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I Was There:

Coast Reporter Voice of the Sunshine Coast
11th November 2005

Memories of a Quartermaster
by Jan Degrass, Contributing Writer

When Canadians from the Regina Rifle Regiment landed at Normandy on D-Day, 1944, Frank Proctor was there. Years later when he wrote his memoirs, edited by his daughter Pamela Proctor of Gibsons, he was to use that experience for a title, I Was There. Proctor died in 2000, at the age of 95, but not before he saw the first draft of his finished book. He always had a good memory, says Pam, and his perspective of the battle and subsequent march through Europe is unique because he was an infantryman responsible for housing and feeding the troops.

Originally from Britain, Frank emigrated to Canada when he was a young lad to try different employment than that of a coal miner in Durham, England. On his first day on the job in Saskatchewan, he found himself, after 6,000 miles of journey and still dressed in his travelling suit, building stooks of wheat under the roasting prairie sun. Nonetheless, he loved Canada and eventually married and set up house in Regina.

In 1939, he enlisted, became Private Proctor and went for training in how to be a Quartermaster - a role that he would fulfill all his military life and even after the war. He was later to say that the Regina Rifles was one of his most pivotal experiences; it taught him the price of freedom.

But on June 4, 1944, he was thinking less about freedom and more about the miserable weather and the ration of vomit bags for the troops when he set out onto the rough English Channel to await orders.

"On June 6 at 7:35 a.m.," he wrote, "the first flight of sea craft of the invasion began its movement in our sector ... It was as though all hell had been let loose." His description of the grim scene is vivid: "The Germans with their heavy guns were half hidden in the sand in defensive shelters, three to four feet thick concrete, and they fired incessantly ... To silence these guns was the first objective ... Storm, shoot, kill, silence the opposition ... Nothing imaginable could have been more savage."

While the battle raged, the soldiers spent their first night in a hedgerow, then a slit trench. Proctor's route followed the gradual liberation of France, to Belgium and the Netherlands, but it was a bitter and slow struggle made bearable by the gratitude of the people for their Canadian liberators.

The book, I Was There, is at the Canadian War Museum and the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. Also in Ottawa, Pam and her co-publisher husband John Roper have presented copies of it to the Perley Home, an impressive and modern facility where some 400 veterans reside. While in Ontario, Pam also visited Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo because their Centre for Canadian Military History had ordered copies of the book. She hopes it will have a role in contributing to the increasing interest of new generations in Canadian military heritage. I Was There is available from Coast Books and from the website www.soldierstory.com

 

I Was There how to order I was there

An AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frank Proctor

Edited by
William N Tindall & Pamela Proctor


Published by tmi Publications, Gibsons, British Columbia, Canada

email: tmi Publications




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