When Horse Artillery had Horses

[RIAN archive 90027 Gun Crew Moves to New Positions” by RIA Novosti archive, image #90027 / Lander / CC-BY-SA 3.0. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

In 1956, when I was Senior Liaison Office for 2 Canadian Infantry Brigade in Germany, I was charged with finding a new and dry site for the HQ while on Exercise. We had suffered two weeks of solid rain and General Rowley was keen to find an opportunity for he and the rest of the HQ to “dry out”.

During my recce for a site I came across a castle – complete with moat.

The courtyard was cobbled and I assumed that the barns would provide a dry place for the men to sleep.

I climbed the long stone steps to the front door – before I even got to the  top the door opened and a chap my own age came out – in a very foul mood!

“Get off this property and bloody well never come back!” he raged!

Then he saw the Maple Leaf on the jeep.

“My apologies, I thought you were British! You’re Canadian and very welcome. Do come in and get dry.”

I was meeting Baron von Raden, and shortly after the Baroness. The Baroness had not come outside to meet me as she was ‘confined by choice’ to the Castle, in grief over the drowning of their little son in the moat a few months previous.

The Baron was interested in my shoulder flashes – “Horse Artillery, Ah“, he said. “I too was Horse Artillery. Do you have horses?

“No” I replied.”We changed horses for motor vehicles in 1939.”

“Ah, too bad”, he replied. “In Russia we found it very convenient to have horses – when we got hungry we ate them!”

Later, after a good deal of Blue Nun wine [his product] he showed me into the Reception Room – bare of furniture but with huge oil paintings of men – all military officers – around the walls. He said, “You will know my Great Grandfather!”

“No. I do not recognize any of the gentlemen.”

“That one” he pointed to a single portrait – “was my Grandfather – he was General Wolfe’s Quartermaster  on the Heights of Quebec.

“That is why we have such a close connection with Canada – except during the War we visited every year – and in Canada we always bought our breeding stock!”

One of the most interesting and hospitable couples I have ever met. I stayed two days.

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