Fort Garry Horse – Stan Butterworth – A World War II Vet

Stan Butterworth

Stan Butterworth, WWII Veteran

This man who greets me at the door with a smile and rosy cheeks is 88 years young.  As he takes my coat, a courtesy of his generation and invites me to sit at his dining room table, we sit down for a chat that easily could have taken many more hours.

Stan Butterworth proudly shows me photos of his family and friends.  He shows me how his school team won the city-wide championship in soccer.  He then shows me a newspaper from 2005.  It is the edition that the Winnipeg Free Press put out to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.  In it, there are over 20 pages of soldiers who have died from the province of Manitoba.  He tells me that there are over 4000 soldiers who lost their lives in the second war just from our province alone.  He says this with much sadness and concern.  He discounts his own involvement with the war effort as a member of the Fort Garry Horse Regiment, an armoured unit to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

We talk about the past.  He tells me of how he joined up with his brother, Fred Butterworth.  They joined up at the Fort Osborne Barracks which is now home to the Izzy Asper Centre School and the Rose & Max Rady Jewish Community Centre near Assiniboine Park.  That location has a lot of memories for a lot of people.  They did their initial physical and aptitude training there.  Their choices at the time were between the armoured corps, the artillery corps or the service corps.  They chose to become armoured and so took on wearing the Black Beret as part of the Canadian Armoured Corp.

Training continued at the University of Manitoba.  There, the residential dorms were turned over to the military.  The famous, centrally located brick Administration Building of the University of Manitoba was turned partially into an Orderly Room.  The parking lot behind Dafoe Library, Fletcher Argue and Tier Buildings was turned into a parade square for the soldiers to practice on.  Many students of the University of Manitoba do not know the rich history of how their campus was used in the war effort.

For graduation, they marched down south to Elm Park Bridge beside where now the BDI stands, which for many Winnipeggers know is a great place to get ice cream before walking the very same bridge these soldiers were on.  The soldiers continued down St. Mary’s Road to what would now be close to the perimeter.  They had to cross back over to Pembina Highway and the only way they could do this back then was by crossing on a ferry.  They then headed back north to the University of Manitoba campus.

Having graduated this portion, they travelled to Camp Borden where they took more training with 13 weeks of gunnery and 13 weeks in wireless.  However, the Allies were preparing for D-Day and so every available soldier was being taken over to Europe in preparation.  This meant that Stan and Fred had to teach recruits even though they were not finished their own.  While the new people came in to learn the first portion, they also continued to learn on their own second part of the training program.  Finally, they headed to Nova Scotia and then onto a boat called the “Isle de France” in March 1944.

Their voyage was interesting as the ship left Halifax and started heading south as if to go to Africa but then during the night, it turned north back towards Europe.  He suspects that there were u-boats on their trail.  At various times, they were escorted by Corvettes and Sunderland Flying Boats.  Travel on the boat was another thing as mats were laid on the ship’s floor and then immediately above them were hammocks.  The ride was so rough that their boat was like a cork in water bobbing in the rocking waves.  Stan, Fred and a few others did not like this so at night time when they went into black out conditions for their own safety, they would sneak off and sleep in the lifeboats instead.  They made it to Scotland on April 1st, 1944.

As time went on, they made it to Aldershot, England which is only an hour from the famous Stonehenge Monument and is “Home to the British Army.”  This is where Stan and Fred received real “Advance Training” in preparation for going over.    They fought in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.  There is much more of a story here but not enough time or space to write it all down.  Let it be said that on April 13, 1945, Fred, Stan’s only brother, made the ultimate sacrifice and died in the war effort.

Stan came back and married his sweetheart, Hazel Carlson, had two sons of his own, naming the first one in honour of his brother and his family lineage.  He went on to live in various places in Western Canada with his family but returned to Winnipeg where he had renewed his interest and involvement with the Fort Garry Horse Regiment in 1975 to this day.

He, along with many other key people, was instrumental in having the Fort Garry Horse Memorial Monument placed in Assiniboine Park beside the Pavilion.  It stands tall and proud in reflecting the battle honours this regiment has been a part of.  Interestingly now, a 100 years has passed since its inception and the Fort Garry Horse have produced a history book to be released at McNally Robinson’s on April 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm in the Atrium.  For more information, see http://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/product/category/0/item/716849/mcnorgan-crossley-facta-non-verba

In addition, the Fort Garry Horse is commemorating the 100th anniversary with a series of events including a parade at the City Hall and another at the Provincial Legislature to which the general public is invited.  There is also a Gala Cavalry Ball.  For more information, go to http://www.fortgarryhorse.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=91&Itemid=99

Mary Mikawoz is a teacher, freelance writer, artist and photographer.  She was born and raised in Winnipeg and then lived in eight Canadian cities as an adult.  She has a wealth of knowledge with continuously learning at eight Universities and Colleges in Canada.  She has two University degrees and a College diploma.  She strives hard to produce work that is representative and is a very good reflection of people and their organizations.

For more information – https://mikawoz.wordpress.com/ or contact Mikawoz@gmail.com or @MaryMikawoz

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Dave Atwell
    Apr 12, 2012 @ 17:01:13

    What a great article about a man I have been very honoured and privileged to know. To have visited the battlefields of Holland, Belgium and Germany with him was a tremendous honour. This article captures the truly human experience that he went through. Absolutely fantastic.

    Reply

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