Robert ("Bob") Kean Wood Elliott wrote this memoir in 1988 and 1991. Two decades later, Bob was approached by a professional writer who wanted to tell his story. The result is The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story by Alan J. Buick.
 You can read a more detailed story of the voyage, written by Bob's older sister Peggy, here.
 Actually, his father William was discharged at the end of 1915. You can read a more detailed discussion of William's World War I service here.
I was born in the north of Scotland on June 26, 1925 near a small town named Cawdor.
My father William was a game keeper, my mother Robina (née Woods) was a housekeeper and looked after the children; yes in 1927 I had three brothers: John, William (Bill) and Matthew (Matt) and three sisters: Margaret (Peggy), Robina (Ruby) and Elizabeth (Betty). I was the baby of the family. Just what made my parents pack up and go to Canada I will never be certain of but in 1927 when I was only 2 years old we arrived in Halifax with all our worldly possessions.
My dad had obtained a land grant under the Soldier's Settlement Act nine miles northwest of Olds, Alberta. My dad had served with the Scottish Highlanders during World War I from 1914-1918. He had been wounded and suffered lung problems from war gas.
My early memories of Canada are sparse. I remember during the initial trip west a great hassle in one city getting all the trunks off the train. I am told that was Winnipeg; glad we did not stay there.
On arrival at our new home I went to the barn to inspect the horses, which were not there but there was plenty of manure which I promptly fell in. I can still remember the reprimand.
I still remember sitting on my Dad's lap while he tied my shoe laces— it is funny how certain things stick in one's mind.
We used to go and visit our neighbors by horse and wagon. When we went visiting "wee Robert" had to be dressed in his kilt. Don't fool yourself; a Scotsman does wear something under his kilt. I can still remember wetting my pants because I could not get the big safety pin undone under my kilt to get my pants down.
My early years on the farm were happy ones. Although we were deep in the depression we had our family, lots to eat and lots of hard work to keep us busy. My mother was a good cook, therefore we had lots of visitors. It was not uncommon to have 25 for dinner on a Sunday. The children were always fed after the adults, "take a cold Potato and Wait."
Our family increased by two after we arrived in Canada: another sister, Grace, and another brother, Charles (Chuck). Now I had four sisters and four brothers.
My oldest sister, who had been working away from home, married Jack Stirton and moved some thirty miles further west to James River where Jack had a farm.
My oldest brother John worked wherever he could find work. John would head south in the U.S. and follow the harvest season north. John has a photo of himself driving a combine pulled by 16 mules.
John's arrival home was a great thrill. He was always loaded with goodies for us younger ones and tales of his adventures, "riding the rods" and being chased by railroad police ("bulls").
I always wanted to go south with John. One time he put me in his suitcase and carried me to the gate; I thought I was away.
My second oldest sister Ruby left home to go to high school in Calgary. I sure missed her.
John took up a homestead near Caroline and married a neighbor's girl, Mary Berkley. John and Mary often took me for buggy rides. I remember one time alone in the buggy the horses ran away. They stopped after about a mile run with me under the buggy seat.
Dad farmed with horses and we had one lazy old horse. We kids would follow along and make sure the horse pulled her share.
My parents were strict but I can never remember a whipping; we were scared we might get one.
One day when I was riding on the seed drill with Dad there was little gears that pushed the grain into the tubes which carried it to the ground for planting. These little gears fascinated me. When turning at the end of the field the little gears stopped or went backwards as the drill turned. In curiosity I stuck my right index finger into the gears and they cut it off just back of the nail. Not wanting Dad to know I had done something wrong I stuck my bleeding finger in my shirt pocket. Dad noticed the blood running down my shirt. They got a neighbor to drive me to town where the doctor sewed up my finger. I spent a lot of time that summer looking for fingers growing in the field.
When I was young I needed lots of sleep and still do. One Sunday when the house was loaded with visitors with no place to sleep, I lay in the dirty clothes basket. Two hours later I awoke and there wasn't a soul to be seen. They were all out in the fields calling for wee Robert. They thought I had got lost in the grain fields.
Those were tough times and I am sure many times my parents wished they were back in Scotland.
My parents were hard workers; we always had lots of vegetables which were kept in the root cellar. Mother always lots of fruit and vegetables. Most of the fruit was wild that we kids picked in the summer.
Have you ever tasted home-made choke cherry syrup on your pancakes, that is a treat to remember.
Every fall Dad butchered a pig and sometimes a beef. Much was canned for the next summer or kept frozen to eat during the winter.
After harvest in the fall Dad would take a wagon load of wheat to the flour mill at Didsbury about 18 miles away. He would have the wheat ground and returned with sacks of good flour. That trip by wagon and horses would take Dad from 4 in the morning 'till well after midnight. Often some of the sacks of flour were piled in a corner of the front room.
There was no electricity or running water and heat was a big pot-bellied heater in the living room. During the cold winter days Dad would cut trees and haul them home on the big sleigh. I can still remember the snow creaking under the sleigh runners.
After the wood was all hauled home, near spring, with help of some of the neighbors, the wood was sawed to stove lengths. Then came the chopping and piling 'till the pile was as big as the house.
Those old stoves burned a lot of wood and I spent many hours carrying wood into the house and emptying ash pans. Of course by the wood pile was an axe and a huge chopping block.
Now I have two index fingers that look alike.
In the summer between spring planting and fall harvest Dad would cut trees along the road to pay off taxes.
Dad was a handy man too and made many of the Christmas presents. I will never forget the little red wagon I received for Christmas 1930. The wheels were pieces of trees sawed off and trimmed to make nice wheels.
Mother was a good worker too and an excellent seamstress. No clothing was ever thrown out. When one child outgrew it, it was completely taken apart, remade into something for the smaller children.
Many a winter night the family sat around that old stove in the front room. Stories were told and read. That is where I learned to sew, darn and knit.
With a little imagination the programs were better than T.V. today.
Our first radio was a real thrill and mystery to me. The big horn like you see on R.C.A. advertising today. A great number of batteries and an aerial from house to barn. The programs, Hockey Night in Canada with Foster Hewitt, Gang Busters and Major Bowes Amateur Hour from K.S.L. Salt Lake City. Everyone huddled around the radio as the sound faded then came back and then faded again.
This was also about the time Bill got his first car. A Model T Ford which cost $5.00. The car battery was also used in the radio. I don't know whether we spent more time cranking that old car to start it or riding in it. In the winter it was a lot of trouble because of pouring in water and draining.
I always thought it was more fun in the winter to go by the cutter sleigh, wrapped up in blankets with some nice warm bricks at one's feet. Talk about cold winters— I can remember getting my tongue stuck on the water pump handle and Dad had to rescue me with the hot water kettle.
One of our neighbors that lived about 6 miles from us— a Mr. Hewin and Mrs. Laurence— took a liking to me and always wanted me to go live with them.
When I was five I went to live with the Laurences. We went for a vacation to Banff. The mountains and boat rides were great. I remember Banff best because it was there I had my first raisin bread.
In the fall of that year I started school at Enerdale. I stayed with the Laurences until spring when I returned home as they moved away.
In the spring of 1932, on returning home, we went to school at Waterside, two and a half miles west of our home. I would ride with my sister Betty on our old faithful pony Daisy.
Sometimes there was three of us riding Daisy: Betty, Matt and I. My brother was at this time having much trouble with a serious infection in his neck gland and spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital in Calgary.
Back in those days there was a bounty paid on magpies, crows and gophers. To collect one had to produce the eggs, birds' feet or the gopher tails. Each spring we would gather the eggs from the birds' nests, and snare, trap or drown gophers.
Matt and I would go to the fields, he with a club and me with a bucket. I would fetch water from the sloughs or puddles and pour it down the gopher hole. When the gopher came swimming up half-drowned, Matt would club it and we had another one-and-a-half cents.
My years on the farm were happy ones. One of my fondest memories was coming home to the smell of fresh-baked bread and having a slice with home-made butter and jam.
In 1933 Dad was ailing badly from lung problems, the after-effects of war gas; he spent considerable time in the hospital.
With Matt away also, there were times Betty and I had to milk 8 cows before going to school in the morning and in the evening.
One morning while riding old Daisy to bring in the cows for milking, Daisy tripped and fell on me and broke my collar bone.
When I complained to my mother she said "you will use any excuse to get out of going to school won't you." When my brother pointed out the bone sticking out of my shoulder she conceded I should go to town to the doctor. We road two and a half miles to the Stirtons (the nearest neighbor with a car) and they drove me to town to the doctor.
In 1934 Dad was quite ill and unable to keep going on the farm. It was decided the family would move to Calgary.
My oldest brother John was now on his farm. Peggy my oldest sister was married and living at James River. Brother Bill was working for a neighbor farmer, and Ruby was married in Calgary. Before we left the farm, sister Betty married Bob Morrison, a neighbor farmer.
That left only four children now at home: Matt, Bob (me), Grace and Chuck.
 The formal proclamation of Edward VIII accession to the throne took place on January 21, 1936. He abdicated prior to his coronation, so it is probably this proclamation that Bob remembers here.
My first memories of Calgary were not too happy. We were still in the depression and times were hard. My first big memory in Calgary was the celebration for the coronation of King Edward . Later he abdicated to marry Mrs. Simpson.
Eventually Dad recovered well enough and obtained work with James Richardson & Sons where he worked until his death.
We went to many different schools in Calgary. Matt was never happy in the city so he returned to Olds to work on the farm.
The first two summers we were in Calgary I spent on the farm with sister Betty and Bob. They were the happiest loving couple. The first summer Bob and his brother had a saw mill with a big steam engine. Nearby was a creek full of nice trout. I used to lay on the bank of the creek with a wire with a hook on the end and snag trout. It was a young boy's dream.
The other summer Bob and Betty had a homestead. There I could drive the tractor plowing and helping around.
One night I went to the neighbors' about 2 miles away for eggs on horseback. Two dozen eggs in a ten pound syrup pail in one hand. On the way home the horse spooked and ran like crazy all the way home, right through the wire gate. The wire caught me around the chest and pulled me off the horse like a slingshot. Believe it or not there was still 3 whole eggs in the pail.
Those were happy summers I will never forget.
I enjoyed all sports, especially hockey, baseball and skiing. In hockey I played goal and catcher in baseball.
One time while playing hockey the Bentley brothers were practicing. Max shot the puck and I stopped it (with my head). I was out cold for some time.
The Bentley brothers Max and Doug later became stars in the N.H.L.
In September 1939 war was declared and the first thing we knew there was my oldest brother John to join the Calgary Highlanders. While John was in Calgary I babysat his four children a few times while he and Mary went out. John wasn't long in Calgary and he was shipped to Shilo, Manitoba for training.
Meanwhile my brother Bill joined the army as a member of the Army Service Corps driving trucks. In no time he was shipped off to England so he was the first to arrive overseas.
In summer holidays and after school I worked for Jack's Delivery— "We deliver anything anywhere in the city for 10 cents". On my bike I pedaled all over Calgary and I got 5 cents per delivery. It was not uncommon to have 100 lbs. of flour on the bike. One month I made over 20 dollars which was good money for a boy in those days.
Then I worked for Big Bear meat market where I learned a little about butchering and a lot about making sausage. The sausage sold for 5 cents a pound.
Going to school was becoming a real drag as the war news was coming in and many young fellows were volunteering. There was so much advertising saying how badly they needed volunteers. I was almost 17 and quite big for my age so I went down to the recruiting office told them I was 20 and volunteered. I was sworn in the same day.
Two days later we were on a train to Edmonton where they were putting a draft together.
Three days later, on February 16, 1941, we left Edmonton and traveled to Winnipeg. In Winnipeg we were introduced to guard duty. Standing in front of Osborne Barracks at 40 below zero and a wind blowing down Portage Avenue has to be the coldest spot on earth. Luckily we were shipped off to Debert, Nova Scotia after only one week in Winnipeg.
In Debert we were assigned to the 78th Battery, 13 Field Regiment. We also had to take our turns standing guard on the docks in Halifax. There we found the second coldest spot on earth. What with the damp wind off the Atlantic, if you didn't keep moving your feet froze to the ground.
Debert was a new camp and we worked much clearing trees to make parade squares.
By the summer of 1941 the entire 3rd Canadian Division was stationed in Debert. We remained in Debert learning to be soldiers except for two trips to Tracadie, New Brunswick, where we went to fire guns.
All summer in Debert rumors had been running wild about our departure for England. By October there was definite indications we would soon be on the way.
As Bill and John were both in England by now I wrote and asked if there was anything I could bring them. John wrote back and said "bring some onions." At the time we were packing our kit bags I put in quite a few onions. We were also given a large bar of brown soap for washing clothes. One man said the soap was in case we were sunk on the way we could wash ourselves ashore.
Before we left Canada we were given 48 hours at home. That was 4 and a half days by train to Calgary, then 48 hours in Calgary to say goodbye to family and friends, then 4 and a half days return to Debert.
On November 3rd, 1941, we boarded and sailed on the Louis Pasteur from Halifax, a converted troop ship carrying 4,500 troops. The trip was rough and most of the men were very seasick. I never suffered from sea sickness except for one morning, almost. We were eating breakfast and one of the fellows held up a little blue-green chicken and said, "look what I found in my egg." That was the closest I came to sea sickness in all our sea journeys and training.
After being chased by German submarines we finally landed at Greenoch, Scotland on November 13th. There we were loaded on the smallest trains I had ever seen and taken to Aldershot Barracks in England.
When I finally received my kit bag I was surprised to see little green sprouts coming out the top; sure enough there were John's onions growing right up through my socks and winter underwear.
When we settled in England we were given 7 days leave. I went to Scotland to meet my relatives and there were many.
In Scotland I was able to see my mother's mother, Granny Woods, and my father's 3 brothers and sister still all living in Paisley; also many cousins.
My father's brothers Uncle Jimmy and Uncle Matt were both master bakers and my Uncle Jimmy had just been called to serve in the merchant navy. His ship was sunk on the first trip to Russia and it was three years before it was learned he had been picked up and was a prisoner of war.
My father's youngest brother Uncle Archie worked for Coats Cotton Mills. He was not a healthy man, therefore not subject to army call.
My Uncle Archie was just two years married to my Aunty Nan. They took me in as a son and we became very good friends. To this day they are my favorite couple. Uncle Archie introduced me to every pub in Paisley. During the War it was only possible to get one shot of whiskey in a bar, so we would visit many bars in an evening.
And many a good sing-song fest we enjoyed.
On returning from my first leave to Scotland we were moved to Worthing in the south of England where we stayed until spring.
Most summers we spent in tents and there is nothing damper than a tent in England in rainy weather. We did all kinds of training and also made many friends. I used to volunteer to help on the nearby farms.
Dieppe Raid: August 19, 1942
Stooking: stacking sheaves of grain.
I was stooking overlooking the English Channel on the day of the Dieppe Raid . We wondered why there was so many ships in the channel that day. When we returned to camp and heard the news and learned that the Calgary Tank Corps had all but been eliminated there was many sad faces.
In 1943 we were issued with new Priests, the Sherman tank chassis with a 105 mm gun mounted on it.
From that date on we practiced invasion training. Riding around in the landing barges, firing our guns from the barges and making many practice landings. Most of the time the barge ramp was let down on dry land and we drove off without getting the tracks wet.
For the last six months before the invasion we were stationed in Bournemouth, south England. There was so many troops concentrated there. We spent our free time in Poole Harbour. The White Swan was my favorite pub; there was always singing and happiness there.
One foggy night coming out of the pub I couldn't see a thing. Luckily a blind man came along and escorted me to the train station.
By now I had two stripes and early in 1944 was sent on a sergeant's course. The course was stopped partway through as we were to return to our units. But instead of being reassigned to my own unit I was sent to the 19th Field Regiment, 55th Battery which was from Ontario. Anyway at the 19th they had the same equipment as the 13th and had undergone the same training for invasion. Actually we were supporting the same infantry regiments: the Regina Rifles, the Winnipeg Rifles and the Canadian Scottish regiments.
While we were in England we were given 7 days leave every three months. I always headed for Scotland and spent most of my time with Uncle Archie and Auntie Nan.
In 1942 Matt had joined the army and he also arrived in England so there was 4 Elliott boys in England. I met Matt one weekend in Brighton. John was with the Provost Corps in London so I was able to see him often on short passes.
It was on one of my weekends in London that John sent me to meet Kathleen standing on a street corner by Canada House in London. Kathleen was later to become my sister-in-law.
 Specifically, he had to spend almost two weeks in prison. Read John's version of events.
On Christmas 1943 all 4 of us brothers met in Paisley at Uncle Archie's. Bill, Matt and myself were on leave. John joined us without leave and got himself in some problems over that visit.
At last the big day, June 6th, 1944, drew near; rumors were flying like mad. There was so many troops concentrated in the South of England it was like sardines in a can.
The initial landings in France were a very confusing and frustrating time. After firing all the way in from the barge, the barge rudder was damaged by German shell fire, so round and round the barge went, just offshore.
Finally the ramp was lowered and the tanks drove off into over 6 feet of water. Luckily they were all waterproofed in case of such an event.
The tanks couldn't move off the beach because of so many wounded. The Gerries took advantage of the delay and destroyed 5 of 9 tanks. They hit the spare gas cans on an old A2 and it was left burning on the beach. Along with all the cigarettes and spare clothes. It was five days before we received a new Priest and painted A2 on it.
For the first few days in France we played at being infantry men. For the first few weeks in France before the mail started to arrive from Canada, cigarettes were practically non-existent. We were issued 5 per day and that didn't last long for a highly nervous soldier. Here I made new friends (non-smokers).
I received a letter from home letting me know Matt was now in Italy fighting with the 1st Canadian Division.
 The Battle of the Falaise Pocket, August 12-21, 1944.
We had some rough times in France but after the capture of the 7th German Army at Falaise things improved. After 6 weeks in France we were given our first shower and that summer was hot and dusty.
The army set up a huge marquee tent in the middle of a field. I think there was only one for the entire 3rd Division and we were near the end of the line. We had to undress in the field, leaving our clothes in a pile except for our socks and undershorts. When we entered the shower tent we handed our socks and shorts to a fell who would pin the socks together with a safety pin and throw them into a bin. Right then and there I said I would volunteer for that sock-pinning job in future wars.
Into the shower tent we went and I am sure I was standing knee-deep in mud. To drop one's soap was a disaster. When we left the shower we were given new socks and underwear.
There we were all bare-naked in that field and some of the old French women were standing looking on. I couldn't hear what they were saying but from the expressions on their faces they were not talking about the war.
Finally we broke out of France and headed for Belgium. We never fired a shot crossing Belgium. We stopped only 2 times, one time out of gas and another time we were lost right in front of a pub.
In early September we crossed into Holland where we were sent north to the Walcheren and Schelde.
Although Antwerp was liberated the port could not be used as the Gerries controlled all the entrances. The Gerries were really dug in and controlled all the roads. I will never forget our infantry men in this area; they spent day after day in water but they fought on. I think in the end the fight was more for dry land than anything else.
When finally the port of Antwerp was clear for use we were sent to take over from the Canadian and U.S. troops along the Maas River. From late fall 1944 until February 1945 we sat in the little town of Alphen on the Maas in Holland. Here we made many friends and we were invited into the Dutch homes by the local people.
In Alphen was a Dutch family from Rossum across the Waal River. Willem Cretier was a freedom fighter, and he and his family had just escaped the S.S. over the river to the Allied side. Willem Cretier's family consisted of his wife, two sons— Cees, 12, Gerard, 6— and a daughter Sussie, 10 years old.
Before the war Cretier was a garage owner and mechanic. As soon as there was repair work on the tank or gun he was only too happy to assist. He soon became a good friend and of course shared our cigarettes and any rum rations we could get.
Little Sussie was an immediate friend and was always hanging around the tanks. She would sing us songs and was always happy, especially if there was some chocolate or "kow gum" as a reward.
 This famous coat is the subject of Alan J. Buick's The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story.
The Cretier family was living in the kitchen of an old farmhouse. The children had only the clothes they escaped over the river with. Sussie's elbows were sticking out of her coat. For Christmas 1944 the boys had a coat made from an army blanket with big army brass buttons. The boys on leave to Paris bought her a pair of shoes and a sweater. On Christmas Day Sussie's mother was in tears of happiness.
From the Cretiers we learned considerable Dutch as Sussie's mother would sit us round the table and hold up items. A knife (mess), etc. etc.
We could never sit around the table too late. The German flying bombs were flying over our heads day and night. Sussie's mother made the children sleep under the table in case a bomb might fall on the house. I don't think it would have helped much as one fell just behind us and wiped out the best part of a block in Alphen.
We slept in a horse barn during that winter in Alphen. When the parcels were coming in from Canada there was always the Cretier children sitting on my bed with eyes wide, as we opened our goodies and gifts from home.
Sussie would run along beside me holding my hand, always talking away. When I went to visit a farmer where they had two daughters, Sussie would sit on the front step and wait for me. We couldn't stay away long as we were on a 4-hour-on and 4-hour-off shift the entire winter.
We had a real nice Christmas dinner on December 25th, 1944 and our cook gave the Cretier family some of the leftovers. I can remember Sussie running home from the cookhouse with a big pan of rice pudding with raisins in it.
 The opening of Operation Veritable (Battle of the Reichswald), February 8 to March 11, 1945.
Early in February 1945 we left Alphen and took up our position in the forest by Nymegen. At 4 A.M. February 8th, 1945, 1,034 guns opened up firing at the German positions. That day was the most frightening of the war for me. Unknown to us they had moved rocket batteries directly behind us. Each rocket gun fired 16 rockets at a time with such a terrifying roar. When the first 16 rockets were set off over our heads I thought that was the end.
The Germans had heavily mined the area especially with "shoe mines"— a little wooden box about the size of a cigar box filled with explosives. They were buried and covered with a light covering of earth. Luckily it rained very hard a few days prior to the attack and many of the mines were visible as the earth had been washed off.
The advance to the Rhine was tough going and we lost a lot of young men. The Canadian graveyard at Groesbeek contains the remains of some 2,300 Canadians killed in the advance.
While in Germany we captured a scout car complete with the officer and his cigars. Now, I always liked those European cigars and still do. Sitting behind the tank that night I was enjoying one of those liberated cigars. George Hosick, a non-smoking member of our crew, grabbed his machine gun and was ready to fight. I asked him what he could see... he said "nothing" but "I can smell those Gerries around here somewhere." (My cigars.)
Another time we liberated a clothing store with considerable clothing in it. I had some nice new undershorts and socks and a nice straw hat. My commanding officer didn't think much of my hat and made me put it in the next latrine that was dug.
I should have taken some nice new shoes like our Sergeant Major. I still have a photo of him trying on his new shoes.
We also liberated a rum factory and everybody was filling every possible container. Some of the boys filled 4-gallon gas cans. After drinking rum from the gas cans it wasn't safe to smoke or you would become a flame thrower.
It was also nice in Germany to enter the butcher shops and see all the hams and sausage hung after smoking. It was amazing how they would jump into one's hands.
We finally reached the Rhine and were relieved to return to Holland.
When we returned to Holland I was able to give a family in Tilburg part of a liberated pig. 'Till this day they think I was the bravest soldier in the war. I gave four slices of white bread to one old woman and I thought she was going to kiss me to death. It was the first white bread she had seen in over four years.
In Tilburg we installed extensions on our tank tracks which was supposed to have been better for soft ground, but they didn't help much.
After Tilburg we were sent to the north of Holland where the remainder of Holland was liberated.
In late April we returned to Germany where we were when the War ended. On our front the shooting stopped on May 5th, 1945. Due to long service I was due 14 days leave in Scotland. On May 8th, 1945 I went to Scotland to visit with my favorite people.
After I returned from leave we had a final regimental parade where we turned in all our old faithful guns. It was difficult at first to realize that the war was over and no one would be shooting at us anymore.
I believe I made it for two reasons: one, someone was looking after me. Two, the Germans were not good shots. They hit the gas cans on the beach, the track and gas cans again in France.
One day in Holland I had been driving the tank and we stopped in the field. I was sitting in the driver's seat when one of the crew, Walt Ward, climbed down and stood beside me talking. A German 88MM gun shell took the top of Walt's head off. Now I know that Gerrie wasn't aiming at poor old Walt with his big gun. It was time to move.
On break-up of the units I returned to my old 13th Field Regiment for repatriation to Canada.
Of course by now they were looking for volunteers to go to the Pacific. Immediate return to Canada, 30 days leave at home before going to the Pacific was promised. Many fellows volunteered to go. I decided my luck had held up so far but I didn't want to push it further. I decided to take the slow train. On June 26th, 1945 (my 20th birthday) I went to Rossum to visit the Cretier family.
Walking down the street in Rossum there came Sussie with an armful of shoe mine boxes. When she saw me she dropped the boxes at my feet and gave me a big kiss. I almost fainted as I didn't know the shoe mines were defused.
The Cretier family had been home just over a month. The Germans had stripped the house clean, and they had used Sussie's bedroom for a bathroom. Sussie's mother had scrubbed the house numerous times before she would let the family in again.
That night Willem and Mrs. Cretier took us to the local bar where we had a few beers and had a good time.
We spent from June 1945 in Ziest just outside Utrecht, Holland. There we disposed of our excess equipment. We spent many hours in Utrecht at our favorite bar, the Raadskelder. In the Raadskelder was a U.S. band of dark fellows. They had been there the entire war as they couldn't get home. The band leader asked me if I could get him some long underwear as he hadn't been warm in the winter since he left home. I arranged for each member of the band to have two sets of long underwear and that was one happy band. Had no trouble getting requests played there after that.
Bob's mother was, it seems, getting annoyed that Bob was not coming home right away now that the war was ended. Read two letters that Bob wrote to her explaining his prolonged absence and thanking her for all the cigarettes.
We made many friends in Utrecht and area, one named Ellie who if I had had my way I would have taken to Canada, but it was not to be.
In late November we were returned to Aldershot Barracks in England where we stayed until February 1946.
I had leave to Scotland and while I was there my Uncle Jimmy came home from the prisoner of war camp.
In February we boarded the Queen Elizabeth II at Southampton to return to Canada. The Elizabeth carried 22,000 troops plus a crew of 4,500. Five and a half miles of sausage for breakfast. Four and a half days later, we docked in New York. From New York, 4 days by train to Calgary.
It was nice to see all the family and friends again. Returning to civilian life after over 5 years of army life and war was not an easy transition. My sister Ruby was a lot of company then and a real good friend. We often went to dances and parties just like a couple of kids.
For the first month home I stayed with my sister Peggy and Jack and family. Then I worked on a farm at Carstairs for a few months. I knew I had to pick up my education again. With help from my Dad I was able to start as an apprentice electrician while studying at night and also correspondence. My starting wage as an apprentice was 44 and a half cents per hour and they took 50 cents per week off for income tax.
Because of my army service experience and of course hard work and study, I was able to write and pass my electrician's exam by December 1947. I started work for Otis Elevator Co. Ltd. in February, 1948 at 98 cents per hour. About the same time I met a pretty little girl named Grace Fleming; we were married in May 1948.
With the help of my father-in-law I built a little bungalow in Calgary with 2 bedrooms for a total cost of $4,500. I paid $250 for the lot in 1948; 8 years later the lot sold for $90,000 (after we sold the house).
I enjoyed my work with Otis and continued with my studies.
In 1949 my first daughter Sharon was born. Two years later a second daughter Heather was born and then in 1954 my son Mark was born— "My Pal."
In October 1954 I was promoted to Superintendent and transferred to Edmonton. We sold our house in Calgary for $8,000 and bought a partially-built house in Edmonton, which we later finished ourselves.
My children were and still are a great pride and joy to me. In 1962 we adopted Theresa as our third daughter.
During the summer vacations we visited family on the farm or went camping. At first we camped in tents and then had a tent trailer. We had lots of fun camping. One night when we were in the tent and everyone had settled down for the night there was a lot of hissing and screaming. Mark had pulled the plugs on the girls' air mattresses.
The children loved the water. However, when they were young, before they could swim well, I was nervous when they were in the water. One Sunday while picnicking at Cooking Lake all the children were in the water playing. Have you ever tried to watch your children when there is 100 children in the water all bobbing up and down. Mark knew I was nervous and watching all the time. He dove under the water and swam or crawled about 100 yards along the beach. When I didn't see him come up I ran into the water with all my clothes on. There was Mark standing laughing his head off, "my pal."
We— and especially me— spent a lot of time fishing and hunting. From the time the children were very young we were fishing.
I spent much time in the mountains fishing, often alone. The bears and I have fished in the same stream. One day I was fishing for Rocky Mountain Whitefish in Dutch Creek, B.C. A large black bear came out of the trees on the other side of the stream. In five minutes he had thrown 6 fish over his shoulder. Then he went into the bushes, picked up the fish and ate them and left.
Another time I was fishing with Mark west of Whitecourt, Alberta. Mark was fishing abouit 50 yards downstream. A brown bear came oiut of the bush opposite me on the stream. She looked at me and my string of fish. I picked up two stones, banged them together and hollered. The bear turned and walked back in the bush. Mark came running and told me to be quiet or I would scare the fish. When I told him about the bear he was fishing at my elbow the remainder of the day.
We always had wild game in the deep freeze. Ducks, geese, partridge, pheasants, deer, moose, elk, bear, and caribou.
It was at this time because of the pressure of work I stopped my extra studies. Also, they were asking that I spend the last semester at University full time to obtain an electrical engineering degree.
My Dad passed away in the fall of 1949 after a long illness. He was given a military funeral and is buried at Olds, Alberta. He was only 59.
My mother passed away in 1963 in Calgary at the age of 72.
My wife Grace underwent a major operation in 1963.
In 1967 I was promoted to District Sales, a job which I really enjoyed.
In 1971 I was promoted to District Manager. As District Manager my territory covered all Alberta from Red Deer north to the Arctic. I traveled many times to Yellowknife, Whitehorse, Fort Smith and Inuvik all within my territory.
In 1972-3 we suffered a nationwide strike of all elevator workers. The industry was virtually at a stand-still. My past experience was valuable in assisting our supervisory and sales staff while they performed essential maintenance of elevators and escalators.
After the big strike in 1973 I decided that it was time to visit my old family in Scotland. I applied for a passport and was told that I wasn't a Canadian and would have to apply for Canadian citizenship. Now I was insulted but there was no other way so I became a Canadian citizen.
On returning to Scotland there was my favorite Uncle and Aunt waiting for me at the airport. We had some great parties and visited all my old friends and relatives, also many of the old pubs. My Uncle Jimmy and Uncle Matt were still the same nice people and all were now retired.
Before returning to Canada I purchased airline tickets for Uncle Archie and Auntie Nan to visit us in Edmonton. That was the first air trip for both of them and they were a little apprehensive, but they did arrive safe and sound in Edmonton in September 1973. We had a lovely visit and Uncle Archie and Auntie Nan really enjoyed themselves. We took them to visit all their relatives, also the old farm where we lived on our arrival in Canada. Uncle Archie was able to visit his oldest brother's grave.
All my sisters, brothers and children loved that old scotch couple as did everyone they met along the way. Over the years we had kept up our correspondence, as I had with my Dutch friends. Willem Cretier had always promised to visit us but was always too busy.
Each fall I was always busy with hunting. First there was ducks, geese, partridge and pheasant. Then came big game season. My oldest brother John was a forest ranger and I often visited him for hunting season. John had lived on many stations but his last, located on the upper Saskatchewan river west for Nordegg, was my favorite. It was possible there to see herds of elk and hunting was always good before they flooded the area for a dam.
One Friday night Mark and I were heading for John's for a Saturday hunt and we got stuck at Windy Point in a snow blizzard. After digging out we drove on 10 miles to John's place where it was like summer.
That was the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Mark was 8 years old at the time and when we got to the Ranger Station, Mark told John he should have the flag at half mast.
We hunted moose mostly west and north of Edmonton. Most years we would plan a week hunting vacation.
We had an old Indian friend, Francis, who could call moose for miles. He would ask what you would like— male or female— and then with his birch horn he could bring the moose from miles away. Old Francis is dead now but our friend Pauline St. Denis can give a good imitation after a few drinks at a party.
In 1976 the company asked me to accept the position of Manager Labour Relations Canada which meant moving to Hamilton, Ontario. After considerable thought I accepted the position. I left Edmonton with some misgivings as we were leaving behind Sharon and Mark, both now married, and Mark had a son— our first grandson— also many friends. Since Grace had had the major operation in 1963 our marriage had not been all wedded bliss. I had hoped the move would improve the situation. We sold our house in Edmonton and with Heather and Theresa we bought a new house in Burlington, Ontario. Our little dog, Smokey (actually Heather's dog) loved Ontario. The law in Ontario required one to pick up after pets. It was difficult at first but soon I became a real good pooper scooper.
Negotiating contracts and the administration all over Canada required much traveling back and forth across Canada. It was a challenging and interesting job which I enjoyed. In 1980 I was promoted to Benefits and Regional Personnel Manager for Canada. This meant a larger staff, more responsibility and considerably more travel. I didn't mind the traveling as my life at home had further deteriorated and had become very frustrating.
Early in 1981 I received an invitation from my old Dutch friend Willem Cretier to attend their 50th wedding anniversary celebrations. That started me thinking it was time to visit my old friends in Holland.
First I went to Scotland to visit Uncle Archie and Auntie Nan. My Uncle Matt had had a stroke and was in a nursing home. Uncle Jimmy had passed away two years prior, also Aunty Mary was dead.
On Friday May 13th I arrived in Amsterdam and there was my little Sussie waiting to meet me as her Dad was not feeling well. Sussie was now a grown woman with two grown children and in the process of divorcing her husband. Willem Cretier had reestablished his garage business (well, it was now being operated by son Gerard). Cees had a mild stroke and was unable to work. The Cretier family had added one more, Willie, born 2 years after the War. I always tell Willie there wasn't room under the table for him during the War.
Willem Cretier was now retired but not feeling too well. He had a pear orchard by his house. He went to the orchard and picked a huge pear which we shared while talking about old times. Willem was also an ardent hunter and he was proud to show me his many mounted birds. He had just bought a new hunting dog and a new hunting coat ready for the next season.
I visited my old friends in Tilburg that I gave the pork to and I was given a real hero's welcome by Annie, her husband and family. Also Trace, the oldest daughter. Their mother and father had passed away and 4 of the children had emigrated to New Zealand or Australia. Brother Harry, who was 15 when we were in Tilburg in 1945, still writes regularly from Australia.
All the time I was in Holland I had a chauffeur, Sussie. It was not my intention but there I was in love with the girl, perhaps part memory or partly a dream but for sure I was in love with my Sussie. I returned to Scotland, then to Canada with a heavy heart.
On returning to Canada I told Grace I wanted to start divorce proceedings and it was agreed. I took only my personal belongings. By the terms of the divorce Grace retained the house and furnishings.
In late September 1981 Sussie arrived in Canada and we set up housekeeping in a small apartment with $400 worth of used furniture from the Salvation Army.
We are survivors. Sussie was only in Canada on a visitor's permit and therefore could not take employment. She was able to work at housecleaning and babysitting. Every Friday she would come home with a handful of "nice dollars." Saturday morning it was deposited in the bank. She is a great shopper and saved every penny possible in her shopping. One day I called her from work and there was no answer. I called later and she said she had been to "Eega." Later I discovered that was I.G.A.
Sussie had her problems with her English. One day while riding her bike she noticed she needed some air in her tires. She went into the service station and asked the attendant "would you please blow up my nipples." That has caused many a laugh.
In the fall of 1982 my brother John bought Uncle Archie and Auntie Nan to Canada for a visit. John held a family reunion at his place at Rocky Mountain House and there Sussie was able to meet the remainder of the Elliott family, including Uncle Archie and Auntie Nan. They all loved her. Susie had her first wiener roast at John's. When she tried to roast the wiener and bun at the same time there was a great laughter as the bun was on fire.
Just prior to Christmas vacation 1981 I underwent a small hernia operation. During my recovery Sussie and I hooked a wall rug of which we are very proud.
On December 26th 1981 we received a call from Holland telling us Sussie's father, my old friend Willem Cretier, was critically ill. At 6 o'clock that evening Sussie was on her way to see her father. Willem passed away December 29th, 1981, ending his plans to visit Canada.
My youngest daughter Theresa visited us often and really got along well with Sussie. Theresa had many a laugh over Sussie's English sayings such as, "everything is rotten clean," "my glass is empty like hell" and she had many more.
Sussie is a good homemaker and we have always had a very cosy home. In 1982 we moved to a larger apartment in Hamilton. We had many visitors from Holland, also my brothers and sisters from the west visited us. We both love nature and spent many hours walking and cross-country skiing in the Hamilton area. We also had many friends— we had a Canadian club of Canadian friends and a Dutch club who were all immigrants to Canada. We and especially Sussie traveled to Holland often to visit her children and her mother. At that time Sussie's mother was suffering the first stages of Alzheimer's disease.
My work still required much traveling but I always tried to be home for Friday evening which has a special meaning to us.
We were married in February 1985 so now together we have 6 children and 10 grandchildren. In the summer of 1985 we moved to a town-house in Burlington where we could be closer to nature and away from the heavy pollution of Hamilton. Sussie thought the squirrels in the backyard were so cute. That is, until one morning they were sitting on the fence eating away the buds from Sussie's rose bush. After that Sussie agreed with me that those big squirrels are really rats with bushy tails.
United Technology Corp. had bought Otis Elevator and reorganization was taking place throughout the company. They closed the Otis Hamilton plant. I was informed early in 1987 that due to the reorganization my position was being phased out. As I was then 62 years of age I could take early retirement. On June 26th, 1987 I retired after 39 years and 4 months with Otis. It was a job I really enjoyed but the latter years had been very frustrating due to the reorganization. On returning to my old office 6 months later I found my old boss and 2 new men performing the work I was required to do.
Because my pension from Otis was not that great and a portion was allotted to Grace my ex-wife, we had to make a decision for our future. We owned a little house in Holland where the Canadian dollar is at a premium. We decided to make our future home there. Sussie's mother was by this time in a nursing home and we thought we could help her by being near.
We arranged to ship our furniture and car by container to Holland. A move that cost us less than moving from Edmonton to Hamilton 11 years earlier. On August 23rd, 1987, the container arrived at our front door in Holland. Two hours later it was all unloaded. It was two weeks before we emptied all 120 boxes, though.
Holland is a fascinating little country and it is an interesting place to live. There is so much history in Holland as it has played a large part in European history. The pilgrims left Holland to go to North America.
We returned to Canada for a vacation in 1988. We were able to visit all the children, also all my sisters and brothers except sister Betty. We will make a point of seeing them next visit.
Since coming to Holland in 1981 I have been taking part in their memorial services as a veteran and member of the Canadian Legion. Recently I was guest of honour of the city of Nymegen at their 45th anniversary celebrations of their liberation in September 1945. As part of a group of veterans of Holland, Britain, U.S.A. and Canada, we raised our countries' flags and re-enacted the original Waal River crossing and capture of the Nymegen bridges. The city of Nymegen presented us veterans with a gold medallion.
I love Canada as that is where I grew up and spent most of my life, which I consider reasonably successful. I also like Holland and the people and enjoy living here.
When I think back on the reason my father and mother took their family to Canada I admire them more. By moving to Canada meant untold hardships to my parents but by doing so they gave their family an opportunity to live and expand their lives in ways not available in Scotland.
At the date of this writing  I still have 4 sisters and 4 brothers all living and all but the two youngest retired. I am immensely proud of my brothers and sisters as they have all made successful lives for themselves.
My oldest brother John and wife Kathy retired from the Forestry Service. They purchased 25 acres on the town limits of Rocky Mountain House. There they started a florist and greenhouse business which was very successful. Only last year due to ailing health did John finally retire at 78.
Sister Peggy's husband passed away some years ago. Peggy has invested wisely and lives comfortably in Olds where she still belongs to numerous ladies' organizations.
Sister Ruby lost her husband some years ago but has found happiness again with Horace. They live a life that is the envy of many young people. At age 75 Ruby and Horace really enjoy life. With a new motor home they are on the go continually.
Brother Bill, after years as a successful farmer, retired. He and Esther live in a nice house in Olds not too far from sister Peggy.
Sister Betty lost her husband in a lumbering accident but is no remarried and living in Prince George, B.C. Betty worked hard especially after her first husband's death to bring up the family alone but things have worked out well for her now.
Brother Matt entered the oil industry early in the 1950's. He spent some years in Canada before going overseas. He spent 17 or 18 years in Iran, then Venezuela, and finally Libya before he retired in 1988 to his ranch in southern Alberta.
For myself, Bob, I have just written too much. I consider from Apprentice to Benefits and Personnel Manager some success.
Sister Grace is still working; her husband Joe had a stroke a few years ago but is slowly recovering. Hopefully he will be fully recovered before long. Joe and Grace have a lovely home in south Calgary.
Brother Chuck joined the army after the war and served in the occupational army in Germany. On returning to civilian life he married Emma and also started work with the Alberta Government Telephones. He now sits in the executive offices as he worked his way up over the years.
For my own children I am very happy.
Next week we are going to Uncle Archie and Aunty Nan's 50th anniversary. We will have a great time I know. I may add a few paragraphs to this story later on, but for now I will close off as it is far too long already.
And the little coat made for Sussie still hangs in our closet.
[Additions made in April 1991]
It is now April 1991 and I have just found someone to type this story. My faithful daughter Sharon is doing the work for me. We went to the "old folks" wedding anniversary and had a great time. We have been back to Scotland to see them two times since. The scenery in Scotland is beautiful, especially in the spring when the wild flowers are all blooming in the hills.
We have also been for two vacations to Canada and we are booked to go again this year. We visited our old friends and my family in Ontario.
Sue's mother is now in the third stage of Alzheimer's disease and it is very sad to see her having known her when she was younger and active; she is now 82 years old.
The beginning of this year was not the kindest to my family.
My sister Robina (Ruby) was killed January 28, 1991 by a Calgary street railway train at age 76. She was on her way to her exercise classes.
My oldest brother John passed away March 11, 1991 after a lengthy illness 3 days after his 81st birthday. Brother John was the original "I did it my way."
I will miss them all very much and it is difficult to accept. However, life cycle goes on and we have been a lucky family of nine children to have all survived this far.
It is times like this that the distance from Canada to Holland is really great. I would like to have been closer to attend their funerals. I have been well represented by my daughter Sharon, husband Bill and Mark and Gwen.
At present I am attending a Dutch grammar school and believe me, Dutch grammar is more difficult than English and no-one would have convinced me of that when I was in school.
This past winter we had 3 weeks of ice and snow. We were skating on the canals and ponds with the grandchildren. I thought I might have forgotten how to skate but I came back very fast. We also got in a little cross-country skiing.
All in all my life is very good and I am enjoying every day I can. Sussie looks after me really well— sometimes too well at mealtimes— so I have no complaints. The spring work is finished, the backyard is in bloom, the sun is shining. So I sit back in the backyard and dream of my forthcoming trip to Canada.
 Bob passed away on February 16, 2013 in Tiel, Netherlands.
See you later!!