My promotions had come since all the other ones were killed

Interview  – April 2005

John Ross - WWII Veteran
1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, C Company

Liberator of the Netherlands

John Ross remembers falling asleep in the converted Albermarles aircraft that carried him from England, across the English Channel and into enemy territory on the eve
of Operation Overlord – the D-Day invasion. Ross, a Lethbridge senior, is a surviving veteran of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. “I was with C (Charlie) company.  We had 120 men, 10 to each aircraft,” recalled Ross, who was 23 at the time.  “We were packed like sardines and couldn’t stand up. To get out to the aircraft, there was a hole cut in the floor with a trap door over it.” On that fateful night, under cover of darkness, only three planes made it to the drop zone and only 32 men made it to the rendezvous point, but Ross says he got on the ground safely and made it to the rendezvous point. “I was so dead on target, I could recognize the area from the maps we had studied.” They moved forward to their first task, to attack a German stronghold point. ”It was an all-night battle and we lost dead and wounded and they lost dead and wounded, the Germans,” he says. 
At about 10 a.m. on June 6, 1944, the Germans in that stronghold surrendered. “We were not expected to be longer than say three days on that high ground,” Ross recalls.  “ The only trouble is they didn’t take the Germans into their confidence on these plans…three months later, it was near the end of August that Caen was taken and instead of three days on the high ground, we were pretty much there the whole time.”



There they had time to rest and get new instructions.  The battalion, in fact, did not return to England until September 7th, 1944. He doesn’t recall ever being frightened, particularly when they first began the deadly adventure.
  “I think we were too young and stupid to be frightened,” he says. “The experienced veteran troops were the ones who were frightened because they knew what was coming, but the inexperienced, untried, were too naďve.” It was tough going, however, and Ross won’t deny that. “I was in a ditch and the stinging nettles were brushing against my face and hands but the tracer bullets were keeping my head down.”
In December he arrived back by boat in Antwerp to start the Battle of the Bulge through the Ardennes.  As the Americans went east into Germany and north along the east of the Maas river, the Canadians went north towards Holland. At Panderome the battalion got a three day rest. For the conditions that the unit would encounter in the Netherlands in January, they were newly equipped.  This was a welcome replacement for the makeshift mitts and hoods that the troops had fashioned for themselves from blankets. Ross fought up till Roermond.  He was at that time platoon commander. As he says himself;  “My promotions had come since all the other ones were killed.” It was here that he was ordered to go back to England for officer training.  Before his course was finished, the war was over and he went back to Canada.  In May he will be in Holland again, his 14th time back in western Europe for war ceremonies.

Interviewed by Mr Siemens, with additional excerpts from an article in the Lethbridge Herald, written by Janine Ecklund

  photo, June 21st, 2005 - Funnels forming in the clouds. A Tornado hits Lethbridge.
Henderson Lake Park