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German Directives Leave Canadian Commandos Alive

Heroes Remember

German Directives Leave Canadian Commandos Alive

Then we sat there all the rest of the day until almost supper time then what it was we found out was finally the truth of what was going to happen. When we landed at Saint Nazaire where the British Command was, Hitler had issued an order that no more commanders were to be taken alive. There were to be no prisoners, they were all to be shot. Well when we landed in Dieppe we’re commandos. So we did the raid, the Germans, typical German Army, everything has to be done to the letter, can’t use your head. We’re British but we’re Canadians. Well they said commandos but they’re commandos, but they’re Canadians, they’re not Englanders. It said all English commandos are to be shot. Well these are Canadian commandos. Hold it up. So they shuttled us around there waiting all day because they sent a telegram or a cable to Hitler, “They are Canadians, what do we do, shoot them or not?” And it took him five hours before they decided to answer it and that’s why we were being shuttled around and held. Waiting to be shot and they held us and we were ringed with machine guns, eh. All they had was to get the order to shoot and they would have mowed us down, that would have been the end of it. But they finally started to line us up and this was when the truth leaked out when we were told what had happened. They had decided being Canadians, colonials, Britain again was using their colonials to do their dirty work and save the English soldiers for their home part, that was their theme. So they decided that they would keep all the Canadians together and of course they had to take the British with us because they couldn’t shoot them, somebody would see us so they became part of us and so they kept us all together and they started marching them out. The orders were we were to be taken out to a cement factory out of the city and bunk there for the night then put on trains and sent to Berlin and we were to be paraded down the streets of Main Street of Berlin for all the people to see. Hitler, Churchill’s second front failure had failed and that the Canadian colonials had been used to do the dirty work and we were the sacrifice. Then we were to be sent to prison camp. But then they had one German who had his thinking hat on right eh, because we had a plan too, now we knew they were going to shoot us. After they paraded us in Berlin, they could start shooting at us there again, they could decide to shoot us. So we’re trapped. So it’s every man for himself so we had a plan. The plan was we’ll go as far as we can; we’ll get in to Berlin. When we get in to Berlin if there’s any monkey work we make a run for it. When we make a run for it we kill everything and anything we can lay our hands on; women, children, kids and everything and set fire to anything we can burn until we get killed, that was the orders. Some German got the same idea. “You’re going to let two thousand commandos loose in the middle of Berlin?” They’re not afraid of anything. What happens if they break loose, we could never round them up in a big city. We’d kill them all and get them but what could they do? So they changed that very quickly.

A technicality lets the Canadian commandos escape the firing squad upon their capture.

Joseph Anthony Ryan

Joseph Anthony Ryan was born in Montreal in 1920. The circumstances during the depression era saw him and his family moving to Thunder Bay, Ontario in search of a better life. Like many during this time, applying to Canada’s military was a way to find work, adventure and purpose, so in the late 30’s he joined the Lake Superior Regiment and began his training alongside the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians). From participating in operations from Iceland to Dieppe to his time as a prisoner of war in Germany, Joseph Ryan’s stories bring us a unique perspective on the price paid for our freedom.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
May 5, 2009
Person Interviewed:
Joseph Anthony Ryan
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Royal Regiment of Canada

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