieutenant Alex Ross went from Fox Troop and I think Lieutenant Bill Athey from
The advance party had left the gun area for less than an hour when my brother
George drove up with his crew.
They informed us that they had been at least 30 miles up the road and had failed
to catch up to the tanks of the 5th Armoured Brigade.
It looked like the mighty maroon machine (5th Canadian Armoured Division)
was really on a roll.
George assured us that, “It looks like it will be clear sailing for you”.
Just then fire orders came in from the flying observation officer calling
for us to fire on certain coordinates.
George said that it looks like you will be busy and left, adding that he had to fly
to a flame warfare lecture in London that night.
Bombardier Bob Andrews from Easy Troop and Gunner Don Bulloch from Fox Troop were
the chaps manning the artillery boards and plotting the air officer's target.
Bob Andrews said that we could not fire on that target because that was the destination
of our advance party.
I then did not give any fire orders to the guns as Bob Andrews was backed
up by Don Bulloch.
We stalled a moment or so and then reported to the air observer that our advance party
should be in that area.
We were ordered to cancel the target.
Very shortly after, we received orders to limber up because we were about to leave.
Soon Sergeant-major Shkwarek came back and the 76th Battery started moving.
Fox troop followed Easy troop up the road to the village of Otterloo.
Here I was met on the side of the road by Lieutenant Ross who pointed out the field
to the left of the road where he had positioned the flags for each gun.
to the far site, Sergeant Roy Johnson next, then Sergeant
Ronald “Pop” Barkwell, and finally the last gun commanded by Sergeant
Lieutenant Ross said that orders had come from the battery command post not to dig
Guns were unlimbered, positioned, and placed on line by Lieutenant Ross.
While he was doing this I took all our gun tractors and extra vehicles back to an area
beside the Otterloo cemetery.
The Fox Troop command post was located in a house
(at N 52° 6.367′ E 5° 46.547′)
in front of the guns and within a few
yards of a small wooded area.
This positioning was backwards as normally the troop command post would
be in the rear of the guns.
But this was the only shelter near our position.
It was not an ideal spot but with the reports we had received,
it looked like it would be a quiet evening.
Our 76th Battery command post, responsible for both Easy troop and Fox troop,
was on our right flank
(at N 52° 6.475′ E 5° 46.766′)
across the road from us and in front of the Easy Troop gun
positions and the Easy troop command post.
Hindsight is always great; the selection of the battery command post was a very poor
choice as the evening and following day would prove.
As we were getting into position, along came a couple of Dutch civilians who told us
that there were several hundred Germans in a village not far away.
They informed us that all they had were revolvers.
That seemed strange and as far as we knew our tanks were miles up the road.
This group of Germans must have been bypassed.
I thought that I would take a ride up the road toward Hoenderloo on my motor bike.
As I turned onto the road a sentry from the Irish Regiment of Canada attempted
to flag me down.
I ignored him and sped up the road probably a couple of miles.
I came to a cross road and thought that I would stop and see if I could hear or see anything.
Here is where I had that really scary chilly feeling that I was being watched.
My hair went right up and a chill swept over me.
I kicked the bike starter bringing the motor on with a roar but in my excitement and hurry
to turn around and get out of there I stalled the motor.
Now in a near panic I had to restart the motor which seemed to take more than the normal
kicks on the starter.
Eventually it started so I turned around and hunched over the handle bars.
I roared back down the road coming to where the Irish sentry had tried to stop me on my way
up the road.
This time he stopped me with his rifle pointing at me asking who did I think I was to go up
that road when he had been told not to let anyone go past his post.
I lied and said I did not hear him the first time.
After I returned from my short jaunt up the Otterloo to Apeldoorn road, I had, an uneasy
feeling that things were not really as calm as they might be.
On discussing it with Lieutenant Alex Ross and stating my thoughts, we agreed that even
though gun pits were not being dug, slit trenches would be dug and right away.
I went from gun crew to gun crew telling them to dig slit trenches.
At the last gun, along came three drivers from the battery command post who had been
up the field to another house looking for a glass of wine, I suspect, or just
A Sten submachine gun started to fire so I hollered at the chap with the gun
to quit firing and smarten up.
His reply was that he could not shut the Sten gun off.
The Sten gun was on a sling hanging down his back and for no reason other than it being
a damn Sten gun, it had started to fire.
All he could do was stand with his legs apart and knees bowed while the gun fired
some 25 rounds into the dirt between his legs.
At the command post all were either digging slit trenches or had completed them
so I dug one for myself not far from the command post and a few feet from
an Irish-Regiment truck.
With this truck was a corporal and two other infantry men.
They had not dug any slit trenches so I kept at them to do so until they
likely thought that they would never get this sergeant-major off their backs.
They then dug a good slit trench on the far right corner of the house closest
to the road and the low trees.
It got dark around 2100 hours and everything seemed calm.
Most of the chaps had turned in for the night.
The artillery guns had partial crews on duty as did the command post.
Some bedded down in slit trenches outside the house while others, including myself,
put their fart sacks on the floor of the house and went off to sleep.
Don Bulloch, Alex Ross, and a signaler, probably
were on duty in the small attached room at the far end of the house.
Around 2300 hours, I was awakened by Lieutenant Ross saying that there were reports
of German troops moving about in the bush north of the house.
He had also heard from Lieutenant Jim Stone at the battery command post
that they were hearing troops coming down the road.
I, along with the rest, got up in a hurry, pulled on trousers, and went to the
door of the house.
This door was at the rear of the house and faced the guns.
Just then an Irish-Regiment infantry man fired a few rounds.
Lieutenant Ross said to me, “Sergeant-major, get someone out to the corner
of the house”.
I did not make a move so Lieutenant Ross said, “Briant, you cover that corner”.
I put my arms over Bill Briant and told him to stay where he was.
Just then a mortar bomb hit where Briant was to go.
Another mortar bomb whispered through overhead and exploded between those of us at the door
and Sergeant Humble's gun.
Then through the air came a piece of the bomb making a fair bit of noise.
Sergeant Bill Copithorn said that it hit somebody and I said “Yes, me”.
It hit with a good punch to the lower abdomen so I retreated into the house,
passing Gunner Stubbington who was crawling out from under all the window glass.
This glass was from the first bomb exploding.
I lowered my pants and found just a trickle of blood on my stomach.
It did not seem serious.
From here I accompanied Lieutenant Ross back around the corner of the house
to our command post.
Just as we went into that part of the house, Sergeant Humble arrived with four or five Germans
that he and his crew had captured.
Sergeant Humble left the prisoners with Don Bulloch and me.
Lieutenant Ross told me to stay and look after the command post while he went into the
village for help.
This was the beginning of a very violent night.
Here in the cramped command post Don Bulloch and I had five or six prisoners.
In the next few minutes one of Sergeant Humble's crew came in with another prisoner.
The other prisoners were overjoyed to see this new chap who was a German corporal.
This is when I thought that I could get some assistance from this corporal in convincing
his fellow attackers to surrender.
I grasped him by the back of his collar and took him out the door and around into the other
room of the house where a few of our fellows were.
Just as we entered this room a German ran by and sprayed a magazine of small arms fire through
the wall and the window.
I went down to the floor and held the corporal down.
My thought was to get out of this room and get back into the room with Don Bulloch who
I had left with the rest of the prisoners.
Back with Don, one of the prisoners wanted to relieve himself and either Don or I had said
go ahead but we were not going out with him.
With a rumble of bowels the poor chap crapped himself.
In an instant, more small arms fire crashed over our heads and into the other room.
I reached for the wires and shut off our battery operated light.
Don and I had the prisoners lying on the floor with us on top of them.
I remember shaking my revolver at them and saying lie still you sons of bitches.
Tom Coll and
were both hit, Tom Coll in the buttocks and Ken Nicolson
in the abdomen.
a signaler and a very cool competent chap, immediately took charge
of dressing Tom's and Ken's wounds.
I leave Otterloo for a moment to relate that a year after this, Vic Bennett and I were
at Tom Coll's wedding in Vancouver.
After the service at the reception which looked to be a dry affair, Mrs. Bennett pulled
a bottle of rye from her purse.
We cornered Tom Coll and after a few belts we all started discussing the Otterloo battle.
Tom's version was one statement on his being wounded and that was, “I was standing
in the shit house and got shot in the ass”.
Now back to the events of that night.
Lieutenant Ross had returned without any help so he had us move the prisoners from
the house to where my slit trench was.
He had Sergeant Humble and another fellow guard them.
Ross told Don Bulloch and me to gather any codes from the command post which Don did.
Lieutenant Ross then went back into the village.
Don Bulloch joined the other fellows in the house but I remained outside watching for anyone
While outside the house Ken Nicolson called out to me to get him to an aid post.
My reply was, “Hold on Ken, Lieutenant Ross should be back with help soon
and we will get you out”.
Time seemed to stand still with the battery command post across the road going up in flames
and with small arms fire from our right front and our rear.
Later, I spoke to Fred Lockhart in the room with the others and asked how Ken was doing.
He answered that Ken was dead.
Fred Lockhart came out of the house to join me on guard duty.
We were crouched at the open door of the vacated command post room listening and watching
when we heard the crunch of footsteps coming along side the house.
We both whispered Tedeski to each other and out of the darkness came this German soldier.
Fred and I leaped up and I shoved my revolver and Fred his rifle to his body.
The German said something like, “Nix shuuten nix pistola, camardie”
or “kamerad” and the word “Canadesi”.
I went through this prisoner's pockets while Fred watched him.
All I found was some revolver ammunition which I threw to the ground.
We took this chap to join the others guarded by Sergeant Humble.
Soon Lieutenant Ross arrived with some troopers from the Governor General's Horse Guards
who took our prisoners from us into the village.
It was hard to believe that all of this was happening to us on the outskirts
of a small Dutch village.
Houses were burning; vehicles were on fire; and small arms fire was interspersed with
exploding mortar bombs.
It was not the quiet evening that we had expected.
Lieutenant Ross now returned to the village while I remained at the house guarding
the left side by myself.
I was startled when I heard someone coming from my rear.
It turned out to be the corporal from the Irish Regiment of Canada who informed
me that we were really in a tough spot and asked me, “What are you and the rest
of your fellows going to do to get out of here?”.
He then went on to tell me that the Germans were advancing up the Apeldoorn-Otterloo
road to the right and that from the track in front of our house he could hear Germans talking
as they moved along.
I asked the corporal where were the two infantry men who had been with him.
He replied that they had gone some time ago to return to the village.
The corporal and I started towards Sergeant Humble's gun when both
of us stopped at the same instant.
We were walking directly behind eight or ten German soldiers pulling
a Maxim heavy machine gun on wheels.
We immediately scurried back to my slit trench and I asked the corporal if we should take
The corporal said not with just my revolver and him with only half a magazine for his
He stated that his next move was to go to “C Company” and with that
he leapt to his feet and disappeared into the night.
I expected the Germans with the Maxim gun to cut him down but they did not.
Well, there I was alone in the slit trench and they had not yet shot at the corporal.
I did not feel like staying there so I jumped up and ran to Humble's gun position.
I croaked, “Let them have it, Nels!” and then ran over to Barkwell's gun.
I did not give a password but just hollered that it was me and piled in with Pop Barkwell
and his crew.
I told them about the group with the Maxim heavy machine gun.
Then I raced from there and did the same at Johnson's gun and from there to the farthest
gun, that of Darcy Spencer.
Darcy immediately wanted to grab his bren gun and go to help Nels and his crew but I vetoed this
because we had not heard Nels and his crew open fire on the Germans and Darcy and his crew would
likely be mistaken for the enemy.
Now this total distance from Nels to Darcy was at least sixty yards.
Why did the German gun crew not fire on the Irish-Regiment corporal or on me?
I will never know except that the group towing the Maxim machine gun must have been
confused about what was going on or else just stopped to plan their attack.
Darcy, his crew, and I soon heard the password called out by some of our gun crews.
This was followed within seconds by rifle and machine gun fire and screams that echoed
and continued for a long while.
Darcy Spencer and his gun crew had used great common sense in digging all except
one of their slit trenches in front of their guns.
This was unusual but was a good move here because they had an unobstructed view
of the whole area to their front.
I had not been there long when Lieutenant Ross scurried into our area asking if we needed more
I replied that we did not.
He then asked me about the signalers and the assistants to the gun position officer
back in the troop command post.
I said that they would be okay as Sergeant Copithorn was with them and he was experienced
and would get them out.
Lieutenant Ross left us to deliver Sten-gun ammunition to the other guns.
He had just left us when out of the distance in the village I could make out the fire
orders for mortars.
I said to Sergeant Spencer that it sounds like our friend Tommy from the Irish
Regiment of Canada and the range that he was giving was to be right down
on top of us.
We hunkered down.
I did not have my helmet but Darcy had a spare so I put it on.
When we heard Tommy holler “Fire”, we thought that we were in for it.
But luck was on our side.
The mortars rained down around the other three guns in the troop.
Lieutenant Ross had just arrived at Sergeant Johnson's gun when the mortars landed.
One of Johnson's crew told me later that a strap binding a bed roll was cut by the flying
shrapnel and the belt like a snake went around Lieutenant Ross' neck.
That was a good story as told later but not at the time that it happened.
After the mortaring stopped, a machine gun to our left rear opened up on us.
Sergeant Spencer grabbed the Bren gun but I restrained him as it was either a Browning
or a Vickers by the rate of fire, that is, one of our own weapons.
The rounds chewed up the gun sights and bounced off the barrel into the slit trench
that we were occupying.
The machine gun probably fired two hundred rounds into Sergeant Spencer's gun
and ammunition limber.
During the terrific fire from this machine gun we heard a hissing sound.
Spencer said that the ammunition limber was going to blow and that it was up to either
him or me to put it out.
I replied that without smoke or flames from the limber, we should wait.
It did not ignite or explode but daylight later showed that fifty bullets had gone
into the fender and tire of the limber.
With that over, we could hear moans from the far right which turned out to be wounded
Germans near Sergeant Barkwell's gun.
The next thing that I remember was the signalers and assistants to the gun position officer
running across our immediate front.
Darcy and I called out to them and asked them if they all got out.
The answer was yes and they proceeded towards the village.
They had left the command post when the Germans came up to fire through
the windows on them.
When our boys attempted to return fire, their weapon misfired, so out the opposite window
Fred Lockhart told me that when they all got out the window they realized that they had
forgotten the Bren gun so Fred went back into the house through the window and climbed
out with the Bren gun and magazines.
He then caught up with the rest as they left the area.
A couple of Germans ignited the Irish-Regiment truck at our command post.
This lighted up the whole area and was accompanied by the exploding ammunition and fuel
that the truck carried.
A tremendous amount of firing and yelling was going on in the village.
While down the Apeldoorn-Otterloo road to our right flank the Germans were marching
along with some horse-drawn wagons with the fires lighting them up so we could
see them quite clearly.
A couple of them stopped and tried to light fire to an ammunition limber near
our command-post house but failed in their attempt.
This long night wore on without any further German attacks on our guns.
At Sergeant Spencer's gun some of us dozed off to sleep for a few moments.
Gunner Straub who had fallen asleep awakened with a cry; “Those sons of bitches are not
going to get me!” and he immediately fired his rifle towards the bush to our front.
It all happened so fast and it seemed that he never really awakened as he was again in a sound
sleep as if nothing had happened.
Gunner Kahgee showed us a crease on his neck where a German sniper had fired and just broken
or burned the skin.
That was a bit too close for comfort.
Daylight came and we could see the wasp flamethrowers of the Irish Regiment clear
the ditches beside the Otterloo-Apeldoorn road of German troops.
The blasts of flame sent the Germans running and hollering with uniforms on fire trying
to get away as fast as they could.
We learned later that in the ditch with the Germans was Gunner Iverson.
He had been captured and held by the Germans all night.
His captors had taken his shoes and socks off and informed him that if they were defeated,
he would not be taken with them, in other words, he would be shot.
When the flames hit the ditch, Iverson received burns but, being a tough little fellow,
he grabbed a pistol from one of the Germans and informed them that they were now
Iverson described this to me the next day.
After the wasp flame throwers left the road we saw a Churchill tank of the Royal Engineers
(British) coming up behind our guns.
It commenced firing all its machine guns into the bush to our front.
The tank stopped near one of our guns and a tank crew member loaded a large bomb into
a projector on the tank.
This was called a “petard”.
After loading, the bomb was fired into the bush.
We could see this giant bomb hurtling through the air.
It hit and exploded near our command post house.
Sergeant Spencer and I, seeing that this tank was doing such a great job,
left our trench and went to check on the other gun crews.
The first gun we came to was Sergeant Johnson's with all his crew safe.
They had not been attacked.
Along with Johnson's crew was Lieutenant Alex Ross who had spent the later part
of the night with this crew.
Lieutenant Ross had made three trips into the village to try and get infantry or tank
help but to no avail.
The trips were extremely dangerous as Ross had to crawl through the Germans that were
advancing on the village.
Lieutenant Ross did a brave thing.
From Johnson's gun we went to Sergeant Pop Barkwell's gun and the sight that greeted
us was one of dead and wounded Germans all around the slit trenches.
What a story could be seen in Pop Barkwell's face, grimy and tired with grey whiskers
full of dirt.
It was a scene from hell!
We were to learn later in the day what a magnificent stand they had made that night.
When the Germans attacked the gun crew, Pop was up and into them knocking
the Germans down with his fists.
Pop and his crew fought the Germans to a standstill.
and Gunner McNeil each shot two attackers from
about a foot distance.
Pop's crew like all the crews had shallow slit trenches about a foot or so deep.
Velestuk and McNeil were lying on their backs and the attackers were crawling up to them.
At the sign of any movement or when the attackers were outlined, then Velestuk and McNeil would
fire at point-blank range resulting in four very dead Germans.
There were were a few more dead a couple of feet further away.
Next to them were a couple of wounded Germans who had been hit early in the night and were
still alive but not in the best of shape.
At this point a German came out of the bush waving a Red Cross flag.
He was a medic.
We let the German medic come up to us.
He was pretty nervous so we gave him a drink of water and a cigarette.
He then went to work on the wounded Germans trying to ease their suffering.
Our next stop was with Sergeant Humble's crew.
All were safe here but they too had experienced a pretty wild night.
They had made the initial capture of the enemy early in the night.
We now became concerned for our drivers who were in the wagon
lines near the Otterloo cemetery.
At the moment we knew that Ken Nicolson had died in the command-post house
and we had another one injured, Tom Coll, who was wounded there but had escaped
to the rear.
All the gun crews were miraculously safe except for Kahgee with only a minor injury.
Darcy Spencer and I turned to the rear to walk hurriedly to the wagon lines.
On arriving there we found no trace of Bombardier Wells or any of the drivers.
It looked like a pretty good battle had raged around the vehicles, with spent cartridge
casings all around, flat tires, scattered kit, and a dead German in a nearby ditch.
Darcy and I were feeling pretty low.
Where were our comrades?
Just then along came two drivers, Cawkwell and
Both were showing the signs of a terrible night.
Agnew was wearing only a pair of socks and a civilian top coat.
Cawkwell had been slightly wounded but not evacuated.
Cawkwell and Agnew informed us that they had been checking the aid posts and could not find
what happened to most of the drivers.
Agnew with tears in his eyes said that they could not find Jockie McMillan.
Darcy and I continued checking aid posts and found that seven of our drivers had been
taken to hospitals.
We were to learn later that one of them,
had succumbed to his injuries.
Darcy and I then checked other casualty clearing stations and aid posts and found out
that we were missing just one, Jockie McMillan.
Finally at an aid post seated on a bench was a small figure with a great swath of bandage
across his nose.
To our great relief, we had found Jockie.
Now here is what I did on seeing him.
I walked over to him and hit him a great wallop on his shoulder and asked him if that
was the only place where he could get hit.
Jockie's face broke into a great smile and he extended his hand which I took.
His words were “I'm glad to see you, Gordie”.
I replied “I'm glad to see you, Jockie.
Get well and get back soon”.
Jockie described how he was wounded.
He was on his tummy behind a gun tractor tire and he glanced out at a large German
advancing toward him with a submachine gun.
Jockie drew back but the German fired through the tire taking the tip off Jockie's nose.
Having accounted for all the drivers, we started back to Fox troop to report to Lieutenant Ross.
On the way we came upon a large group of the Irish Regiment of Canada, probably a company.
Standing up in an armoured car and speaking to the group was our divisional commander,
The general complimented them on the terrific fight that the Irish had put up the previous night
and on how well all personnel had performed.
He thanked them for a job well done.
An Irish-Regiment major spoke up and said that it was not them who broke the German attack
but that it was those darn artillery men who did not know enough to run but who stayed and
General Hoffmeister then asked who could lead him to these gunners.
Darcy Spencer and I replied that we were from the 17th Field Regiment and that we could.
Hoffmeister told us to climb onto his armoured car and show the way.
We proceeded along the street in Otterloo to the Apeldoorn crossroads, the site of our
drivers' gallant stand last night.
Turning to the left we soon arrived at Easy troop gun position.
General Hoffmeister stopped his vehicle and dismounted.
A group from Easy troop came up to talk to him.
The general then congratulated all the assembled group for their stand the previous night.
I thought that this would be a good opportunity to enlighten General Hoffmeister on the exemplary
conduct and leadership exhibited by our gun position officer, Lieutenant Alexander Ross,
during the battle.
I told him that Lieutenant Ross had gone through the enemy to the village three times
trying to get help and that, when help was not forthcoming, he had brought back Sten-gun
General Hoffmeister said that he would like to meet Lieutenant Ross so I replied that
I would go and get him.
I went over to our command post and found Lieutenant Ross busy getting things back into
order, cleaning everything up, and having Ken Nicolson's body removed.
I spoke to Lieutenant Ross saying the general was waiting on the side of the road
to meet him.
Lieutenant Ross replied, “I have no time to talk to generals this morning”.
I left but did not tell General Hoffmeister that Ross did not have time to talk to him.
Instead, I told the general that Ross was the only officer in the troop and was
not able to come at the moment, but he said to thank the general for his concern and interest.
This satisfied Hoffmeister who said to extend his regards to Lieutenant Ross for a job well done.
Before leaving our area, General Hoffmeister praised all battery personnel for their fighting stand
the previous night.
Years later, Alex Ross said to me that he did not have to be as flippant as he was when asked
to meet the general.
What Alex went through that night made up for any flippancy.
After the General left the area, Captain Les Hand drove up and said that there were
medals to be awarded but that there were not going to be many.
At this time all the Fox troop sergeants were gathered nearby.
If medals were scarce we would give our support to Lieutenant Ross and recommend him
for the Military Cross for his courageous acts during the night.
did get the Military Cross, as did our
76th Battery command-post officer,
At this point, I had no word on how my school buddy and best friend Orme Payne
had come through the battle.
Orme at that time was the 76th Battery signal sergeant and would have been at the battery
command post during the night.
Very early in the battle, the house with the battery command post
had gone up in flames.
This house had been to our right front across the Otterloo-Apeldoorn
Road from us.
There had been quite a lot of rifle and machine gun fire from that area
and there had been German soldiers moving along the road.
It was now morning and I had to see about Orme.
I left the Fox troop area, went across the road, and entered the field by the house
that was no longer there.
I had gone only a short distance when a figure approached me.
We soon came together and it was Orme looking for me.
We were certainly glad to see each other!
He had heard that I had been killed and I had wondered if he might have been
killed or wounded.
Not long after the battle of Otterloo, Lieutenant Ross and I were talking about the awards
and we regretted that neither sergeants Humble nor Barkwell or their crews were recipients
of any medals.
The crews of these two guns fought like supermen.
The leadership of the two sergeants should have earned them both the Military Medal
and their crews, to a man, should have been mentioned in dispatches.
Others who should have been candidates for awards include Bombardier J.D. Wells and his drivers
at the wagon lines, all of whom put up a terrific fight throughout the long night.
But none of us, including Alexander Ross, were given any time to think about medals
We were glad to have survived that terrible night.
The regret and sadness over losing our fellow gunners were such that no thoughts
were given to awards.
We had a total of two killed, Nicolson and Bancescu, and many wounded.
Fox troop had 45 personnel of all ranks and we took the greatest number of casualties
in the regiment with our drivers suffering the most.
During the next few weeks Lieutenant deBelle returned from leave
in England and Lieutenant Ross went on his well deserved leave.
The war in Europe was to end shortly and was over before Ross returned.
The two Fox Troop members killed at Otterloo, gunners William Bancescu and Kenneth Nicolson,
are buried in the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in the province of Gelderland in
the Netherlands, not far from Nijmegen.
Gunner William Bancescu, a driver,
from Flintoft, Saskatchewan
Gunner Kenneth Nicolson, a signaller,
from Winnipeg, Manitoba
The battle of Otterloo happened in 1945 on the night of
and the morning of
On this night Fox Troop had an engagement with the enemy that resulted in the deaths
of two of our fellow gunners and the wounding of many more.
One of the gunners, Ken Nicolson, was badly wounded in the command post house and died before he could
Here is where I will tell you how I felt.
For fifty years I carried a load of guilt about Ken's death.
I blamed myself for not getting him out of the house to an aid post.
For all those years afterwards, I thought about this every time I looked in the mirror.
I never told any one; not my wife, Edith, not our son, Gordie, not even Orme Payne, my best friend,
until about fifty years after Otterloo.
We were at a birthday gathering of Lloyd Fraser's at the Old Dutch Inn.
I was seated across from Don Bulloch who at the time of Otterloo was with me in the
We must have mentioned Ken Nicolson and his death and it triggered a need to tell someone
how I felt all these years.
Don was very supportive and assured me in no uncertain terms that I was not to blame for Ken
Nicolson's death and that Ken had not lived for long after being hit with gun fire
in the abdomen.
I felt better and in a day or so after this conversation with Don Bulloch, I had a call
from Don and he said that he and Fred Lockhart were coming to talk to me the following day
about Ken's death.
This is when I told Edith and Gordie about the long time guilt that I felt.
I must say they were very understanding.
The following day Don and Fred arrived and we talked over all the events of that night.
Don and Fred had been with me at the command post and both had been in the room of the house when
Ken Nicolson was hit with the submachine gun fire.
I was outside the west window of the house and heard Ken ask me to get him out.
I replied that we would as quickly as Lieutenant Ross came back with help.
A bit later I spoke to Fred Lockhart through the window and asked how Ken was.
The reply was that he had passed away.
Both Don and Fred had made the trip to see me entirely on their own.
We talked for over two hours on everything that happened that night so long ago.
They were both in agreement that all that was possible had been done to help Ken
from the time he was hit.
They lifted a load from my shoulders.
This visit by these two comrades was something that I will remember all my life.