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Passing of Brigadier-General (Retired) George Wattsford

George Wallace

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From the desk of LCol Cross: 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with sadness that The Regiment announces the death ofBrigadier-General (Retired) George Wattsford, a former wartime serving
officer of the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) and the 23rdCommanding Officer of the Royal Canadian Dragoons (January 1949 to May1951).  In his long and distinguished career, General Wattsford partook in the transformation of the Strathcona's from cavalry to armoured, fought in the Second World War in Italy, and served as the Commander of the Canadian Delegation in Laos during the Vietnam War. In the years following his retirement from the Canadian Forces he served ten years at Queens University in a number of positions including the post of Director of University Services. A short narrative speaks to General Wattsford's upbringing and military career at the end of this email. 

Funeral Arrangements. The life of General Wattsford will be celebrated at St George's Cathedral in Kingston (270 King Street East, Kingston, ON (613) 548-4617) on Monday, 17 January 2011 at 1400 hrs followed by a reception at the Fort Frontenac Officers' Mess. There will be no visitation. Internment will be at the National Military Cemetery at Beechwood, Ottawa in the Spring. Dress for serving members is DEU 1A(tunic with medals). Mourning bands for CWOs and Officers will be available at the entrance to the Cathedral. It would be quite appropriate for retired members to wear their medals.

Condolences and Remembrance Anecdotes. Condolences and remembrance anecdotes can be forwarded to Colonel (Ret'd) Bob Billings (General Wattsford's Adjutant) at rstanley@kingston.net or via an online tribute in the Robert J. Reid & Sons Funeral Home Book of Memories which is accessible at: www.reidfuneralhome.com. Further, should you wish to do so and in lieu of flowers, a donation in General Wattsford's memory can be made to the Outreach Program, St George's Cathedral, P.O. Box 475, Kingston, Ontario, K7L 4W5. 

Tasks. Tasks are simple and in accordance with General Wattsford' swishes:

* RCD. Provide Quater Guard and Bearer Party.
* Col Roderick (LdSH (RC)). Provide ushers from the Kingston area as agreed to be coordinated by Col (Ret'd) Roderick.
* Col (Ret'd) Bob Billings. As General Wattsford's Adjutant in his later years, Col Billings will coordinate the celebration of life and the participation of the RMC Ex Cadet's Club.
* Maj Chris Catry.
  * Coordinate the reception at the Fort Frontenac Officers' Mess in close coordination with Col Billings.
  * Provide a Canadian Flag to dress the casket and to present the family. 

The Life and Times of Brigadier- General George James Harrison Wattsford

Born in Ottawa in August 1911, Wattsford's childhood was uneventful.  Seeing how his father, who had served in both the South African War and World War I, was held in such high regard by those around him, George knew at an early age that he wanted to serve in the military and attend university at RMC. He studied there from 1929 to 1933 and, having grownup around horses, joined Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) upon graduation - George's arm still bears a fading tattoo of the Strathcona crest, a silent tribute to his chosen unit. A highlight for him was leading a troop at the 1934 Calgary Stampede Parade.

When the Second World War broke out, Wattsford says his regiment was"slow to mobilize, because they didn't know what to do with the cavalry." Eventually, Lord Strathcona's Horse became an armoured unit.

In November of 1941, Wattsford was one of thousands who shipped to the U.K. aboard a converted passenger liner. "It was very scary for the enlisted men," he recalls, "deep in the hold of the ship with the sound of water rushing by." Despite the threat of U-boat attack, the voyage passed without any major problems, aside from a "disturbance" in the dining saloon over food complaints that Wattsford tried to quell.

The next two years were spent training in England, participating in large and tedious exercises that would try any soldier's patience. But the regiment finally saw action in May of 1944.

As Canadian troops advanced on Rome, Wattsford volunteered to check out an enemy gun firing from behind during the Battle of Melfa River. "Off  Iwent with my tank and a crew of five (including myself)." Finding an armoured vehicle hiding behind a barn, Wattsford told his gunner to aim carefully and shoot, but the latter's view was obstructed by brush their own tank had picked up as it plowed through the olive orchards and woods. "Next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor semi-conscious. The tank was on fire, and the ammunition was exploding all around me." Shell fragments pummelling his body, he felt neither their impact nor the searing heat. "I thought, 'This is what it's like to die'."Two of Wattsford's men had been killed instantly, but the gunner and the co-driver escaped unscathed. As fate would have it, the shock of the blast had caused the gunner's foot to push the firing pedal, scoring a direct hit on the enemy's tank. Coming to his senses as the others climbed to safety, Wattsford dragged himself to fresh air out the turret, sparks and gun powder chasing him each agonizing step of the way.

In the end, the battle cost the Strathcona's 17 tanks and 20 men, but George feels his contribution in the fighting was so minor that it "hardly deserves mentioning. It was a tough mission, but we succeeded in obtaining a bridgehead," he concludes with nonchalance.

With both legs in full casts, and "myself encased in bandages -- head, arms, everything", Wattsford was sent by hospital ship back to England. "Funny enough, it didn't leave any scars...extraordinary!"

After returning to Canada, Wattsford began a staff course and was in the middle of an exercise when a friend came out to the field to say the war had ended. "In the days that followed, a lot of the men retired, anxious to return to civilian jobs."

But Wattsford continued the only career he had ever known, with successive postings at Army Headquarters in Ottawa, in Melbourne with the Australian Army, as commander of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, as commander of the Saskatchewan area, and in Laos with the Canadian delegation during the Vietnam War.

After a distinguished military career, during which he was awarded numerous campaign stars and medals, George retired at the age of 56 in May of Canada's centennial year. He immediately relocated to Kingston,Ontario, where he had studied in his youth, and took a job at Queen'sUniversity. He remained with them for 10 years, while devoting much of his time to the United Way.

In September of 1941, shortly before he had shipped overseas, George married Helen Poussette, affectionately known to everyone as "Puss".  Although they never had any children, their love would last six decades until her death in September 2002.

Closing Remarks

If I have missed anyone, the fault is mine and mine alone. It is Saturday and I am without my trusty Muggsie... I encourage you to please pass this email as freely as you like.

In light of the limit time to effect coordination and the fact that I will be out of communications for the most part of the route to Kingston tomorrow, I do not intend to forward any greater detail than what is contained herein unless it becomes absolutely necessary. Should you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to call or email me direct at the addresses and numbers contained within my signature block below.

Many thanks to all of those that have been, or will be assisting us in bidding a fitting adieu to one of the Corps' great leaders.


Dyrald Cross
Lieutenant-Colonel | lieutenant-colonel
Commanding Officer
An outstanding man.
An outstanding career.
An outstanding Armoured soldier
RIP General Wattsford  :salute:
Thank-you for your service to:
King-Queen--Country.  :cdn:
Condolences to Comrade's,,
Family,, Friend's.
You will not be forgotten Sir..
Scoty B