Tudge, Francis Robert (Bob)


Bob Tudge

My father was Francis Robert Tudge. He was born in 1914 in Edmonton.

My grandfather was a cattle dealer and ran a butcher shop. In the early 1920's he had a contract to sell surplus buffalo from the Wainwright range before they were shipped up to Buffalo National Park. My grandfather later on, had the contract to butcher beef for the Indians that had moved to Fort McMurray. I was told that they rafted to Fort McMurray down the same river as the buffalo.

In 1937-38 my dad joined the South Saskatchewan Dragoons to keep my uncle company because by that time everyone knew there was a war coming. There was a big push on by the government to get reserves but as this was Canada I was told he trained with a Ross rifle and WW1 equipment.

My uncle and father were sent to Vimy Barracks in Kingston in 1938 because they knew Morse code. Evidently this was the e-mail of the 1920-30's and they had both taken it in some sort of school club. One night my father and uncle were captured in Harvie's orchard where they were picking apples. I was also told about a pre-war church parade to Barriefield where my uncle managed to drop all his gambling winnings. My uncle caught yellow jaundice at a church picnic and spent the rest of the war in Newfoundland after he recovered. There is a picture of my dad in the Vimy museum standing beside an open touring car with the rest of the graduating class. I am not sure if my uncle is in it too. Evidently it is the first wheeled signal vehicle. I was told my father went overseas with the first contingent of the Canadian Army (1939) but the touring car stayed home.

My father was at the Dieppe landing. Somewhere I have a poem he wrote about the battle. When he went back to Dieppe in 1976 he was disappointed to see the unmarked graves because he said that he knew every one of the signalmen who died there and where most had been shot. He said almost everyone at Dieppe knew each other and the vet's should have been asked to identify the grave remains which, by the way, are evidently not in the same place as where the Germans buried them.

Somewhere around Liverpool England father met my mother who was in the RAF. My mother was part of the RAF listening post because she spoke Parisian French (she went to school in Paris before the war). They met on some sort of joint wireless training course on new equipment. I was born in Hazelmare in 1943 and my brother in Maidhead a year later. We stayed in my Grandfather's house with two uncles and my grandmother. The family had been separated from my Grandfather because he had gone back to Bermuda where he had the family house and store. He didn't see the family again until 1945 but by that time one uncle had been shot down, one had been drafted in 1945 and sent to Palestine with the British army where he fought the Jews, the third uncle was drafted in 1946 into the RAF and spent two years as a bomber in Trans Jordan. Both my aunts were married and my mom was off to Canada.

Father was on the Normandy Landing and spent the rest of the war with the recce platoons attached to divisional headquarters. He mentioned that they used a scout car. He spoke of life in a brigade headquarters and was with Mennonite signalmen who only ate cheese and vegetables. It was from them that he learned to speak German. I remember he told me that he always regretted shooting a couple of teenage SS soldiers but the Canadians did not know who they were. I gathered he was with the field engineers advance parties during the war because he said the signals and engineers had higher than normal casualties due to leading the advance. Also he mentioned the field engineers were in charge of blowing up the banks and safes. As a result they had huge amounts of French francs and German marks to spend, eg., kit bags full, in the Sig's tents. I gathered he managed to end the war in Northern Germany and was with the first troops returning home. We arrived six months later at my Grandfather's farm in Leduc, Alberta, but by this time my father had no desire to farm. The farm was located near where the present city hall is now.

Father rejoined the army in 1946 and was posted to Chilliwack. Mr. Chow was there because I have several pictures of him with our family. We joined him in Chilliwack but returned to England when father was posted to Masset in 1947, which at that time was an isolated posting. All I remember about Chilliwack is that the camp still had concertina wire around it and we lived in old wooden barracks. One day we climbed a mountain to see the Fraser River flood; I guess my dad never thought he would ever live in Richmond which was mostly underwater at that time.

In 1949 we rejoined him in Prince Rupert. I remember travelling to Prince Rupert in a converted corvette. As he was the only married person he had to convert the Sergant's mess into a home. I think there were 10 privates, a corporal (my dad), a sergeant or warrant officer and a captain. About six months after we got there the privates were given the opportunity to join the DOT, which they did. One day in uniform and the next day they came to work in suits. No one from corporal up could transfer. The little I remember about Prince Rupert was that the camp was almost a ruin, there was a totem pole by the entrance, and it rained a lot. My brother and I had to go to a Catholic school because the public school was overcrowded. I remember there was an office down town where the army ran the CNR telegraph office and the camp (DOT) was some sort of radio-weather station.

In 1950 my dad was posted to Camp Wainwright. He told me that there was a sergeant cook and himself were closing up the camp for the winter when in came about seven hours of teletype. Evidently the two of them, and their wives, spent hours around a kitchen table decoding the messages: it was the warning orders for the PPCLI, who were going to Korea. He said they had lots of problems because many of the PPCLI had common in law families with no place to live. The families had to live in box cars by the Wainwright station until housing was built or they were moved to Edmonton.

In 1951 dad was posted to Whitehorse as a corporal teletype, cipher operator. We had to go from Wainwright by train and then flew to Whitehorse by Trans Canada (Air Canada). I remember the first place we lived had no running water and it was delivered by truck. The water froze in the barrel and had to be broken up with an axe. If I remember correctly the house was heated by wood. The next year we moved to the new camp on top of the hill near the highway. The back of the PMQ faced the woods and about 300 yards away was the highway and I think the highway marker was 1496 or 1946?

I can remember something about the signals office. I know it was open on Saturdays and was the CNR telegraph office. Dad told me many of the customers either wrote their messages in code or in foreign language because the signalmen wouldn't be able to understand them - Ha, at least one of them spoke Russian, German, Chinese and French and remember most of them were cipher clerks. So much for hiding messages from the government. Many of their customers came in from bush camps to report their prospecting results or their recorded claims to their companies. Some customers also played the stock markets in Vancouver and Edmonton. I believe dad mentioned the fur exchange in Winnipeg was an important site too. There must have been a fair amount of military traffic too because the US Army had to send troops by truck up the highway to Alaska. What fun it must have been, riding in the back of a 21/2 T SMP in the winter. They used to stop in Whitehorse for a week to recover before they went on their way. Sometimes there were flights of fighters going north to Alaska and I remember some bombers flying over our house.

One Saturday there was a big flap because the telegraph tapes which were burnt in an old barrel out back of the office instead blew all around town. The staff had to drive all over the place to get the tapes because they still had all the commercial and military traffic on them.

All I remember about the signals station building in Whitehorse was that it was on a corner with the entrance facing the street. You came in to building at one end and faced a counter, behind which was located the teletypes and wireless desks. Against the wall was a counter with paper and pencils for writing out the messages. All I can remember is that the teletype operator sent the message exactly as written. I remember that Dad took our husky down with him on Saturdays and left it tied up by the door in the afternoons so that they would have a quiet afternoon. The husky was given to us to mind while the owner was sent up North (North of Whitehorse). We had the dog for about two years but it was stolen by the Indians for their dog teams. They were always looking for big dogs because their dogs had all died when distemper killed them off. Dad said it was caused by someone bringing a sick dog up the highway.

Another thing I remember was that the soldiers that were stationed in the outposts came back to Whitehorse to adjust to crowds before being sent back to Kingston. I remember one corporal and his wife had been sent to an outpost in 1947 and didn't get back to Whitehorse until 1954-55. I remember the family because Dad mentioned he had been shell shocked. The reason he had to leave the outpost was because the RCMP complained that he spent too much time hunting, and never went were he said he was going. His wife wore a caribou fur coat that shedded all over the place. I believe they spent one winter in Whitehorse before going south to Kingston.

My dad purchased a car from an American who was going back to Alaska; cars being discouraged from driving on the highway by restricting the sale of them in the Yukon. The most common transport was by army bus, pickups and large trucks. When army drivers got stuck on the highway in the winter they used to break the telegraph line so they could be rescued by the linesmen. At that time the road was decorated with crosses were someone had been killed in an accident. During the summer the army covered the gravel with clay to keep the rock clips down which meant when the clay dried there was dust everywhere. In fact, I remember we were on a side of a mountain and could clearly see the highway dust about 10 miles away. Anyway it was rare to see a vehicle on the highway other than Army vehicles and Keno Hill Mine trucks hauling ore to Whitehorse. If you found a bag of ore that had fallen off a truck, the reward was $10, coke cost five cents a bottle and a dime would get you a chocolate bar. One of the most popular night classes was about mining and how to pan for gold. For many years panning for gold was my dad's hobby and I still have his gold pan and mining hammer.

There was a road camp near Haines Junction that also had Sig's there. I am not sure where it was but when we went to Haines my father pointed it out. He said they used it for road crews during the winter too. Maybe it' still being used. I remember someone was stationed there in the summer while the engineers fixed the roads and rebuilt the bridges.

Although I never saw any evidence of telephones in houses or at least no one I knew had one, there was a phone beside the road leading to the emergency airfield south of Kluane Lake across from Sheep Mountain. I remember stopping there with my dad because he wanted to go down the road to pan for gold. You had to report in to the RCMP before proceeding down the road as it went over a glacier. We did not go that far but two weeks after we were in the area the RCMP patrol was attacked by a grizzly sow. It might have been the bear we saw that ran across in front of us. That is the reason we left the area that day.

I can only assume the land line was laid by the Signals. There must have been other lines around Whitehorse or at least on the airfield but I do not remember seeing them. I know there was a telegraph line beside the railway, which I think was for the railway's use only. The Signal Corp's line was the commercial line - which my dad sometimes used to buy stocks and shares on the Vancouver exchange.

I have no idea how the stores ordered their goods nor do I know if the RCMP had land lines from their offices to their PMQ's which were located above the traffic circle.

In 1957 my dad was promoted to Sergeant and had to go on the NCO's course in Kingston. The only thing I remember is dad had to buy a new pair of boots because all he had was the one's issued to him in 1945 before he came home. There was some other equipment he needed which he picked up in Kingston. If I remember correctly he also had to hand in his 303 rifle about that time too.

In 1958 we drove to Edmonton, south to North Dakota and across the US (no Trans Canada Highway then). Again we had to live in an upstairs apartment near the prison because Kingston had a severe housing shortage.

From 1959 until father's retirement my brother, two sisters (born in Whitehorse), mother and father lived in the PMQ's. My father was the Regimental Orderly Sergeant for Vimy barracks, then an instructor with the Boy Soldiers and later on worked in the Signal museum. He spent one winter patching up the artefacts that had been returned from the Vimy Memorial before they were sent to Ottawa. They have never been displayed since in Canada but for that brief time at the museum in Vimy Barracks. He did check to make sure they are safe before he died and I asked about displaying them a couple of years ago. "Never!".

My dad taught skiing, rifle shooting, basketball and drill to the Boy Soldiers. According to my father, the present day rules in Ontario for Amateur Basketball, Volleyball, Indoor Tennis and Floor Hockey are a direct result of the efforts of the instructors at Vimy. Other sports were codified by RCEME instructors at Kingston, RMC instructors and at the school in Borden. Their efforts were given to the Provincial government as the standards for amateur sports in Ontario. There were some pictures of him in the museum at Kingston, some taken during the war and later on with the Boy Soldiers rifle teams after they won the army championships in the 1960's. According to my dad the only reason any Sigs are on wartime film is because the camera men and reporters would get lost and no one would give them directions to get back until they had their pictures taken.

In 1965 my dad retired from the army and became an assistant professor at UBC for Library Sciences. He purchased a house in Richmond using his DVA benefits which he had not collected after the war. He retired from UBC in 1981, after my mother died in 1979 while I was with the UN in the Golan. He made several subsequent trips to the Yukon, but Whitehorse had changed. He still prospected for gold but I think he was bored. My sister invited him to stay in China with her when she was teaching in Inner Mongolia. He was a guest lecturer for some of her English classes and met many interesting people. He used to read Quantum Physics as a hobby and gave one professor his copy, the only copy in the university so when he came back to Canada for a visit he purchased a few copies to take back as presents.

In 1972 I was posted from 408 Sqn Cold Lake to 4 Svc. Bn. S & T company. The Supply Tech's had just been united under one trade, so we were a fine collection of former service trades. Myself and another corporal were Airforce, one Sergeant was from the old 202 Workshop textile workers trade, one was a former Medical Storesman, another one was a former Signal's Storeman, several were former RCASC and the balance were former RCAOC and one was off a ship.

I worked in the Supply Op's van at night, which ran the Service Bn convoys and the Sergeant I worked for was stationed in Whitehorse in the early 1960's as a corporal Engineer's Storesman. He told me that in the 1960's the engineers decided to fix the Alaska Highway and try to move it away from the areas that had spring washouts or avalanches. This involved finding new routes, new sources of gravel and moving the land lines. One day he was driving a jeep containing a Major (chief engineer) and a couple of others to another new location. They came to an "S" turn in the road but the land lines continued in a straight line across the "S". They stopped to look at it, wondering why the road made an "S" against the hills when the line crews had laid the line across it. He said they got out and started to walk down the line but had to stop at some open water. The Major said that if the line crews could set up their poles then the water must be shallow; otherwise they could not have driven out there with the line truck. Anyway he stuck a pole in the water and couldn't feel the bottom so he shoved it down as hard as he could; it came shooting back up so they knew they were standing on muskeg near open water. He found out later on that the line crews had built cribs in the winter, filled them full of rock, stuck the pole in the centre and waited for the spring thaw before they strung the lines using a boat.

In 1975 I was sent to the Sigs troop in 4 Svc. Bn. A few of the Rad Ops remembered my father from when they were Boy Soldiers. In 1985 I worked in Bldg 155 at Rockcliffe and met several airmen that had been on re-supply runs to remote radio stations. They said that they landed in the middle of nothing, not a tree, a building or any recognizable feature but a 3/4 SMP and a couple of Sigs and RCMP. As they climbed into the sunset they could see them driving off into the distance like little lost souls in a wasteland of snow. They either did not mention or I can not remember where they said they landed.

My father died in 1994, so if I do not have the facts correct, remember it was a long time ago.

Irving Tudge

Velox Versutus Vigilans