EDMONTON REGIMENT RAIDS SPITZBERGEN
Got Taste of Action for Which they Patiently Waited Two Years - Successful Enterprise that did Nazi out of Valuable Fuel - Take Important Part in Raid
A secret expedition to the islands 500 miles north of Norway in the Arctic, last September was led by Brig. Arthur E. Potts of Saskatoon, who served with the Princess Patricia's in the last war. It included smaller Britisher and Norwegian detachments. The Canadians included parts of units from Alberta (including many Edmontonians), a regiment from Saskatchewan, a regiment of Royal Canadian Engineers, a field company from Eastern Ontario and signal and medical units.
Waited Two Years
After two years of patient waiting, the hand-picked Canadian force seized their objective in a bloodless occupation which deprived the Nazis of millions of dollars' worth of fuel they had planned to use to feed their war machine.
The expedition returned to Britain with expert Norwegian miners and their families who welcomed the troops and gave them welcome information. All were evacuated to prevent Nazi reprisals similar to those inflicted on the populace of Lofoten isles after the raid of last March.
Eager For Scrap
Bristling with arms and eager for the fight they never got, the Canadians landed at half a dozen communities, only to be welcomed by Russians working Soviet mines and by the Norwegians.
This special composite force was the toast and envy of the Canadian Corps. Some of the troops had twice before been disappointed when expeditions of last year to Norway were cancelled or recalled.
Members of the staff which helped direct operations included Major S. Murdock, Vancouver and Lieutenant Bob Proctor, Edmonton, Major Bill Bury, Edmonton, commanded the Alberta detachment with Captain Dick Carter, Edmonton, second in command. Major Archie Donald, Edmonton, was officer commanding troops aboard ship, and the ship's adjutant was Captain Len Dawes, Edmonton.
Further officers from Edmonton included Lieuts. Bill Cromb and Ed. Newton, Edmonton, Harry Smith, Medicine Hat and Victoria, and Roy Church, Lavoy, all of the Edmonton Regiment.
At a big Russian settlement a detachment that provided protection for the Brigadier in command of the expedition was in charge of Major Bury, which included Cpl. Joe Flynn and Ptes. Don Russell, Larry Ryan of Edmonton, George Taylor, Coronation, Wilf Whiteford, Fort Saskatchewan, Alf. Tousignant, Grande Prairie, Colin White, Spirit River, and Ed. Beaudry, Bonnyville. A great help in this settlement were three Russians who acted as interpreters. They were Ptes. K. Sobkiw and H. Shalyko, Edmonton, and Sapper George Wowk, Lethbridge.
More Edmonton Detachments
At the Norwegian settlement, Lieut. Cromb led his men ashore. Among them were Sgt. Bunny Allen and Cpl. Don Gower, Edmonton, L/Cpl. Jim Hamill, Vancouver, and Pte. Andy Erickson, Camrose.
Lieut. Smith landed on the beach at a Russian settlement. Soldiers with him were Sgt. S. Masterson, Edmonton, Pte. G. Allen of Hillside, N.J., one of the few Americans in the force, Pte. J. T. A. Miller, Bulwark, Alta., and Pte. K. D. Trimble, Slave Lake, Alta.
In command of landing the expedition at a Soviet town at the foot of a mountain was Lieut. Couch, Lavoy. His men were Cpl. J. J. Mackie, Athabasca, Pte. R. M. Davidson, Alexo, Alta., Pte. J. Barr, Wetaskiwin, Alta. And Pte. H. B. Atkinson, Windsor Creek, Alta.
Among those left on board to guard ships and handle stores were the following: C.Q.M.S. Andy Hawreliak and R.S.M. Alf. Symington and Pte. George Austin, a norther trapper, Edmontonians and Ptes. R. K. McEarchern, Viking, Fred Paupst, Rahab, and J. Krokolowich, Waskatenau, another Russian speaker.
Canadians Run Services
The Canadians took over the town of Barentsburg and ran the regular services of the community. C.S.M. Jim Stone, Blueberry Mountain, Alta., was "commissioner" of this desolate town of irregular streets, lined with wooden shacks.
Pte. Bill Brown, Edmonton ran a livery barn and the Canucks drove around as in the "buggy-days". Butchers were Sgt. Dan Smith, Edmonton, Pte. Bill Purvis, Grande Prairie, and Pte. Leo Shabatka, Medicine Hat. Pte. Bud Craney, Camrose was on the air raid alarm squad. Officers' mess arrangements were cared for by Sgt. William Swain, Nelson, B. C.
Spoiled for Enemy Use
While the raid passed off without hostile contact the results were nontheless [sic.] effective as the authorities believe the destruction wrought at the coal mines and other resources will prevent their use for a long period.
We congratulate the troops on their splendidly executed and conducted foray.
Russian Miners Taken Home
An after result, kept secret for a few weeks, was the evacuation from Spitzbergen of 2, 000 Russian miners and their successful repatriation to Russia, under convoy of the Royal Navy.
In charge of the troops on this ship was Major Archie Donald, and adjutant Capt. Len Dawes. Another detachment was commanded by Lieut. E. Newton.
Pouring Rain and Heavy Mist
The flotilla anchored in very bad weather at Archangel. Russian boats removed the miners and their families, the Canucks helping with children and baggage. C.Q.M.S. Andy Hawreliak, directed the miners and the Canadians in this work, his knowledge of Russian being an invaluable help. The transport sailed before the Canucks had a chance to sample any of the Vodka.