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Ian’s Christmas Feast, 1944


Editor’s Note:  Chas M. Cochand discovered our first story about the Fulford family, written in May 2011, Fulford Yacht's Historical Homecoming,  by Kim Lunman.  Soon after he provided the untold story of romance and tragedy of Senator George Taylor Fulford’s daughter, Martha and her marriage to Charlie MacLean, who came from Montreal. Charlie and The Magedoma… Romance and Tragedy on the River and Romance and Tragedy on the River: The Circle Closes were two of his articles.

Then in 2014, he wrote Charley MacLean’s Homecoming Down River, telling the story of how the family was invited to return to Brockville for a tea party.  Last winter (2015) Chas presented a link of the Thousand Islands, with the Quebec Laurentians  and Chalet Cochand. On November 11th, Remembrance Day, Chas wrote this article, allowing us to step back in time.

Ian’s Christmas Feast “In the Bag” Oflag 79 - 1944

 

Ian Aldous MacLean was born in England, on Dec 2nd 1918, just outside London. His father was Lt. Col. Charles Wesley MacLean, one time mayor of Brockville. 

His mother  was Hon. Lt. Doris Thornton MacLean née Aldous who joined up to follow Charlie and married him at St. James’ Church, in Piccadilly, in 1917. Amazingly we can easily link Ian, Fulford Place,  Christmas and WWII to Brockville!

On D-Day 1944, Ian’s unit, the Sherbrooke Fusiliers, was close to Portsmouth, ready for embarkation.

He’d enlisted in the Tank Corps and did his training in the Brockville area, and somewhere, there is a photo of Ian lounging in uniform on the palatial sun deck of Fulford Place with his Fulford ‘cousins’.

We can place Ian here in the New Forest, Hampshire U.K. just before D-Day.  The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was based here, and this year, November 11, 2016, Remembrance Day, I attended a moving open air service at Canada Cross, where gatherers met in prayer and erected a simple wooden cross.:

Tribute_Photo

The Sherbrooke Fusiliers tanks were kept in reserve and landed  on Juno ((Courseulles-sur-Mer) when the beach had been secured. Ian and his tank squadron advanced inland under fire, in support of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.

Ian’s war was very short. As the Sherbrooke Fusiliers moved forward to secure an airfield for Allied fighter planes, Ian’s tank suffered a direct hit and he was lucky to escape.

Ian was captured and taken prisoner soon after. It was a long walk to the Prisoner of War Camp, where Ian finally got to enjoy his Christmas feast. His wartime diary is a stark reminder of how tough it was, being a captive, while the Reich crumbled under the onslaught of the Allies.

Ian recounts how he was taken, with his crew and 75 odd soldiers, from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and then as ‘ guests’ of the 21st Adolf Hitler Panzer Division, marched back to Caen.

On June 9th they started the six-day march to the ‘Front Stalag’ at Rennes, Nr, Falaise (210 kms). Ian sets out the grim reality. There was little or no food, strafing by Allied planes.  He was cheered by the warm support of the local populace and then discouraged by the long slow route through various holding areas… the ‘Dulag’ at Chalons, Stalag XII A at Limburg, Dulag XII B at Hadamar and  finally October 5th at Brunswick/ Oflag 79 an old Luftwaffe base.

Often the POWs were close to starvation, and even closer if the vital supply of Red Cross food parcels from Canada was interrupted. His diary recounts his D-Days but is mostly about food. There are lists of recipes and restaurants and recollections of fine meals. But Ian was lucky, he survived. When he was repatriated, he was so weak with malnutrition, he could only walk with crutches.

Ian’s gleeful, ‘We were so full we could not finish our trifle” suggests they really did enjoy the Christmas Feast of 1944, at Oflag 79. Sadly, my Uncle Ian drowned in 1958. An experienced diver, Ian was asked to help search for the body of a man who had fallen through the ice lower down the St. Lawrence at Lake of Two Mountains.

Note: The menu is humbling, when we think of the Christmas Feasts we may be privileged to enjoy today. 

Breakfast: Oatmeal porridge, 2 fried canned(?), biscuits, bread, marmalade and coffee.

Lunch: Pea soup, bread and cheese, tea

Tea: Xmas Cake, fried Spam (1/2 tin!), toast and butter

Dinner: German stew, Curry powder, trifle, bread & butter, tea.

The recipes feature mostly biscuits (from tins) Spam and Klim (powdered milk made by Borden’s). Just opening the parcels would have brought poignant memories of home.

I suspect they would have been holding back from the food parcels for the big celebration, and the once well fed Canadian boys of the 3rd Division would have been physically diminished by the long walk and poor food and the sheer challenge of Christmas as prisoners of war.”

By Chas MacLean Cochand, Brook Farm, Blissford Hampshire SP6 2JQ. 15.11.16

Chas Cochand was born in Montreal and raised in the Laurentians at his family's ski resort, Chalet Cochand. At 14, he went off to school in Switzerland, but returned to the University of Western Ontario in London, ON, for a degree in English & History. He attended the Inns of Court School of Law, London UK,  and was called to the Bar by Middle Temple, in 1978, and has been practicing criminal law in England ever since. He lives with his wife Judy and three adult sons, in the New Forest, Hampshire U.K., but comes home to Canada every summer for a month at Judy's family cottage on Lake Simcoe.

  • Ian on Leave

    Ian on Leave

  • Remembrance Day in the New Forest, Hampshire, UK.

    Remembrance Day in the New Forest, Hampshire, UK.

  • The badge of the Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment, Canada

    The badge of the Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment, Canada

  • Drawing by a fellow prisoner while in Oflag 79

    Drawing by a fellow prisoner while in Oflag 79

 

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