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Gerald Bertram McEachern was born on November 28, 1923 in Cranbrook near Ethel Ontario and moved to Killean station house as a young boy. The station is now gone. He was the son of Wesley C. and Mary Lois McEachern and had one brother, Winston, four years older than Jerry. Wesley McEachern worked for the railroad on the section gang, as did Jerry before being called up. The foreman's name was Bruder.
The McEachern boys were quite musical and together with friends played for local dances. Jerry played both banjo and guitar but was best on the banjo. When Gerald was called up he would have preferred to play for dances and work on the railway, nevertheless, he enlisted on April 17, 1944 and did his basic training at Stratford.
At this stage of the war, recruits did not receive the same intense training that they had received earlier in the war. Earlier in the war, they received more combat training in England and Scotland to better ensure their survivability. Often new recruits would be placed in action in a matter of weeks.
Gerald did not join the Algonquin Regiment R.C.I.C. until after being sent to France. The records show that the first reinforcements joined the regiment on September 2, 1944 at the Town of Pont Remy. The Algonquins were by this time-seasoned veterans having seen heavy action south and east of Caen in the general direction of Falaise.
The Algonquin regiment was from Northern Ontario with headquarters at New Liskard, Haleybury and Cobalt. Company A was at Huntsville, B at Northbay, C at Kirkland Lake, and D at Timmins. They were tough northerners from the mines and logging camps. The regiment's roots trace back to the civil war as a militia rifle Coy. authorized in 1863 in Sault Ste. Marie. In 1933, the name was changed to "The Algonquin Regiment".
The regiment landed on Juno Beach on July 23 and 25, 1944 and were attached to the fourth Canadian Armoured Div. The Algonquins wore the green patch of the 4th Division. The Algonquins first saw action on August 1 and by the 7th saw heavy action on the drive south of Caen at Hill 195. From August 7‑14, there were 46 killed, 37 P.O.W., 47 wounded. Captain M.A.Searle, the Forward Observation Officer of a medium Artillery regiment (British), was quoted as saying "I hope that if ever again I am in a party like this that I will have Canadians around me".
Another assault began on August 12 at Quesnay Potigny and Falaise with 67 killed, 53 missing, 125 wounded. On September 2, the new recruits arrived and were disbursed to the various companies. From the 2nd‑4th the troops rested, had lots of food, got clean clothes, did letter writing, saw movies and slept. This is the first time they were all together since Caen.
On September 6, the push northeast toward Antwerp began, the Polish army on the right and 3rd division on the left. They reached Omer by early afternoon. The bridges had been blown. On September 7, a miserable gale was blowing when they contacted the enemy at Bergues, 15 km from Dunkirk but were ordered to bypass and leave for 2 Division.
The Green route crossed into Belgium near Hondschoote and stopped at St. Ricquiers for the night. By the 8th, the enemy had retreated fighting into the perimeters surrounding the channel ports. It was going to be hard fighting. By the 9th they decided to bypass Bruges and cross the canal which runs south and east of Brussels. Snipers began picking off the reconnaissance party. It was decided that the Algonquins be fed piece meal into an existing bridgehead and not to try another site.
On the evening of the 9th, D Coy. detached to cover bridging operation in Oostcamp and moved up to do this job. The remainder of the battalion moved south to the chateau area behind the bridgehead. Enemy resistance was still strong across the canal with snipers in the area. On the evening of the 10th it was C Coy's turn. They were to cross and swing left. The enemy resisted furiously before the position could be consolidated. They were supported by the 19th field regiment and fire from the South Alberta tanks. There were four killed and four wounded.
Gerald was killed by sniper fire going over a dyke on Sept 10th, only 8 days after joining the Algonquins. He is buried at Adegem Canadian War Cemetery, Maldegem, Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium, grave IX,A4. It took the Canadians until November to clear the southern shore of the Scheldt estuary with heavy loss of life.
G.L. Casidy Warpath: The Story of the Algonquin Regiment, 1939-1945; 1990 Highway Book Shop, Cobalt, Ontario
Thanks also to Winston's wife, Reed, for pictures and information and also to Gerald's friend, Angus Ferguson for personal information.
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Puslinch Historical Society
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Puslinch, ON N0B 2J0
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