Nice to meet you

In Uncategorized by Lea

British soldiers being taken prisoner.
British prisoners at Arnhem Bridge. They are unshaven after four days of fighting – water was scarce during the battle.

Through time, names in stories fade. The people become stick figures in the tales we tell, their identities stripped. Actions speak louder than words. I’m hoping I’ve put names back on two faces from the Second World War.

I’m writing a memoir for a family who lived in Banff from the 1940s until now. The patriarch who was a Banff National Park warden for many years, also fought in the Second World War. In 1986, the Calgary Highlander veteran returned to Europe as a tourist along with his wife who had been a war bride from England.

The Banff couple landed in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The veteran had never fought in that country as he was injured in Normandy. Other Highlanders had been in Netherlands during the Second World War and were instrumental in the Battle of the Scheldt. The military operation, in September 1944, cleared a path along the coastal areas of the Scheldt River so Allies could ship supplies to vital ports and keep pushing the Nazis back to Germany.  

The couple didn’t have the area of the Scheldt on their 1986 European agenda. They did have Arnhem. The Battle of Arnhem was fought in the town of Arnhem as well as other surrounding towns. It was the largest airborne and glider operation in history and a military disaster. The 1977 film A Bridge Too Far is based on the events of the British 1st Airborne Division. It was supposed to secure the bridge at Arnhem but couldn’t and was captured by the Nazis.

I wanted to make sure I could write that no Calgary Highlanders were in this battle so I was doing some research. I looked in books and of course, online. Two Highlanders were indeed in the battle as part of the CANLOAN scheme. I’ve read a lot about the Second World War and this is the first time I’ve heard of CANLOAN. Towards the end of the war, Canada had a surplus of army officers. The Second British Army was short. Officers from Canada were “loaned” to the Brits. Four Highlanders in total were loaned to the British. Two were at the Battle of Arnhem.

Who were these men?

No one seemed to know. I kept finding the same thing, written in different ways:

Two were captured at Arnhem.

But who are they? What are their names?

Bit by bit, I put pieces of information together. My online searches became more and more detailed and focused. Then…I found them.

Nice to meet you Lieutenant-colonel James (Jim) Taylor and Lieutenant Lawrence (Larry) Kane.

It’s thanks to two other men, Hans Houterman and Jeroen Koppes, that I found Jim and Larry. Hans and Jeroen put together a website, World War II unit histories and officers, that helped me put the pieces together.

Jim and Larry were with 7th Battalion Kings Own Scottish Borderers in Arnhem in September 1944. Jim, seriously wounded, and Larry were taken as Prisoners of War at the battle. After being released at the end of the war, Jim served thirty-four years in the Canadian Army. He died on Jan. 5, 2010. His son, Ray Taylor, has written a poem about his father and the “airborne warriors” at Arnhem – The Arnhem Pilgrimage.

Unfortunately, I can’t find anything about Larry Kane. His record says on June 2, 1945, he “struck off strength at own request.” This means he ceased to be a member of his unit.

Over forty years later, the Banff couple travelled around the Netherlands, France, Germany where battles were fought and friends lost. The pair went to England where hours of soldier training had made life boring but the chance of a life with an English rose turned it sweet.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” wrote Shakespeare. I’m just glad I can now call Jim and Larry Highlanders.