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The Job of a Special Force Signaller

Heroes Remember

The Job of a Special Force Signaller

So they found out that the Germans jammed the radio. In other words, you couldn't talk on the radio to order the artillery in, or to tell the air planes when to come, or to tell when to bring the Bailey bridge in, or tell them, move that convoy up, or what. So they called us in and set up a, a special force. We had a jeep, a revolver. I got a, then I got a Sten gun. Had my rifle, too, of course, and the smoke grenades, hand grenades and all the special equipment you need. Then you got about an hour's training, two hours' training, on what you were going to do on the phone. Now, then I was, my partner, I thought his name was Jackson. I called him Jackson. His name could've been Jackson, it could be something else, I don't know for sure, because in the Signal Corps, there's, there are people that are undercover. And they told us that if you're taken prisoner, to take this pill, mine was like a pea. So out, out we went in the jeep. I met... "You're Jackson, right" ok, "McNiven, how are ya, yeah?" "Fine." Mickey they called me then and away we went. Then he was the guy that got orders and he'd say, "You go down this road," and he had a map reference, "turn right here, when you come to that bridge or that church with the steeple blown off you go left, and go in, there's a little trail or a little road, we go down there." And then he would do the cull of the lines, but I know how to sit on a line. We'd tie a line with a (inaudible) on it, and then, if, if his name, if he was Jones and you were Barber, and we were listening, and Barber, Jones says, "I can't get Barber." So then we'd grab the line and run with the line in our hand, probably kilometres, two, three or four kilometres, sometimes we, 15 kilometres, a long ways, ‘til we found the break and then we'd patch it. Because the odd time a Bren gun carrier, or, or, or us would go over and, and tangle it up and, and then it was a mess, and we had to call in and get extra, or find another line. If you could find another live line to tie into that one, fine, that was a good line. So, that was more or less our job. And consequently with that, we didn't have work to do all the time. Only when the, he was in behind the enemy lines watching, or beside the, where the enemy lines, whatever they were, watching Caen or, or Dieppe, out of Dieppe or where it is. Watching when the planes should come in, or what, or what damage they'd done, or what's going on, or, or part of 2nd Div. has moved into Dieppe. Now Die... two, two brigades or battalions or whatever is around in the corner. That's what he done, that's what we done, was make sure those messages got back in there, and sometimes it was quite scary, because we got to learn what a German half-track, what a German car and tank sounded like, and when you heard one of them, you knew one was fairly close, so you didn't, you didn't jump up and go for a pee at any time. You stayed exactly where you were.

Mr. McNiven recalls being assigned to a Special Force of signallers, and describes their duties.

John Percy McNiven

Mr. McNiven was working as a truck driver in Regina, Saskatchewan, before the Second World War began. As propaganda increasingly encouraged young men to join the service, one weekend evening Mr. McNiven and a friend worked up the courage to join. After basic training as a truck driver and mechanic, Mr. McNiven rejected the opportunity to serve in Canada and instead entered the Signal Corps. in order to make it overseas. After completing signaller training, Mr. McNiven was sent overseas to northern England to reinforce 2nd Division. Eventually the division shipped out, destined for Juno Beach. Since 2nd Division was part of the 3rd wave behind 1st and 3rd Divisions, the fighting at the beach had finished by the time Mr. McNiven reached shore. From there Mr. McNiven served in a special force of signallers, working with three others in the division. As the War progressed the division worked its way across France and Holland, and eventually into Germany where they were when the War ended.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
John Percy McNiven
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
2nd Division (Special Force)

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