Weaponry and Wartime Experience

Canadians on the Cote d’Azur, 1944

Fighting in the Rivera

At the end of August, Becket liberated Vence, addressing the mayor and residents in French. Then it was on to L’Escarène, west of Var near the Italian frontier, where they met with violent resistance. They quickly but with great difficulty seized the Nice-Terrin railway tunnel ending at L’Escarène, cutting off the Germans' escape route.

For his heroism here, Sergeant Thomas Prince, the most decorated Aboriginal Canadian of the war, was awarded the American Silver Star on the recommendation of Becket, who had sent Prince on a dangerous but successful reconnaissance mission alone. Next came the capture of Mont-Ours and a fort the French had erected to repel Italian invaders. Becket's regiment, using a heavy machine gun, repelled a counterattack. For taking Mont-Ours, Becket was awarded his own Silver Star, as was Major Huff commanding the 1st Battalion for going deep into enemy territory on mined roads to carry out a reconnaissance mission. In October a German company would attempt a final counterattack on Mont-Ours before all activities ceased in that sector.

For several weeks the regiment remained in this region, in the vicinity of Fort Castillon not far from the other regiment and near Sospel, site of a German garrison of two companies. Becket suggested they take Sospel from one side and the heights behind Castillon so as to cut off the German garrison without great cost so close to the end of the war. This they did without sustaining Allied casualties, as the Germans defended neither Sospel nor the fort - which was tiny, after all, and just a kilometre from the Italian border. They would not leave until late October, but Becket's patience was finally rewarded.

On 5 December the 1st Special Service Force paraded together. Then the order to disband was read. Becket advanced and gave the order for the Canadians to detach. They left in formation with the Canadian colours, leaving their brethren in arms, with whom, for more than 18 months, they had fought without regard for nationality. 86