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Are All Canadian Soldiers Farmers?

Heroes Remember

Are All Canadian Soldiers Farmers?

The English tipped us off that when we went in to the camp, register as a farmer then they won’t send you to the coal mines or the factories, they will send you to the farms and get a little more to eat. So every Canadian became a farmer. The Germans couldn’t figure, just said big country like Canada, you got no cities, there are no factories? Everybody is a farmer? Oh yah well we said, we all come from farms. We were the only people who would sign up for farms. So now they took all the DIeppe personnel and they separated us and they sent us up to Star Guard 2D which was just 30 kilometres out of Stettin (sp) up on the Baltic so back in the box cars and the same old routine, we now land up in Star Guard. Now we’re going to be sent to work parties. So the Star Guard is supposed to be a little better camp so Stalag Gate B is known as a straff camp, a punishment camp. So now we’re going to Star Guard, we’re going to be good soldiers and we’re going to work out in the fields and we’ll be happy as long as we work. So we get up into Star Guard and we get all in there, now they’re going to send us to work. But the army says you’re still a soldier and you don’t do anything for the enemy you don’t get forced to do eh, you don’t volunteer to work. You can’t make the officers work and you can’t make anybody full corporal or up work, you can’t be sent to work but anybody under could so we can be sent to work but we we do not volunteer to work. So then they got the process, who’s at camp so and so, we need twenty men. Farm, need nobody. C’mon guys and they read the names out, these twenty men will go. A guy said, “I don’t want to work.” Okay, bring out the rifles, pull them out, shove them in there with a bayonet and get them lined and send them out. So they’re gone out to work party, one guy has got to be in charge, away he goes. Well we wouldn’t go, had a bunch of renegades in my party and there was thirty of us, we were the last to go practically, we wouldn’t volunteer for nothing, we wouldn’t go. So finally they said,“You’re going!” “No, you gotta make us,” Okay, the rifle goes there and out we go and get rounded up and shipped out to this farm out in a place called Yago (sp), out by the Polish Russian border up on the Baltic, cold up there on this great big farm. And we get sent out there and so okay, we’re all farmers so okay, you’re going to milk cows. Well, you know you’re born in the middle of Bathurst and King Street, I’m going to tell you how to milk cows. Anyway we got guys there that know how to milk cows so we got guys in between them, we milked cows. And then you’re looking after pigs and horses and everything else and the rest of you are labourers, me I was in charge of the park.

Registering as a farmer while a prisoner of war meant having a slightly easier time.

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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