CONSIDERING the shipping situation, it seems to us that so far as numbers go a good job has been done to date in bringing our troops back from overseas.
When it comes to the order of return, complications have set in.
In July, visiting the Canadians in Holland, Ian Mackenzie, Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, told correspondents that he had found a “sense of grievance” among the men on the question of repatriation by units as opposed to the pointpriority system; that many of the troops felt the Government was not carrying out its promise of first in, first out.
The minister also referred to another thing. Long-service men, he said, were worried about letters from home telling them that some friend down the street who had a lower point score had arrived home. Wives and families couldn’t understand why high-point men were not home too.
This publication is receiving letters from officers and men with the Canadian Occupation Force asking the same question. They are not only worried. They are good and mad.
They say that the announced basis of service in Germany (volunteers and short-service men with low-point scores) hasn’t worked out that way at all.
One officer writes: “I am drafted into this
COF after three years in the Army: two years overseas, eight months in action. Other officers with about the same record as myself are also drafted. Scores of men I know personally, and hundreds I have heard about, have the same story. One man is an original ‘thirty-niner’ with over 200 points. Okay as long as we are needed. BUT other officers (several hundred) who have never seen action, who have only come overseas this year, are still sitting in England. Scores of men I know of have already been posted to units that are now leaving Germany on the trek home. These men have just arrived over here. Some of them enlisted only last year. Some of them arrived at the front after V-E Day. Unfair? Absolutely. And obviously not intentional, but just due to damn sloppy work. Hundreds of mistakes have been made. Mistakes can be corrected. But will they be corrected? All we want now is to have somebody assure us that nobody with shorter service than we have will be demobilized first. And we can’t get that assurance—in words that we trust—over here.” Other men who went through the bitterest fighting in Italy and then in Holland write that they have been told they are in Europe till next Easter.
Obviously a certain number of officers and men with long experience are vital to the COF. An army of occupation has a tricky job to do. And it goes without saying that many of the men
whose duties held them in England didn’t stay there by choice.
But it is equally clear that there is every justification for a great many of the complaints being made. Swift readjustment of flaws in the repatriation system will have to be made.
That is Ottawa’s job. Admittedly it isn’t an easy one. But it is unlikely that there will be public tolerance of delay or buck-passing between Cabinet and Defense Department.
AMONG the many happy phases of the servicemen’s return are the warmth and efficiency of the reception depot in Toronto. Troop trains pull into the Exhibition grounds. Relatives sit in the grandstand in alphabetical divisions clearly marked. Bands ease the waiting. The troops march in, fall out, meet their folks for a few minutes before they re-form to be documented, draw pay, ration cards, travel warrants, passes, etc. That is done quickly.
A corps of civilian volunteers is there to offer automobile transportation home, to provide a night’s lodging for men just breaking their journey; the Legion is there with cigarettes, sandwiches and coffee.
And from a row of telephone booths any serviceman may telephone long distance to his family or sweetheart anywhere in North America—free. The Ontario Government pays for the call.
City and provincial government officials, the Toronto Volunteer Reception Committee, the Canadian Legion, the Red Cross and the Bell Telephone Company, and the citizens generally, do a swell job.
Anything To Declare ?
IT WILL be recalled that when the Canadian cruise ship Hamonic was burned at a Sarnia dock, a lot of passengers, including a number of U. S. citizens, escaped by dropping into lifeboats or into the water.
If an Associated Press dispatch was accurate, it would seem that for devotion to duty the Boy Who Stood on the Burning Deck had nothing on a Canadian customs officer.
According to the press report, as a baggageless group of passengers inadvertently landed on our soil, the conscientious officer enquired: “Anything to declare?”
While the inference is that “he seen his duty and he done it noble,” it doesn’t sound at all like any Canadian customs officer we’ve ever encountered. We’d like to think that if he said it at all, he said it with a broad grin and that his object was to leaven a grim morning with a spot of humor.
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