The O'Leary Collection—Medals of The Royal Canadian Regiment

1033222 Private John McKenzie Winter

The Royal Canadian Regiment (C.E.F.)
22nd Armd Regt (C.G.G.) (C.A.S.F.), (T.Q.M.Sgt.)

By: Capt (ret'd) Michael M. O'Leary, CD, The RCR

John McKenzie Winter was born in Llanndudnno, Bangor, Wales, on 9 Dec 1896. His arrival in Canada was likely as one of a group of 14-17 year old boys, including 15-year-old John Winter, which arrived at Montreal, Que., aboard the S.S. Virginian on 6 May 1911. The ship's passenger manifest shows that the boys were enroute to Sherbrooke, Que., for "School." Notes in Winter's Second World War service record show that he attended "Public School in England and grade IX in [a] Quebec urban school."

Winter attested for overseas service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force with the 237th Overseas Battalion. A machinist by trade, he was living at 726 Delepee St, Outrement, Que., when he enlisted on 8 Aug 1916 at Montreal. Winter reported previous service of nine months with the 39th Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery, although no reason is given to explain why he did not go overseas with that unit. At 19 years of age, he was described on his attestation paper as 5 feet 4 ½ inches in height, with a 35 ½ inch chest, fair complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair. Winter's next-of-kin was identified as his uncle, Mr. J.B. Williams, of 5 High Street, Bangor, Wales.

The 237th Battalion, C.E.F., was formed in mid-1916 at Sussex, N.B. The unit recruited men in Military Districts 4, 5, 6, and 7 (i.e., Eastern Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic Provinces). It was parenthetically titled "(American Legion)" and was one of a number of "American" battalions in the C.E.F. In September 1916, the unit's personnel were transferred to the 97th Battalion, C.E.F.

The 97th Battalion (American Legion), CEF, was authorized on 22 Dec 1915 and was recruited in and mobilized at Toronto, Ontario. Soon after reaching Britain, the battalion's soldiers were absorbed by the R.C.R. & P.P.C.L.I. Depot to provide reinforcements for the Canadian Corps in the field.

The R.C.R. & P.P.C.L.I. Depot at Caesar's Camp, East Sandling, was a short-lived depot unit that supported those two named regiments with drafts of reinforcements. It was created on 13 Feb 1916 by separating it from the 11th Reserve Battalion, and it was disbanded on 20 Jan 1917 when it was absorbed into the 7th and 26th Reserve Battalions.

Although he enlisted with the 237th Battalion, Winter crossed the Atlantic aboard the S.S. Olympic with the 97th Battalion, sailing from Halifax on 18 Sep 1916 and arriving in England on 25 Sep 1916. Once overseas, he remained with the 97th Battalion for less than a month before the unit was absorbed into the reinforcement stream. On 22 Oct 1916, Winter was taken on the strength of The Royal Canadian Regiment and arrived at the unit on 12 Nov 1916.

Late fall and early winter in the trenches had an all too common effect on John Winter. On 10 Dec 1916 he was admitted to No. 9 Field Ambulance with an undiagnosed ailment. Less than two weeks later, on 22 Dec 1916, Winter was transferred to No. 10 Canadian Field Ambulance with a diagnosis of P.U.O.; i.e., pyrexia (fever) of unknown origin, also known as trench fever. He would not return to the unit until 3 Jan 1917.

Winter was wounded in action on 9 April 1917 during the assault on Vimy Ridge. On 14 Apr he was admitted to No. 2 Australian General Hospital to be treated for G.S.W. (i.e., gun shot wounds, which could refer to wounds caused by bullets, shrapnel balls, or shell splinters) of the left arm. The following day, he was admitted to 2nd Southern General Hospital in Bristol. His evacuation from France caused him to be struck off the strength of The RCR and posted to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot (N.S.R.D.).

The N.S.R.D. was part of the new regionally based reinforcement system, with named Depots taking in troops from battalions raised in those areas in Canada and providing reinforcement drafts to similarly designated fighting units. The RCR, having been headquartered in Halifax in the decade before the War, was associated with the N.S.R.D. These Depots also became the parent unit for any soldiers returned to England from their affiliated battalions in France and Flanders.

On 30 Apr 1917, Winter moved to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Uxbridge. From there his journey within the medical system led to Moore Barracks Canadian Hospital at Shorncliffe on 30 Jun 1917. Winter spent three months at Moore Barracks before being discharged on 19 Sep 1917. On that date, he was struck off the strength of the N.S.R.D. for embarkation to Canada for further medical treatment. Winter's file contains diagnoses of chronic bronchitis, which was later changed to "Debility, Clinical, Tuberculosis, Lung."

In Canada, Winter was posted from the Discharge Depot to the Convalescent Depot on 30 Sep 1917. He was then admitted to the "L.I.M.S. Ste Agathe," the Laurentian Chest Hospital, which had become a primary treatment site for Canadian soldiers suffering from effects of gas or other respiratory ailments, where he would remain until April, 1918. On 18 Apr 1918, Winter was posted back to the Hospital Section of No. 4 District Depot. He took his time reporting, resulting in the loss of a day's pay as punishment for being absent without leave from the 19th to the 20th of April.

From the Hospital Section, Winter was transferred to the Discharge Section of the Depot on 31 Jul 1918, from which he was discharged from the C.E.F. at Montreal, Que. He was classified "Category "E" Medically Unfit" and discharged to the Invalid Soldiers' Commission. The Commission was established to coordinate retraining opportunities for returned injured soldiers, providing them a means to re-establish themselves in civilian life, contribute to c\society and find productive employment with a sense of purpose. Winter's Proceedings on Discharge form states that his intended place of residence would be 5 High Street, Bangor, Wales.

For his service with the C.E.F., John Winter was entitled to the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his service in the First World War. These were despatched to him on 18 Oct 1921.

On 17 Oct 1928, John Winter married Roberta Oakley Gardner. The couple had one child, a daughter, Patricia Ann, born on 2 Dec 1930.

Winter enlisted in the Canadian Active Service Force for the Second World War on 12 Jun 1940 at Montreal. On re-enlisting, he knocked a year off his age and stated his birth year as 1897. Winter's trade was recorded as mechanic and he identified his wife as next of kin; Mrs. Roberta Winter, 970 McEachran Ave, Outremont, Que. His religious denomination was Church of England. Winter identified his previous service with The RCR (#1033222; 1916-1918). His attestation recorded his previous conduct on discharge in 1918 as "very good" and also his entitlement to wear one casualty stripe (9 Apr 1917). Winter was enlisted in the rank of Guardsman and immediately promoted to Acting Sergeant. He was assigned the service number D26097.

The Canadian Grenadier Guards was a unit of the Non-Permanent Active Militia which mobilized an active service battalion in the Canadian Active Service Force for the Second World War. Originally formed in 1859 as the 'First Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada,' this regiment was titled 'The Canadian Grenadier Guards' in 1920. The Canadian Army's official lineage document provides a brief operational history of the regiment in the Second World War:

"The regiment mobilized 'The Canadian Grenadier Guards, CASF' for active service on 24 May 1940. It was redesignated the '1st Battalion, The Canadian Grenadier Guards,. CASF' on 7 November 1940. It was converted to armour and redesignated: '22nd Armoured Regiment (The Canadian Grenadier Guards), CAC, CASF' on 26 January 1942; and '22nd Armoured Regiment (The Canadian Grenadier Guards), RCAC, CASF' on 2 August 1945. It embarked for Britain on 25 September 1942. On 26 July 1944, it landed in France as a unit of the 4th Armoured Brigade, 4th Canadian Armoured Division, and it continued to fight in North West Europe until the end of the war."

On 23 Sep 1940, Winter was granted Trades Pay as a Driver-Mechanic (Class I). ten weeks later, on 9 Dec 1940, he was qualified Driver-Mechanic (Class II).

Nine months after enlisting, Winter was granted his first break from military service, He proceed on furlough from 15 Feb to 4 Mar 1941. Three months later, on 20 Jun 1941, he was qualified in the rank of Sergeant and on 15 Jul 1941 he was confirmed in rank.

Winter was admitted to Sussex Military Hospital, Sussex, N.B., on 29 Sep 1941. He had fallen from his motorcycle four days earlier and had been under treatment for lacerations of his right leg by the unit Medical Officer. The injury had become infected and he was sent to hospital for more intensive treatment. He was discharged from hospital on 9 Oct 1941.

Despite his injury and hospitalization, Winter was Qualified Motorcyclist, Grade III, on 25 Nov 1941. the following day, he was also granted the qualification for First Aid, having completed St John Ambulance First Aid training.

The "Recollections of Guardsman Hubert" by ex-Sgt G.A. Hubert, C.G.G., published in the Infantry newsletter, Summer 1975, provide a glimpse of the regiment's transition from infantry to amour:

"The Guards had been mobilized in June 1940, as a conventional infantry battalion and, apart from our rather pronounced fondness for spit, polish and barrack discipline, preparation for going overseas was similar to life in any other battalion. Wooden bren guns and anti-tank rifles were a feature of this period along with occasional range practices, marathon drill sessions, and extremely fundamental field training.

"The news that we were to become the 22nd Canadian Armoured Regiment was greeted with a wave of enthusiasm by the Guardsmen. We had done a credible job of training as infantry, but the shortages of weapons and equipment in Canada that were commonplace among units waiting to go overseas had robbed us, in part, of the conviction that we would ever get into battle. The tank had acquired an awesome reputation after the fall of France, and action in the Western Desert had confirmed this. As well, the change was insurance that we were bound for England.

"Tank training was done in Canada and England. …"

On 12 Feb 1942, Winter proceeded on command, i.e., a temporary duty assignment without change of parent unit, to Camp Borden to attend the Technical Quarter Master Sergeants' (T.Q.M.S.) Course. He returned to the unit on 26 Mar 1942, was appointed Acting/T.Q.M.S. for the regiment in the rank of Warrant Officer, Class II (WO II), and also began collecting Trades Pay Group "C" (T.Q.M.S.).

Shortly after his return to unit, Winter went on furlough from 29 Mar to 11 Apr 1942. He went on another brief period of leave a few months later. This period of Special Leave, from 20 to 24 Aug 1942, preceded his departure from Canadian shores.

On 25 Sep 1942, Winter was struck off the strength of the Canadian Army (Canada) and the following day taken on the strength of the Canadian Army (Overseas). He disembarked in the United Kingdom on 7 Oct 1942.

After only a month in England, Winter proceeded on Privilege Leave from 6 to 12 Nov 1942. A few weeks later, on 2 Dec 1942, he was confirmed in the rank of T.Q.M.S. (WO II). Winter enjoyed further periods of privilege leave in Mar and May 1943.

On 21 Jul 1944, John Winter boarded ship in the United Kingdom. On 26 July 1944, the 22nd Armd. Regt. (C.G.G.) landed in France as part of the 4th Armoured Brigade, 4th Canadian Armoured Division. The following day, on 27 Jul 1944, Winter disembarked in France to join his regiment in the theatre of war.

The regiment's list of Second World War Battle Honours illustrates the achievements of the 22nd Armd. Regt. (C.G.G.) in North West Europe:

"Falaise; Falaise Road; The Laison; Chambois; The Scheldt; The Lower Maas; The Rhineland; The Hochwald; Veen; Twente Canal; Bad Zwischenahn; North-West Europe, 1944-1945."

In the closing days of the war, Winter was granted a period of Privilege Leave from 13 to 24 Apr 1945. That same month, he requested a return to Canada on compassionate grounds. The reasons cited were his wife's health who, he explained, was under a doctor's care for "nervous condition and physical change in life that is experienced by all women her age, which is 47." Winter's request also noted his wife's concern for him since D-Day. In requested a return to Canada, he emphasized that he did not wish to leave the Service in doing so.

Winter's Commanding Officer, Lt.-Col. E.A.C. Amy, forwarded Winter's request on 28 Apr 1945 with a recommendation for support. His covering letter read:

"The marginally noted WO II has applied for compassionate leave to Canada on the ground drafted in attached letter.

"He has served with this Regiment since July 40 to the present day unbroken service. He is now 49 yrs of age and has through his 4 1/2 yrs of good service done his work in a manner which is highly commendable.

"He has on previous occasions received letters from his wife requesting his return but due to his enthusiasm and desire to remain with the Regiment, he has overlooked these requests until recently when correspondence which he has recd from other relatives has made him realize that his return home is essential.

"He requests in his application that he be allowed to continue with his service in the Army in his present capacity as a WO II TQMS at a location in Canada near his home.

"I feel that I can sincerely recommend his services to any formation where such a vacancy may exist.

"In consideration of the good service this man has rendered and the fact that he is now over-age for field work and also that his personal problems at home require his presence, I recommend that this application be given every consideration."

Winter's request for compassionate leave was supported and forwarded on 7 May 1945 by Maj.-Gen. E.L.M. Burns, the General Officer Commanding the Canadian Section, 1st Echelon Headquarters, 21st Army Group. Authority for Winter's posting to Canada was issued by Canadian Military Headquarters later that month.

On 29 May 1945, Winter was struck off the strength of the 22 Cdn. Armd. Regt. to the X-8 List (i.e., service personnel designated for return to Canada). By 2 Jun 1945, he was in England and reporting to the Canadian Reception Depot. Ten days later, on 12 Jun 1945 , he was taken on the strength of No. 1 Canadian Repatriation Depot.

Winter was interviewed at No. 1 Cdn. Repat. Depot on 13 Jun 1945 prior to his return to Canada. The reason for his return noted in Depot documents was "for discharge, compassionate grounds." The following details were recorded from this interview:

"Plans. Wants to remain in Army if he can be employed in his present capacity as Quarter/Master in charge of Technical Automotive Stores. On discharge will return to his former job with Central Investment Corp., Garage Operators, Montreal. Interested in taking up Small Holding under V.L.A.

"Appraisal. This man has no problems other than getting home to see how his wife is. He seems to be well qualified to return to former employment as he is doing similar work in Army. Fifteen years with previous employer, prior to enlistment.

"Counsel. Explained Small Holding under V.L.A.

"Further Advice. Counselling on how he can apply for further time in Army if required. Further counselling on Small Holding under V.L.A."

The Veterans' Land Act (V.L.A.) of 1942 was part of Canada's re-habilitation program for returning veterans. The Act helped establish veterans as farmers, fishermen, and part-time farmers on small holdings. The small-holdings program, which essentially became a housing program providing veterans with homes on lots from half-an-acre to two acres in size, was meant to provide the veteran with the means to generate extra income, and to ensure a the land resource necessary for a degree of self-sufficiency in times of economic hardship.

In preparation for his discharge, Winter's medical history was reviewed by a Medical Board on 27 Jun 1945. The Board's report noted no present diseases or injuries and recorded Winter's statement of present complaints as "Sometimes my back bothers me." The Board recorded elements of his medical history as follows:

"For the past year, he states he has been experiencing occasional pains in his back, especially after driving over rough roads. His career in the army has been entirely automotive, and he states that this task has taken him over many rough roads. He experiences the pain low down in his back. It is dull aching in character and intermittent. It does not radiate. He did not consider it serious enough to report sick.

"Past Disability. (1) Gassed. Vimy 1916. Carried on in the lines. Developed a cough which remained for 1 1/2 years. Later hospitalized. (2) Shrapnel Wound. Left upper arm, 9 Apr 191, Vimy Ridge. Hospitalized 3 months. States he has good function in left arm now. (3) Appendectomy. 1925, Montreal General Hospital, no complications. (4) Injury right leg. Superficial lacerations complicated by infection. Hospitalized Sussex, N.B., Jun 1941 for 10-12 days. Good function now.

"Functional Enquiry. General, has been gaining weight. Respiratory, no complaints. Musculo-Skeletal, as above. Other Systems, no complaints."

On 6 Jul 1945, Winter was struck off the strength of the Repatriation Depot, the Non-Effective Transit Depot, and the Canadian Army (Overseas). Having left UK shores, he was taken on the strength of No. 4 District Depot at Montreal on 7 Jul 1945. On arriving in Canada, Winter reported to the Depot on 12 Jul 1945 and was granted leave with ration allowance from 13 Jul to 11 Aug 1945.

Winter was interviewed by a Department of Veterans Affairs Counsellor on 21 Aug 1945 prior to his discharge. The counsellor's report offers the following information of Winter's background and intentions for future employment:

"Pre-Enlistment Education:— Completed Public School in England and grade IX in Quebec urban school, 3 years motor mechanic course with Studebaker Corp.

"Occupational History:— 3 years on engineering staff of survey dept. 1922-26: for Studebaker Corp., Montreal, Que. 1926-40: as garage superintendent for Central Investment Corp., Montreal, Que.

"Short Account of Service, Training and Duties:— Served in World War I in R.C.R. as private Reg. No. 1033222 for approx. 2 1/2 years. Was wounded. Enlisted in C.A.C. Trained soldier. Employed as transport Sgt. 15 months. Technical Quarter Master Sergeant, 3+ years. Driver mechanic course and qualified as driver mechanic class I. Course as Technical Quarter Master Sergeant (Armoured Corps) and qualified. Qualified in First Aid (St. John's A.A.). Served overseas in U.K., France, Belgium, Holland and Germany for approx. 35 months.

"Medical Officer's Statement Of Physical Limitations (If Any):— Fit for medium work according to his age.

"Dischargee's Own Statement Of Future Plans (If Any):— Is returning to his former employment as service superintendent.

"Basis for Counsellor's Recommendations:— T.Q.M.S. Winter is a short, elderly man of 49, average build, who looks much younger than his age. Before enlistment he was employed as garage service superintendent for approx 14 years. He is being reinstated in his former employment. In civilian life he had a 3 years course as motor mechanic. In the army he qualified as driver mechanic and was employed as transport sergeant for 15 months. He was employed as Technical Quarter Master Sergeant for 3 1/2 years, His duties consisted of looking after automotive supplies and technical equipment. All this experience would be useful to him in employment as a service superintendent or as a stock-keeper in automotive supplies. He is interested in taking advantage of the V.L.A. (Small Holding). His wife is willing to live in a rural community.

"Action Recommended:— Former employment as garage service superintendent.

"Other Possibilities:— Settlement under V.L.A. (Small Holding). Seek employment as stock-keeper in automobile supplies."

Q.M.S. (W.O. II) J.M. Winter was discharged from the Canadian Army (Active) at No. 4 D.D., Montreal, on 21 Aug 1945. His discharge certificate notes his service in the United Kingdom and Continental Europe with the 22nd Canadian Armoured Regiment. He was provided $100 clothing allowance and 30 days pay in his current rank.

On discharge, Winter was issued a war service badge, "General Service Class" (#217417), on discharge, 21 Aug 1945. For his operational service in the Second World War, Winter would later receive the 1939-45 Star, the France & Germany Star, the Defence Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Overseas Clasp, and the 1939-45 War Medal.

On 7 Mar 1946, Winter wrote to the Government requesting consideration for a long service award in respect to his service in both world wars. His letter offered the following justification:

"I realize you are a busy man and many problems much more important then this take up a great deal of your time.

"However, perhaps my observation will be worthy of somebody's consideration.

"There are a few of us who have served active in both wars, but do not qualify for the efficiency medal, for example, counting double time for active service, I have something like 14 years.

"On the other hand, during peace time all a man has to do is join the militia, attend the armoury twice a week for 12 years, and he is entitled to the above mentioned ribbon, plus the long service ribbon. Trusting this does not put you to too much trouble, thanking you in advance."

The letter was received by the Department of Munitions and Supply and was redirected to the Minister of Finance. The forwarding slip was then over-stamped by the Minister's office of the Department of National Defence and an acknowledging reply dated 12 Mar 1946 was sent to Winter from the Director of Records, Adjutant General Branch. It only took a few days before the Director of Records sent a formal reply to Winter's request for consideration of entitlement to a long service medal. Dated 15 Mar 1946, it read:

"The Canadian Efficiency Medal is awarded primarily in recognition for completing 12 years continuous unbroken service in the Non-Permanent Active Militia, with service in the second Great War permitted to reckon twofold provided the applicant was a member of the Non-Permanent Active Militia on 1 Sept 1939 and continued to serve until enlistment in the Canadian Amy (Active).

"Since there is nothing on file to indicate you were at any time a member of the Non-Permanent Active Militia, it is regretted that you do not quality for the award of the Canadian Efficiency Medal.

"Records indicate you were awarded the British War and Victory Medals in respect of your service in the 1st Great War 1914-18 and also that you qualified for the awards of the 1939-45 Star, the France-Germany Star, the Defence Medal and the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp in respect of your service in the 2nd Great War."

Winter also requested a replacement war service badge, "General Service Class," in early 1946. A response letter in his service record, dated 11 Mar 1946, shows that he was sent the necessary statutory declaration to complete in order to formally request a replacement. Notably, it could only be submitted three months after the loss of the badge, probably to give sufficient time for a misplaced badge to turn up before a replacement was provided. He may not have followed up at that time, and his records show that a replacement badge (#530658) was issued on 25 Nov 1957.

On 29 Jul 1948, Winter wrote to the "Chief Recruiting Officer, Dept. National Defence" (sic) on to offer his availability for further service:

"I understand qualified men are required by the R.C.O.C. that in the far distant future those of us who have the experience and can qualify may apply and perhaps "get in on the ground floor" I served five and a half years with the 22 Can Armd Regt, 4th Brigade, 4th Div, as T.Q.M.S. (WO II) left the Unit in Germany month after "cease fire" I am familiar with Ordnance procedure, the vocab of Ordnance stores,all types of vehicles and their packing notes,nomenclature of parts and accessories care of weapons and ammo,was discharged Medically fit, A.1. If accepted at my age 51, would like to qualify as Sub-conductor, I have been in the automotive business for 20 years and feel I can meet the necessary requirements. Trusting to hear from you at your earliest."

On 11 Aug 1948, the Department's reply to Winter, signed by the Deputy Minister, acknowledged and politely deflected his offer:

"I regret that at the present time, our policy is to enlist young men 17 to 25 years of age, except that skilled tradesmen may be accepted up to and including the age of 55.

"However, your offer is much appreciated, and a record will be kept of your name. Should your services be required, you will be communicated with through Headquarters, Quebec Command, Montreal, P.Q."

Winter's desire to add a long service medal to his wartime service medals continued. On 18 Nov 1948, the office of the Director, War Service Records, replied to him regarding his renewed inquiry into entitlements:

"With reference to your letter of November 4th regarding the issue of a Long Service Medal, I am to inform you the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal is awarded to members of the Permanent Force after eighteen years service and the Canadian Efficiency Medal to members of the Reserve Army "Non-Permanent Active Militia" who have completed twelve years continuous service, towards which, service during the War may under certain conditions be counted double as qualifying service, and if you consider that you are entitled to either of these awards it is suggested that you make application to the Officer Commanding the last Unit with which you served."

John McKenzie Winter died at Outremont, P.Q., on 21 Apr 1967. An obituary notice appeared in the The Gazette of Montreal on 24 Apr 1967:

"JOHN McK. WINTER

"Funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. today in the Chapel of Jos. C. Wray and Bro., 1234 Mountain St., for John McKenzie Winter, who died Friday evening at the Montreal General Hospital. He was 71. Mr. Winter was born in Llandudno, Wales, and came to Canada at an early age. He was a retired employee of the Central Investment Corp., a subsidiary of Henry Birks and Sons Ltd. With 34 years of service, he was a member of Birks' "Old Guard". Mr. Winter served overseas during the First World War with the Royal Montreal Regiment (sic) and during the Second World War with the Canadian Grenadier Guards. He was a life member of the Beaver Lodge, No. 99, A.F. & A.M. He is survived by his wife, the former Roberta Oakley Gardner; and a daughter, Patricia Ann (Mrs. Brodie J. Snyder Jr.). Burial will be in Mount Royal Cemetery.

Roberta Winter survived her husband until 1999.

Pro Patria


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