Canada in the Second World War

People

James Jacobs

History about James Jacobs told by his newphew Scott Deederly:

The Jacobs are originally from Winnipegosis, Manitoba. Jim’s father, Mike Jacobs, immigrated to Canada from Grodna, Russia (now Belarus). He has served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War then came back home and settled down with my Great Grandmother Annie Smith and was a farmer and fur trapper. He was also a carpenter and a master violin maker. Despite these skills, it was a near subsistence existence for the family. My Uncle Jim was the oldest of 5 surviving children and was my Grandmother Martha (aka Marty… aka my Baaba… Ukrainian/Slavic for grandmother) big brother… Martha was the middle child of the family.

When the Second World War started Jim enlisted right a-way/ the Hazards and then two years later his second oldest brother Peter enlisted when he was old enough. My grandmother was 12-13 when Jim left, 16-17 when he died. She would be the oldest left to help my Great Grandmother with the younger children.

Jim was originally in the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry (PPCIL) but for whatever reason he missed the PPCLI overseas contingent deployment, so he transferred into the Regina Rifles just before they left Nova Scotia for the U.K. in 1942. He desperately wanted to go to Europe and serve.

When the Regina Rifles arrived in Scotland in 1942, Uncle Jim met my future Aunt Nancy at a dance in the Village of Carmunnock, Scotland (south of Glasgow).

Here is a photo of Uncle Jim and Aunt Nancy on their wedding day, they were married in Glasgow in December 1943. It is the best photo I have of him. Here is also a single photo head shot of him I got off the DND-National Archives website a while ago.

 

 

From all accounts from my family, he was a highly intelligent, friendly, creative and very humorous man, always joking. My Uncles John and Fred, his youngest brothers, were very similar, I remember them as good humoured with always a twinkle in their eye. My Baaba was very intelligent but a bit drier in her humour.

Anyway… from all the accounts I’ve found of him from Jim’s fellow soldiers they say this good-natured humour was combined with a calm, unflappable disposition under fire, great skill with the rifle, a deep knowledge of battle drill & doctrine and fearlessness.

My Great Grandfather would be fur-trapping in winter and be away for months at a time, Jim helped my Great Grandmother look after and support the family being the oldest.

This hard life and up-brining in rural Manitoba during the Depression gave my Uncle Jim the skills and resourcefulness that would make him a successful soldier and NCO leader.

My cousin Lynn tells me in reading the letters between her mother Nancy and Uncle Jim there was a beautiful poem Jim wrote (sadly lost now) about how the Maple Leaf and the Scottish Thistle were intertwined now, it was a metaphor for their relationship and love as well as about Canada coming to the defense of Scotland/UK and the ties between the countries. It also showed how creative and a good, learned writer he was despite not finishing school.

 

Aunty Nancy would give birth in April 1944 to my cousin Sandy and Uncle Jim got special emergency leave from the invasion assembly area to travel to Scotland to see his newborn son and wife.  He had three days with them before he had to return back to D Company of the Regina Rifles in the South of England for the invasion.

Originally that was all we knew as a family, as he had left us then… we knew that either he landed on D-Day or shortly afterwards, spent a month in France and then died on July 8, 1944.

However, he was never forgotten by those who he served with.

Over the last twenty years of off-and-on research, and really over the last three, I have pieced together the story of my Uncle Jim and his month in Normandy, France.

Enclosed is a pdf to a postwar Canadian Veterans magazine called Roll Call ‘The Voice of the Veteran” Vol 1 Number 3… scroll down to page 17-18 where there is an article about my Uncle entitled THE BRAVEST MAN I KNEW BY Gordon Brown, his D Company Commanding Officer and good friend.  Gordon Brown tells the story of my Uncle during his month in Normandy, from the landing at D-Day to the assault on Abbey D’Ardenne where he died.  I found this article with the help of Kevin Lambie of the Regina Rifles website (http://www.reginarifles.ca/) and historian Delores Hatch. Also here is a youtube video of Gordon Brown visiting Cardonville Farm from 1994: 

Also enclosed is a scan of

a page from Holding Juno recounting a story after the aftermath of the Battle of Cardonville Farm.

What I have learned is that Uncle Jim landed with the second wave on D-Day with the rest of D Company of the Regina Rifles. Reportedly, his landing craft hit a mine and he was blown into the water and had to swim the rest of the way to France.

The rest of his platoon did not survive. Gordon Brown says when he landed, he reported in on the beach, and realizing that he was the only survivor of his platoon, said he was prepared to be a platoon of one and went on to work his platoon’s assigned tasks single handedly. His career as a platoon was short lived however as and on D-Day+1 they promoted him to Company Sergeant Major (CSM) of D Company. That is where Captain Gordon Brown would meet him, CSM of D Company already set-up in a defensive position at Cardonville Farm south of Bretteville-l’Orgueilleuse on June 8th.
Captain Gordon Brown and my Uncle Jim, along with Lt. Dick Roberts, would be the command team that led D Company in the defense of Cardonville Farm when the 12th SS attacked over the night of 8-9th of June and for the rest of June and early July.

You can read details about my Uncle in the article, and he is often mentioned in Gordon Brown’s writings and book (Look to your Front Regina Rifles), however there was a funny incident on the night July 3-4th I will share where in the dead of night an explosion was heard in-front of the Regina Rifle’s positions.

My Uncle went to investigate and found right in-front of his slit trench was a dead cow, killed by an anti-tank mine. Once he realised, grouping in the dark, what was in front of him he yelled out to the rest of the Company “What the *&^$! It’s a cow… Beef Steak for Everyone!”. They ate very well later that day. In the War Diary log of the Regina Rifles for that day the incident is noted with the side note that D Company was having Beef Steak again and that “HQ was suspicious.” I always found this story quite funny and sums up, I think, who my Uncle was.

Gordon Brown and Uncle Jim would be close friends and a great working team, until July 8th. My Uncle had just brought D Company to the start line where they would begin the assault on Abbey D’Ardenne, they were heading to meet-up with Gordon Brown who was already on scene south of Authie scouting for the attack when Uncle Jim was killed by enemy artillery fire. Reportedly many of the D Company members had tears in their eyes at this set back at the start of the battle. Ironically, it was the first time in a month Jim allegedly had been seen with his helmet on.

The family and I are forever grateful to Gordon Brown. I never met him, though I found out later we lived in Red Deer, the same community, during his last few years, but the article he wrote is like he is speaking to me about my Uncle, what kind of man he was, what he did. It is because of his writings and his remembrances we know what my Uncle Jim and his D Company comrades were doing in Normandy and how Uncle Jim died… even after 70+ years many families don’t have that gift of closure.  I know Jim’s loss was as raw for my Baaba 50 years later as it was on the day her and my great grandmother got the telegram from the Canadian Government informing them of his death.

I am also grateful to Kevin Lambie and Dolores Hatch for helping me in my search and pointing me in the direction of this article and many other books and resources that I have acquired.

Again, Thank you, for this.  My Baaba and I, in fact I think most of the family, have never been able to travel to France and visit Beny-sur-Mer. The closest was by Baaba’s close friend who was a French who traveled home in 1986, visited Beny-sur-Mer on her behalf, and brought back photos of the cemetery and of Jim’s grave.

P.S. My Aunt Nancy in 1946 would travel to Winnipegosis Manitoba with baby Sandy.  She would meet my family and then meet my Uncle Peter, who returned home from serving with the Hamilton Light Infantry (a veteran of Falaise Gap, Holland & Germany).  They would fall in love, marry, and Uncle Peter and Aunt Nancy were happily married for over 60 years.

Where to find James Jacobs: Regina Rifles WO II (A/CSM) H17588 Jacobs, James – Age 24 – Buried Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, France XII D. 11