May 16, 2021. When we visited the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten in October 2019, we laid flags down at the graves of five soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders who drowned in a tragic accident in Germany on April 28, 1945.
Recap: In Part 1, the 5 soldiers were identified and the circumstances leading up to the accident were summarized. (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/05/15/on-the-war-memorial-trail-a-tragic-drowning-on-the-leda-river-in-germany-part-1/)
….Another account of what happened….
Part 2 provides more information. In ‘River Assault – Operation Duck: The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division’s Attack On Leer 28th April 1945’, author John Sliz wrote that “…The Highland Light Infantry cleared the north landing dock of the Leda River ferry in time for ‘C’ Company of the North Novas to be transported over in storm boats….. Unfortunately, ‘C’ Company’s crossing was eventful…”
“…It started at 1540 when Lt MacLean of the 20th Field Company, RCE, called the boat pool for 12 Storm Boats to go to the Leda River ferry site. The trip was fine, despite the choppy water and wind. Sgt G. Stewart and 13 Platoon were the first to be ferried over…” RCE refers to Royal Canadian Engineers.
“…The next were company headquarters, Lt Laskin with 14 Platoon and Lt R.S. McGlashen with 15 Platoon….” After crossing the river, all 3 Platoons were to “… swing north towards the town….” of Leer.
“… All was fine until a very unfortunate incident occurred when one boat, containing half of 15 Platoon, including Lt McGlashen, set out from the south bank. That is when the shelling started. The young engineer operating the motor became very excited. The other sapper shouted at him not to turn on full power because when the motor dipped it would upset the boat’s balance. Unfortunately, when they were halfway across, a shell landed very close to the boat and the nervous sapper gunned the engine, shifting the weight and allowing water to flow over the gunwales….”
“…Lt McGlashen managed to shed his heavy equipment and not only made it to the shore, but managed to help another man ashore. All but 5 men made it to the shore…” These were the 5 men from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.
….Why did the men drown?….
Why did the five men drown? John Sliz noted that “…These men sank, never to rise again, even though life belts were worn. The reason for this was the heavy equipment worn by the men was too much for the life belt that was used….”
Sliz quotes from a report by Brigadier John M. Rockingham. “…The equipment was worn….. in such a way that the waist belt alone had to be unbuckled to permit the soldier to shake it free. There was, however, a tendency for this equipment to slide down the arms, pressing them into the side, preventing any swimming motion, until it was finally clear….” It would have been like trying to swim while wearing a straightjacket!
….From the Lloyd William Murray records….
The accounts of the accident match the war diary entry for the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment. In the service file for Lloyd William MURRAY, a ‘Questionnaire On A Missing Officer Or Soldier’ noted that the boat capsized at “…about 1630 hours...”
A description of the event states that “…Boat was moving full throttle across Leda River which was very rough at the time. Other boats were also making water choppy. Waves breaking over bow of storm boat capsized the boat. Pte Murray, LW was in boat when it sank...”
On May 22, 1945, Chaplain Graydon O. Coy wrote to Lloyd Murray’s mother, explaining that “…Lloyd was killed in action near the town of Leer in Germany when the North Novas were crossing the Emms Canal, one of the boats was hit; and your son and several others were killed. On account of the action, the bodies were not recovered until several days ago.
I buried Lloyd in the allied military plot in the Lutheran cemetery in Leer. I understand though that the Graves Commission will see that the bodies of our Canadian boys are brought together in a central cemetery as soon as possible….”
On June 8, 1945 Lt McGlashen wrote to Lloyd Murray’s mother, to tell her that “…Your son was a loyal and efficient member of my platoon in C Company and in action proved himself a courageous leader…”
McGlashen went on to describe the events leading to the boat capsizing, and noted that “…other boats came to our rescue quickly, but 5 boys of my platoon were gone…”
…. Lloyd William Murray Remembered….
Lloyd Murray’s nephew, Murray Baillie, explained that “…Lloyd had three brothers and four sisters; they felt immense pain when they heard of his death near the end of the war in 1945…”
Born on April 4, 1917, Lloyd was the son of John and Bessie Murray, of Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia. Before officially enlisting on June 1, 1944 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he worked for several years in Ontario mines and later in Pictou shipyards.
In 1944 Lloyd was at Camp Ipperwash in Forest, Ontario, and wrote to his sister Emma that “…I am getting along fine and like it here good. It is a very nice camp here. It is only about twenty miles from the border to US. I go over to Detroit quite often. They sure use the servicemen great there. We get leave every two weeks…”
On March 29, 1945 he wrote Emma from Europe. “…I am in Germany now and getting along fine. I am writing this letter in a slit trench and there is sure quite a bit of noise around. We got the Germans on the run. Don’t think war will last much longer.
I hope not anyway. I was in Belgium quite a little while and like it great there. It sure is a nice place.
We are having nice weather here. Hope it stays this way….”
…. to be continued…..
In Part 3 we learn more about the North Novies who lost their lives. Thank you to Murray Baillie for sharing photos and the letters written by Lloyd William Murray.
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