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Post First World War Fears of the Second World War

Heroes Remember

Post First World War Fears of the Second World War

Interviewer: Tell me Mr. Ethell during that period of time in Germany, the cold war was very much on and the situation involving the Bay of Pigs missile crisis in Cuba all exacerbated the tensions that were there at the time, as a serving member of the Queens Own Rifles, in Germany during those 33 years, were you aware of the potential for an open conflict to erupt? We were, because we were there at a very dangerous time in history. We really didn't appreciate that concern at the time, because we were in a foreign country, you know with things to do. We knew that there was a crisis because we were almost continuously deployed to our alternate defensive positions, remembering we had soft skin vehicles as they call it, commercial, we didn't have any armoured with the battalion. So we were deployed that way, we were practising all the time by going up to a place call Hanau, in northern Germany where we fired our 106 calibre recoilless rifles and mortars and so forth and we spent time away. There's a term called bug out and that means the units are recalled and it can be done at a battalion level or a higher level, brigade, divisional level or even a NATO call out. It was not unusual for the trucks to come through the villages and there was no phone or knocking on the door, the Canadian trucks either from, whatever regiment, in our case, the Queen's Own Rifles or the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, the artilleries next door, would just come into the villages and lean on the horn and you knew, that it was a bug out and that you had better get your butt in gear and get there. Leaving your family not knowing when you were going to be back, was it going to be 24 hours, 3 days or was this, had the balloon gone up, because I remember at that time Neil, the Berlin wall was going up, not down. Secondly there was the Cuban crisis, you know, you look back at that and I've done that since I've, since then, a number of times, that was the closest in history that Canada., the world came to a nuclear war. We didn't realize it, but basically our job was to slow the Russian assault coming through the, the Soviet assault, coming through the Fulda Gap. We were cannon fire, sacrificial lambs, a delaying action until additional resources could be brought over from the UK and from the United States and whether the decision would be made to go nuclear or not. We didn't have, you know they complain about equipment today, we had not that good equipment, we were in a situation where we just did as we were told; quite well trained, but we didn't necessarily have the horses to go with us.

Mr.Ethell talks about the post Second World War years and the concern of another major world conflict

Donald Stewart Ethell

Donald Stewart Ethell was born in July 1937 and was raised in Victoria, BC. His father was a Veteran of both the First and Second World Wars. His mother was a nurse. He and his sister attended boarding school because of his parents' jobs and he was only home at Christmas and during the summer. His mother passed away when Mr. Ethell was 10 years old.

When he enlisted, Mr. Ethell joined the Queen's Own Rifles in Calgary. After several years of serving as an infantryman he was recommended for the officer training. Mr. Ethell graduated from the program and rose to the rank of Colonel. He went on to command Canadian, and United Nations, forces in various missions all over the world. In the mid 1990s, Col. Ethell retired with over thirty-five years of distinguished service.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Donald Stewart Ethell
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Queen's Own Rifles of Canada

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