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World War II: our man Friday.

I recall an occasion of 57 years ago (15 September 1944) in the Calais area; "Cap Gris Nez." I was the Sergeant of No. 5 Platoon, "A" Company of the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa. There were two French chaps of the FFI -- The Free French of the Interior -- who wanted to join our platoon. This was not customary in the Canadian Army, and the company commander wouldn't allow them to be armed, although a steel helmet and rations were okayed.

I acquired one of these FFI chaps, whom I named "Friday." He was a specialized scrounger as well as a great source of information on the geography of the area and spots occupied by the Germans.

One group in particular was a company of horse-drawn artillery. A patrol of 11 men (one section of 5 Platoon) were dispatched to investigate. Six miles into mined enemy territory, they surrounded this artillery stronghold. Shots were fired, shouts of "Surrender! Kraut! Caput!" were heard. A white flag was raised and 130 prisoners were taken. One German officer who spoke English was ordered to hitch a team of horses to a wagon on which wounded Germans were loaded. The 11 patrolmen took a horse from their stable and rode safely behind this wagon back to Platoon headquarters.

We had 13 beautifully trained horses which, Friday informed me, the local farmers wanted to purchase. The 130 prisoners were herded to the local prisoner of war camp, and the horses were auctioned off at a fair market price.

The 11 patrolmen went back to the German position, riding one horse and leading another back to our camp. These 22 horses were tethered in a guarded, fenced field ready for sale the next morning.

Early next day our major, accompanied by the Bourgomaster of the town, visited our yard sale and seized our horses along with the cash for the sale of the original 13 horses. Friday and I were astounded that our cash and assets could be confiscated. We were informed that A.M.G.O.T. (the Allied Military Government of Occupied Territories) had jurisdiction over this type of business. Our patrolmen didn't get a thank you -- not even a mention in despatches.

Every year, at our annual anniversary regimental dinner, those few of us that are left and able, relate and relive this experience. We wonder what A.M.G.O.T. invested the proceeds of this horse deal in; and wonder if we still might be entitled to some of the capital gains.

This is a true story. On page 66 of the History of the 1st Battalion Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, Lieutenant Colonel Richard M. Ross O.B.E. makes mention of A Company's horse market.

I mention this not necessarily as part of the story, but as proof of its authenticity.
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Author:Stanley, Oren
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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