Major Howard Bretz

By Harry McFee and Christopher Bretz

 

Major Howard Claude Bretz
Winnipeg Light Infantry
CANLOAN Officer #435 to Monmouthshire Regiment of Wales

3rd Battalion, 159th Infantry Brigade
11th Armoured Division
2nd British Imperial Army
September 1940 to August 1945

 

In 1937, at age 26, Howard Bretz joined the Winnipeg Light Infantry Militia, the reserves, training and parading at the Minto Street Barracks and the McGregor Armouries each week. At the time he had recently started working as a salesman at Tuckett Tobacco, and the military was just a part time activity.

But when World War II broke out in 1939 there was a tremendous swelling of patriotic spirit across Canada, and Howard's participation with the reserves became even more focused. The Winnipeg Light Infantry mobilized in September 1940 and Howard left civilian life and joined the military full time as a Lieutenant. He also married Jean Halliday of Winnipeg that same month. His first son, Gordon was born September 7, 1941 while he was stationed for training in Portage La Prairie.

Howard took his initial training in Winnipeg and at CFB Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. His regiment became proficient in small arms and took further training at Camp Shilo, just outside of Brandon, Manitoba, and then moved to CFB Wainwright, Alberta. Subsequently, they were transferred to Vernon, B.C. for mountainous training. Howard indicated that this was some of the most physically difficult training that he had to endure - with full battle gear and back packs weighing 80-90 pounds - climbing and scaling mountain sides. Howard also underwent officer training at the Royal Military College at Kingston, Ontario. Howard was promoted to Captain on 26 January, 1943

This image is of the Winnipeg Light Infantry. Howard is on the far left and is likely a Lieutenant at this point.

By 1943, the Winnipeg Light Infantry had not been given their overseas orders and its members were most anxious to join the action with their overseas comrades. They were highly combat trained, and very fit, but their regiment was kept in reserve to guard the homefront (recalling the old army saying of "hurry up and wait"). There were many Canadian units fighting in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Egypt with others serving in India. RCAF Squadrons were fighting heroically not only in England but also from the Island of Malta in the Mediterranean and at locations in North Africa. Much of the Canadian military were integrated into the British services (particularly the Air Force) as they were the senior military authority of the Commonwealth countries. Howard would soon find find his opportunity to fight, however.

There were heavy losses in the British Army following the withdrawal at Dunkirk, the Dieppe Raid, the defense of Hong Kong, the forces opposing General Erwin Rommel in North Africa and the invasions of Sicily and the boot of Italy. In the months prior to the Allied Normandy Invasion in June, 1944, the British Army was desperately short of junior infantry officers. This is when the CANLOAN program was initiated.

From THE VICTORY CAMPAIGN : The Operations in North-West Europe, 1941-1945
"Official History of the Canadian Army I in WW ll, Volume lll, by Colonel C.P.Stacey", pages 633-635:

"Of the fighting elements of the Canadian Army but not the least important was the large group of Junior Officers who served in various British Units in North-West Europe under the so- called "Canloan" scheme. The first initiative in this matter came from Canada. In September, 1943, C.M.H.Q. was asked to ascertain whether the British authorities would be interested in absorbing a number of Canadian officers, particularly in ranks above Captain who had become surplus as a result of the disbandment of two home defense divisions. In the course of the subsequent discussions with the War Office, it became clear that the latter had a requirement only for subaltern officers. In November, Major- General H.F.G. Leton, then in England, discussed the matter with the War Office and suggested that, in the light of the disbandment of the 7th and Sth Divisions and the fact that there appeared to be an overall surplus of junior officers undergoing training in Canada it might be possible to lend the British Army a certain number of such officers. At this time it was considered that about 2,000 might be available.

On 5 January 1944 the War Committee of the Canadian Cabinet approved the loan, subject to the officers being available for immediate recall whenever the Canadian Army required their services. At a meeting in London on 4 February 1944 arrangements were made for 2,000 Canadian officers to be attached to the British Army. In addition to infantry officers, the British now asked for some 50 urgently needed Ordnance officers. The great majority of the Canadian officers were to be lieutenants, but some captains were to be included. Under this "Canloan" scheme, as it came to be called, the Canadian Government was to be responsible for the pay, allowances and pensions of the officers attached to the British, but promotions were to be made on British recommendation, subject to the approval of the appropriate Canadian authority. During their service with the British units, the officers were to wear the badges of the regiments to which they were attached, but they were given permission to wear "Canada" badges on their battledress and to wear Canadian service dress for "walking out". A legal basis for the Canadian scheme was provided with the passage of Order-in- Council P.C.3464 of 29 April 1944. At this time the maximum number of officers to be loaned was placed at 1,500 instead of the 2,000 originally mentioned.

The Canloan officers were thoroughly "screened" by selection boards in Canada, since the War Committee had expressed its anxiety that the Canadian officers loaned to the British should be most carefully selected and that those who volunteered should, in age, medical category and qualifications, be at least as well trained as reinforcement officers for Canadian units. To achieve this the Canloan officers were given a special four-week refresher course at Sussex, New Brunswick, designed to bring.them up to the standard of officers leaving Canadian reinforcement units in the United Kingdom. The first group reached the United Kingdom on 7 April 1944.

In the event, a total of 673 Canloan officers were sent to British units, 622 being infantry and 51 from the R.C.O.C. By the spring of 1944, however, the officer reinforcement situation in Canada was less promising than in the previous autumn. Accordingly N.D.H.Q. notified C.M.H.Q. that the supply of officers available for loan was coming to an end and that the infantry total was very unlikely to exceed 625. So far as possible the Canadians were sent to units of the British regiments, if any, with which their Canadian regiments were allied. A considerable number found their way into airborne units; by 1 August 1944 approximately 90 had been posted.

The Canadian infantry officers soon found themselves very actively employed. A number of them landed in Normandy on D Day and others not long afterwards. Most were involved in very fierce fighting, often in command of forward platoons, and the group as a whole suffered exceptionally heavy losses. Of the 673 officers who were loaned to the British between 9 April 1944 and 27 July 1944, 465 became casualties, 127 being killed or dying of wounds. Canloan officers won many awards for gallantry; 41 received the Military Cross."

In this image, the platoon is training with Universal Carriers. Howard is standing in the officer uniform 3rd from the left.

The response to the volunteer request was very good with several hundred Canadian officers who were eager to get into action jumping at the opportunity, including Howard. It appeared that the British did not need senior officers but there was interest in the loan of the more junior officers because of the general shortage in the British army. However, they didn't simply want 'poorer officers' dumped on them either. A specific ratio of 8 Lieutenants to l Captain was agreed upon by the British and Canadian armies.

Canada would lend a large number of junior infantry officers with the understanding that they could be recalled if needed by the Canadian army. The loan of the officers should be strictly on a voluntary basis. The volunteers would have to be knowledgeable of the service requirements and their service would be limited to NW Europe and the Mediterranean. The screening of French Canadian bilingual applicants would insure there would be no Anglo prejudices which would hamper their leadership.

Each of the volunteers was personally interviewed by a British Army Selection Committee consisting of two officers for selection and appraisal. There were two locations for these interviews; Chilliwack, BC and Trois Riviere, PQ. The senior officers of all corps worked together with psychologists, psychiatrists and other educational officers in the assessment of these junior officers. Those selected were then sent to the OTC (Officer's Training) at Brockville, Gordon Head or Three Rivers.

Several officers in the training centres were also selected to attend the Royal Military College (RMC) at Kingston, On. Howard had attended the College in Kingston in 1943 and was able to meet with his brother, Norman, who was in Toronto on a well deserved leave. They visited with their father and their uncle Syd. Around this time Howard was promoted to Captain.

Officers such as Howard in the Winnipeg Light Infantry all suspected the unit would never go overseas. Many of these officers wished to escape from home defense duties and welcomed the opportunity to volunteer for overseas duty in spite of their age, or minor physical defects. They all shared an unusual keeness to get into action (some had joined the army too young - age 17 - and others were too old - age 34 - and were still accepted into the CANLOAN plan). Later it was known that the CANLOAN Officers had an 75% casualty list of killed or wounded by the war's end. More information on the CANLOAN statistics can be found here.

In late 1943 Howard volunteered through the CANLOAN program to join the British Imperial Army. He was moved from Winnipeg to a training school at Sussex, N.B. for further officer training before being shipped overseas.

In early May, 1944, Howard and his brother Norman were both in Halifax, Nova Scotia at the same time; Captain Bretz going overseas for the Normandy Invasion, and Wing Commander Bretz coming home after four years overseas with the R.C.A.F. Howard's second son, David, was born in Winnipeg, on May 22, 1944 while he was on the move in England.

Howard was then transferred to the 3rd Battalion (the Monmouthshires - a Welsh regiment) of the 159th Infantry Brigade, in the 11th Armoured Division (the Black Bulls). He joked one of the first things he had to do was learn the language just so they could understand each other. There were 12 other Canadian officers also posted to the 3rd Battalion throughout the remainder of the war.

The Monmouthshires were originally destined for North Africa, and its advance parties had actually embarked on ships. These were lost to the regiment when their resources were redirected for the D-day invasion.

For some background and sense of scale, the 11th Armoured Division was comprised of 14,964 men and 343 tanks. A British infantry battalion such as the Monmouthshires was a military unit of around 850 soldiers, and consisting of four rifle companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel. Each company had around 120 men and was commanded by a Captain or Major. A rifle company consisted of three platoons of 35 soldiers each.

A rifle platoon from an infantry company then consisted of three sections of eight men, plus a signaler (radio operator), a platoon sergeant, the platoon commander (either a second lieutenant or lieutenant) and a mortar man operating a light mortar (full strength of 27 men and one officer.) Each section was commanded by a corporal, with a lance corporal as second-in-command and six privates divided into two four-man fireteams.

Captain Howard Bretz was second in command of (and later on in full command of) one of the Monmouthshire's four rifle companies - 'D' Company. He would have helped oversee nearly 120 soldiers organized into three platoons, and comprised of nine sections of men (18 four-man fireteams). As a senior officer he also had to read all of the outbound mail from his men to ensure they didn't give away any sensitive information or locations.

The 11th Armoured Division was commanded by Major-General George P. G. 'Pip' Roberts.

The 159th Infantry Brigade was commanded by Brigadier J.G. Sandie.

And the Commanding Officers of 3rd Battalion Monmouthshires during Howard's tour of duty.

The officers of 'D' Company upon embarkation to France were;

The types of vehicles used by the 11th Armoured included;

The Monmouthshires would have only used the last five items directly.

Howard's division landed in France near Corselles (at Juno beach) the 14th June, 1944, 7 days after the main D-day invasion. Howard arrived seperately with a Holding Unit before being deployed to the Monmouthshires. The 11th Armoured was involved in the early efforst of Operation Epsom, Operation Goodwood and Operation Bluecoat, facing trememdous German opposition. There were several attempts to breach the German lines for over a month. An account from the Museum of the Royal Regiment of Wales of some of the Monmouthshire's specific early engagements include;

THE ODON

The first battle was an unsuccessful attempt to break out of the Normandy bridgehead. The brigade task was to seize Hill 112. Unfortunately while moving through a gap in the enemy defences in the dark without guides and with inadequate maps, the battalion lost its way and strayed into the village of Mouen. In the morning it moved to its correct position, leaving 'C' Company in the village to cover the withdrawal. 'C' Company was suddenly attacked by superior German forces with tank support - the company put up a gallant resistance but only fourteen men eventually fought their way out and rejoined the battalion.

BOURQUEBUS RIDGE

Another attempt was made to break out of the bridgehead east of Caen. The Germans were softened up by a heavy bombardment and the battalion showing much skill add dash captured Cuverville and Demouville in quick succession. It then launched an attack on the village of Bras near Bourquebus where a tank attack had failed. The advance was over two miles of open country littered with tanks knocked out in the armoured battle. Bras was strongly defended and the battalion together with the 8th Rifle Brigade fought a fierce battle in the village under a withering German artillery barrage. The village was taken but casualties were very heavy. In these three successive attacks the Battalion lost over a hundred men. This break through, like its predecessors, failed and the battalion then moved into the Bocage country.

THE SOULEUVRE

The Battalion now took part in a third attempt to break out of the bridgehead. With the 8th Rifle Brigade and tanks of the 23rd Hussars they advanced through Septs Vents, where 'C' Company fought a sharp successful engagement, to St. Ouen des Besaces. Then a reconnaissance unit of the Household Cavalry found an unguarded track through woods, which enabled them to penetrate well behind the German defences and to cross the Souleuvre river undetected. Into this salient the battalion went mounted on the tanks of the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry. They made contact with the enemy near Beny Bocage, which fell to armoured cars and tanks the next day. The Battalion moved on behind the tanks, fighting a running battle with the retreating enemy, and took up positions with the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry around Sourdevalle on Bas Perier Ridge. The 8th Rifle Brigade and the 23rd Hussars were established two thousand yards to the left on the same ridge.

LE PERIER RIDGE

These units on the ridge formed a small peninsula surrounded by the enemy on three sides. Their lines of communication were extremely vulnerable. The Germans now began to build up their forces around them and parties of Germans even operated in their rear. On 5th August enemy shelling began and was followed by a fierce tank and infantry attack. The battalion's tanks were driven back through the forward positions. 'D' and 'C' Companies were then attacked by enemy infantry and some of them managed to penetrate as far as Battalion 'HQ' - but the battalion held its ground and the enemy were beaten off. The battalion's losses in this and the previous actions were so heavy that some platoons were down to half strength. The next day the 1st Norfolks began to relieve the Battalion. They too, had suffered heavily and the two battalions together did not reach the strength of one full battalion, while the Fife and Forfars had only twenty tanks left. The relief was under way when heavy enemy shelling began. Since this was clearly the prelude to an attack, it was decided that both battalions should stay. Lieutenant-Colonel Orr of the 3rd Monmouthshire took command of the combined Norfolks and Monmouthshires. Only fifteen minutes later the German attack came in. After heavy hand-to-hand fighting the enemy overran first the forward positions on the left and when a counter attack drove them off, those on the right. Both sides had tank and artillery support. The Germans got to within two hundred yards of Battalion 'HQ' whose personnel turned out to man posts in the suffocating atmosphere of burning vehicles and houses and exploding ammunition, but the battalions held their ground and before night the heart went out of the enemy attack and he withdrew. The losses on both sides were heavy - of the five hundred and fifty men of both battalions who fought this battle, one hundred and sixty were killed or wounded.

For gallantry in this action Lance Corporal S Bates of the Norfolks won the VC and Major J France of the 3rd Monmouthshires, a posthumous DSO. He was one of the four company commanders who became casualties in the ten days of action in the Bocage. By successfully holding the ridge the combined battalions prevented the enemy from regaining the commanding feature of the area and enabled the British line to be consolidated by the advance of troops on the flanks.

According to the regiment's war diary, on July 30th, 1944, during a morning of intense fighting near Caumont, Howard was wounded in the shoulder with shrapnel and was sent to a hospital in England to convalesce. As sometimes happens in the fog of war, it turned out that D company's leading sections were briefly shelled by their own artillery and Howard was one of 18 casualties.

He later wrote to his sister describing how a shell had exploded nearby and that he didn't even realize that he had been hit. Initially, there was no pain and he was only aware of the warm, wet sensation on his left arm while he was running down a road. He reported to the Aid Station and was immediately evacuated to a hospital in the south of England.

The injury occurred near the start of Operation Bluecoat. An account of the day is found in History of the South Wales Borderers and the Monmouthshire Regiment, 1954;

The Battalion, followed closely by the tanks, was to advance across country, from the fields just north of the main road running west from Caumont, in the direction of Sept Vents. This village was to be assaulted by the 8th Rifle Brigade and after its capture the "Mons" were to push forward in the direction of Dampierre and, keeping right at this village, on to St. Ouen de Besaces. Further plans would depend on the way the battle developed.

At dawn next day, 30th July, the Battalion moved forward, carried by the tanks of the 23rd Hussars, to the start line. The morning was quiet and still the enemy appeared to have no knowledge of the inferno which was shortly to engulf him. At 0700 hours the rumble of artillery fire broke out along the whole line and the waiting troops rose to their feet and advanced. Some British guns were firing short and their missiles fell amongst the leading sections of "D" Company, causing eighteen casualties, including Coy Commander, Capt. Bretz. The enemy artillery quickly stirred itself to life and enemy shells began to fall, causing more casualties. The movement forward continued without opposition from enemy infantry until the small stream in the valley below Sept Vents had been reached, and there the companies were halted. The 8th Rifle Brigade had not yet captured the village and 3rd Monmouths were forced to wait for three hours until this operation had been completed. Heavy shell fire continued to fall in the area but few casualties were caused. "C" Company, the right forward company, was eventually ordered to advance, and shortly afterwards "A" Company, to conform with this movement, was pushed through "D" Company, which had been considerably disorganized by its losses on the start line.

He is listed as the Company commander here. It is not known if this was a temporary field promotion or not, but his letters home suggests that he 'had taken over the Company during the last fight'.

In a letter to his sister Madeline, Howard described the circumstances of his injury;

 

10 Aug 44
3 Bu Monmouthshire Regt.
C/O Mearwood EMS Hospital
Leeds 6, Yorkshire England

Dear Madeline --

After months of silence I finally am getting down to a letter to you. Forgive me for it, but as you probably know, I have been moving about continuously including a trip to France and back again.

It is my usual custom to write to anyone in Canada by air-mail but our air mail form doesn't provide enough space in this case. Anyway, regular mail in many cases is just as fast as air mail.

Jean has probably told you most of the high lights of my short career over here as she has mentioned several times having talked to you but I'll run over things in brief.

I was at Sussex, N.B. for 3 weeks and just missed seeing Norman. As a matter of fact we spoke together on the phone one night and he was coming to Sussex to see me but I had to wire him the next day not to come as we were on our way.

Our trip across was pleasant and quite uneventful, although rather crowded and we arrived here early in May. Our (main) party was broken up in London the following day and small groups of us went to various units. The one I went to is a Welsh outfit, but managed to understand them in spots and soon got into their special lingo.

I was with them for 2 weeks, then went to a Holding Unit. On arrival in France, I was still with the Holding Unit and finally went forward to the Regiment, which was at that time in a rest area. I was 2nd in Comd. of a rifle company, and got to know the men fairly well before our first job.

Our first engagement was a rather hazardous affair and it was to be one of those "hit and run" things. Our company was one of the forward ones, and we accomplished the job without any casualties. We were then sent for another rest period. As we had taken over the Company during the last fight, my job was growing and I was beginning to get interested in it all.

While in this rear area, I won the gratitude of every man in the company by making a first class shower bath for them. It was a very simple affair consisting of an old oil drum, a discarded tire valve, and a piece of rubber hose with a nozzle attached. By the use of compressed air from one of the vehicles, it provided a steady spray of warm water as long as water was available for refilling. The drum and the fire was maintained under the drum (this shower unit was) easily knocked down and transferred on a truck and set up in a new area. It seemed to amaze the men, and as far as I know, it is still in use.

Then a while ago we were suddenly told to pack up and move. The morning following our arrival at the new concentration area, we went into an attack. It was the beginning of the push, the results of which you are now reading about in the newspapers. Most officers knew what was being attempted and we were all a bit struck on ourselves as being chosen as the "flying wedge" because that is what we were.

That morning we all rode proudly forward aboard huge lumbering tanks (armoured carriers and the like).

My company was again one of the forward companies and we were all set to go when about 10 shells landed in our midst. It created a bit of havoc for a few minutes and one landed a few feet to my right. It gave me a bit of a blasting and my right arm was quite sore but I got things moving and we got under way. Then another shell landed to the left of me and luckily only wrecked my water bottle on my hip, and tore my clothing a bit.

Soon I found I was having difficulty scrambling through hedges and felt sort of light headed. My shoulder felt battered a bit and felt a bit moist. So I turned the company over the 2 i/c and went back to the R.A.P.

After that it was just a series of ambulances, hospitals, clearing stations, ships, hospital trains and more ambulances until I arrived here. I think that during that trip, I was in very ambulance in the Invasion forces.

Our trip back across the channel was flavoured with a bit of bombing before we left and a sub firing with depth charges on the way.

When I got here they took xrays and found a few shell fragments in my arm and other marks not so damaging that they caused wounds. So here I am having a good rest and getting caught up with my correspondence. I'll probably be here for a couple of weeks, then a spot of leave, and then back to France again.

It's a vicious circle when you think of it.

Well, Madeline, you have the story to date and I hope you will write soon and give me all the local news. It surprises me that I have been able to write this in one sitting. My arm usually gets too tired before I have finished a letter. Guess I'm getting better.

Best regards to Jim, the kids and yourself. By the way, if you want to let Jean read this sometime, we might be able to (keep the family better informed)

 

Best regards, Howard

 

Tragically, there was some confusion at home in Winnipeg regarding Howard's status. A telegram was first received by his wife Jean in early August which said he was 'Missing In Action', devastating her. But then another telegram was quickly received stating Howard was only 'Wounded In Action', causing relief, but also a great deal of worry. Fortunately the army realized it's mistake and soon sent word that he was recuperating in an English hospital, straightening it out, but not before much heartache.

Word of his injury would finally show up in the Winnipeg Free Press on September 11, 1944. As well, a story of his ingenuity making a shower for his fellow soldiers showed up a few days later, even though this event had occurred back in June.

His injury was infected by the unsanitary canditions of the battle dressing, and this extended his stay at hospital. But in th end Howard walked out before being discharged in order to return to his unit.

Howard returned to the area near Caen, France in about a month's time (mid-late August) and rejoined his battalion probably at around Argentan. They were part of what was called "Monty's Wedge" because their regiment could travel quickly overland with their half-tracks vehicles, trucks and tanks. Moving across France with lighter German resistance they were able to travel many miles in one day. Howard would later inform his wife about moving across France proudly riding on the top of the tanks moving swiftly through the countryside.

Howard also told the story of one time being sent forward to check on the positions of the Geman units. He made is way along the hedges and trenches towards their suspected location, and when he popped his head up to get a bearing, was startled by the sight of another head looking back at him! A German soldier who was equally as surprised as him was trying to do the same thing. They would both quickly made their way back to their companies.

After a night move from the Seine river, and an advance of 60 miles in one day, the Division liberated Amiens on September 1st. Howard recalled that they were making so much ground their supply vehicles could not keep up, and at one point their convoy had been joined by some cofused Germans who believed the line of trucks was their own. 

They were then committed to the fight for Antwerp, which was liberated shortly after on September 4th. Two days later, the Division tried to establish a bridgehead over the Albert Canal, but the attempt failed due to intense enemy fire. After this failure, the 11th Armoured had to cross much further to the east. The Division then advanced through several towns and was then rested for a week in the Maas river area after September 12th.

From the Museum of the Royal Regiment of Wales;

ANTWERP

After Bas Perier the Battalion began a relentless and exhausting pursuit of the now rapidly retreating Germans. Reinforcements arrived but after twelve days of continuous skirmishing and patrolling the battalion was reduced again to half strength. Again reinforced they pushed on, crossing the Seine and the Somme meeting sporadic resistance, and everywhere receiving a delirious welcome from the population. Finally they reached Antwerp. There they passed through welcoming crowds to fight an action in the dock area where they held vital sluice gates against a German counter attack and engaged in some fighting near Mescem.

THE NEDDERIJN

The battalion now moved into Holland. In September Airborne forces were dropped at Arnhem and Nijmegan and the Guards Armoured Division led a driver over the Escaut Canal to join them. The 11th Armoured Division's role was to protect the right flank of this drive as far as the Maas. The battalion moved steadily forward-at Deurne in a brisk action they killed twenty Germans and took forty prisoners for the loss of one man killed. On 25th September the battalion had just occupied St. Anthonis when Lieutenant-Colonel Orr was killed, together with the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Royal Tanks. They were standing at a cross roads with the Brigadier and were fired on by German armoured vehicles which suddenly careered through the village. The Battalion remained in southern Holland until mid-November mostly in defensive positions constantly patrolling and generally in close proximity to the enemy.

VENLO POCKET

By late November the Germans had been driven east of the Maas except for a few pockets, one of which was at Broekhuizen where they held the village and nearby 'Kasteel' - an old fort surrounded by a moat. The Battalion attacked these German positions on 30th November. The Germans were thought to be weak and only a two company attack was launched. 'A' Company attacked the 'Kasteel' and 'C' Company, Brockhuizen. The infantry went in along a path cleared for them by flail tanks. They had to cross seven hundred yards of open country. Halfway they came under withering artillery fire followed, when the tanks withdrew, by accurate machine gun fire the more devastating since they were confined to the narrow paths cleared by the flails. The Germans were well entrenched in the cellars of the village and in the 'Kasteel'. Both 'A' and 'C' Company commanders were killed and most of the other officers and senior NCOs and many of the men. The remainder were pinned down to whatever cover they could find and isolated as the wireless transmitters were damaged. The Intelligence Officer and the Second-in-Command were both shot down trying to reach them. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Stockley, unable to find out what was happening went forward on foot to investigate. He reached 'A' Company's forward troops. Seeing the seriousness of the situation he rallied the men and tried to lead a gallant attack on the Kasteel. He was killed, revolver in hand, leading his troops, on the bridge over the moat.

The Commanding Officer of the 15th/19th Hussars now came forward to investigate the position in his tank. As a result, 'D' Company with only sixty men was now ordered into the battle with tank support. The tanks fired at the Kasteel while 'D' Company advanced; arriving at Kasteel they swung around and with tank support attacked Broekhuizen from the west. The Germans were unprepared for an assault from this direction and 'D' Company reached the village. With the tanks they cleared the houses, no mean feat since there were over two hundred Germans in the village entrenched in a veritable maze of dugouts, trenches and reinforced houses. While the village was being cleared, a task which took the ,whole of that night, the Kasteel was attacked by tanks firing at point blank range and then captured by the survivors of 'A' Company.

Victory had been obtained at a heavy cost. Of the three hundred men who fought, one hundred and forty had fallen, including ten officers, of whom eight were killed. 'D' Company and the tanks of the 15th/19th had retrieved an apparently hopeless situation in the face of heavy odds.

They fought throughout Belgium and Holland during the bitterly cold fall of 1944 and then into northern Germany in the spring of 1945. It has been indicated there was fierce house to house fighting in Belgium and Holland, and the 11th Armoured was commended for its engagements around the Nederrijn.

During October, the 11th Armoured Division, helped support Operation Market Garden. During this period the soldiers came into contact with troops from the United States, who referred to the divisional sign as "the Swell Bison". The German Army Commanders knew that if the port of Antwerp fell into the Allied hands, the British and Canadian Armies could receive their supplies more readily than through the French port of Dieppe and the Normany landing sight. Further hampering their progress was the fanatical Hitler Youth in uniform on German soil defending the Fatherland.

Part of the remarkable, lightning journey of 11th Armoured was told in the London newspaper, News Chronicle, Wednesday, November 8, 1944. Written by Henry Standish, News Chronicle War Correspondence from Brussels.

NOW IT CAN BE TOLD
THE ASTONISHING STORY OF THE 11TH ARMOURED DIVISION

"In 134 days it was out of Contact with the enemy on only five days: it dashed 400 miles at the rate of 53 miles a day."

One or the most remarkable features of the British campaign since D-Day has been the way in which some divisions hitherto unknown to the public have proved such efficient fighting formations that automatically one expects to find them in the thick of each new operation.

That is one of the reasons, of course, that the Army does not permit identification of units and formations until some time after actions are concluded. Enemy intelligence spends a lot of time trying to keep track of our "order of battle", that is, which units are where.

The Germans know, just as Field-Marshall Montgomery knows that some of our troops are better for particular jobs than others. We cannot afford to tell the enemy anything that will help them estimate our intentions.

So there are many magnificent British formations which are virtually unknown to the public. One of them is the 11th Armoured Division, which in 134 days was out of contact with the enemy for only five days.

I am now permitted to tell the story of this fine formation from the time of its arrival in Normandy a week after D-Day until its dramatic capture of Antwerp on Sept. 4.

Only highlights of its many achievements can be given, but it is a tremendous story. For the 11th Armoured Division, which had its first battle experience in Normandy, packed into three months more experience and greater triumphs than many older formations have achieved in long years of honorable service.

The 11th Division had all the advantages of sound training at home and perhaps the greatest advantage of all -- a commanding officer with a fine record of tank fighting in Africa. He is Major-Gen. "Pip" Roberts, famed for his capacity to exploit every opportunity afforded by a breakthrough of enemy positions.

Under his command it was inevitable that the divisions should arrive in Normandy thinking in terms of the "break through". They had hard and bitter positional fighting before the chance came really to show what they could do.

Their armoured brigade won and held the bridges across the Oden until infantry could get up to take them over.

They took Hill 112, which someone christened Calvary Hill, and held its slopes and crest for 48 hours until the crest became untenable by shelling and mortaring.

Fighting around 112 was some of the bitterest seen in this war.

There was an occasion when men of the 11th Reece Regiment had to get down out of their own tanks and fight as infantry.

In the end nobody was able to establish themselves on the crest and only the reverse slopes could be held.

The brunt of the big operation south-east of Caen when we broke through the positions on which the enemy was hinging his whole front was borne by the 11th.

It was planned as a three-armoured division operation, but so great was the traffic jam at the three bridges across the Orne that other divisions were unable to give the expected flank support.

That day the 11th had many tanks knocked out. The figure was reported to Divisional Headquarters in the middle of an air raid when the Germans scattered anti-personnel bombs over the Divisional Headquarters and the rear echelon causing a number of casualties. Fortunately, more than one third of the immobilized tanks were recovered the next day and quickly put back into service.

German anti tank guns and dug-in Tiger tanks and Panthers halted our advance sooner than we had hoped, and the men of the 11th were disappointed at not getting on to Falaise, but they were proud when they found that they had been up against two crack Panzer Divisions - the 2lst S.S., and by holding them opposite Caen had helped the Americans to break out dramatically at the other end of the Normandy beachhead.

Then came another rapid move to another sector for the Caumont battle, which was the beginning of the real Normandy break through. It was in the early stages of this battle that a captured German officer asked if the divisional sign was that of the Second Army. Because as it had been identified on so many sectors in such a short time he did not think it could possibly be the sign of a single division.

South of Caumont the Division's Recce units found a track through the L'Eveque Forest by which they broke right through the German positions Then the 11th shared in the grisly and satisfactory job of smashing the German Army in the Falaise pocket, dashed on to cross the Seine and made their famous night march to Amiens, breaking all the German Somme defences.

That was when the Corps Commander gave the 11th G.O.C. General Roberts his orders in the informal phrase that has become historic - "It's moonlight tonight". Their association, begun in Africa, has been a fine example of military teamwork. They know each other's minds perfectly

Actually the moon did not rise until late on the night of the Amiens dash, and in the darkness all sorts of fantastic things happened to our tank column. Not once but several times German vehicles drove out of side roads and joined our column.

In one case they drove with it for about ten miles before being recognised by the shape of their helmets as heads came out to see what was causing a temporary stoppage. In this way many prisoners were taken and the leading tank ran over one German staff car and captured another.

Our tanks were in Amiens before the Germans there knew we were anywhere near. The 11th Armoured Division captured a German Army Commander and a big map showing all his dispositions.

Then they cracked on to Lens, by-passed Brussels, and went on into Antwerp, which they penetrated easily because of the help of a Belgian engineer, who climbed on to the leading tank and led them by small side roads; avoiding bridges which the Germans were standing by ready to destroy at their approach.

Flowers, rifle shots and machine gunning were all mingled in their triumphant drive through to the docks, which now that the port has been cleared will prove vital to our campaign here.

From Caumont to Antwerp the division advanced 580 miles, and for the last 400 miles the rate was 53 miles daily -- probably the finest tank drive of all time.


NAZI LORRIES JOINED OUR ROAD CONVOY
10 Miles, Unaware with Second Army, Friday

The Eleventh Armoured Division, which captured Antwerp intact, was out of contact with the enemy for only five days in the last 134 days which preceded the taking of the great port.

The men of this division come from all parts of the British Isles., but one regiment consists almost exclusively of Londoners.

On the way to Antwerp they helped seal the Falaise "pocket" took Amiens and captured 19,000 prisoners. They themselves suffered fairly heavy casualties and lost many tanks on July 18 during the great attempt to break through across the Orne. Another incident in the history of the division was when lst held Calvary Hill (Hill 172) for 48 hours -- the only unit to hold the most exposed hill in France.

Another was when troops of the armoured Reconnaissance regiment during the breakthrough across the Odon left their vehicles and fought as infantry.

After the failure of the Orne breakthrough the division was switched to the Caumont area.

During the advance to Antwerp lorryloads of enemy troops drove with the division without knowing it. One lorryload drove like that for at least 10 miles.

 

From the South Wales Evening Post, March 1945.

A VISIT TO THE WESTERN FRONT
SWANSEA INFANTRYMEN FOUGHT WITH TANKS MODERN BATTLE CO-OPERATION TACTICS

A visit to the Western Front is now being paid by Mr. D.H.I. Powell, Editor of the "Evening Post", who below gives an impression of some of the work of a battalion of the Monmouthshire Regiment, in which there a Swansea men, some of whom he names.

Armoured divisions such as the one to which this battalion of Monmouths belong are intended for offensive action, though the infantry battalions do some defensive holding of the line at times.

The Monmouths have been part of the lorry-borne infantry of an armoured division, and its use depended on the enemy opposition and natural and artificial obstacles. Where possible, the armour was used to lead, closely followed by the infantry in T.C.V.'s (**troop-carrying vehicles), so that they could take over the ground won by the armour.

The other situation was where the infantry had to make a gap through which the armour was quickly passed, and the infantry moved in behind. In a big scale attack, however, these gaps are created by infantry divisions, so the armoured divisions can be kept together as a complete unit.

THRILLING STAGE

The greatest punch is when there is 'the closest co-operation between the infantry and armour of the division, when you have the infantry carried on the tanks, which means that whenever opposition is met it can be dealt with jointly or separately, according to the form it takes.

The first attempt at this close co-operation in France was made in the Bocage country, with its hedges, ditches and small fields where forward bounds were set at very short distances. Armour and infantry gave each other this type of protection from the Bocage to the Falaise Gap.

It was after crossing the Seine in front of Vernon that the Monmouths began their most thrilling stage of the liberation.

At four o'c1ock in the afternoon a complete break-through had been effected, and they were ordered to proceed in Amiens throughout the night at the best possible speed.

It was a tired battalion of Monmouths who took to their lorries for their headlong ride in the dark through heavy rain, close on the heels of the armour.

NAZI HITCH-HIKERS

At first light parties of Germans were discovered joining in the column, and one lorry of 30 Germans tried to pass down the head of the column and so get into Amiens. Fortunately, a wireless message from the rear, giving warning of the German party, reached the head of the column before the party, and they were put in the bag.

MEN FROM LOCAL SHOP

At first light the Monmouthshires reached the village of Conte, on the outskirts of Amiens, where they ran into opposition which had collected after the first part of the column had gone through, so that the advance had to be halted to clear the village.

ON THE TARGET

As the shooting match started a solitary "moaning Minnie" opened up. It did no damage but its flash was observed, and in an unbelievably short time the artillery had silenced Minnie.

Once into Amiens, the Monmouthshires were allotted the task of clearing a big building called the Citadel, late in the evening, which a company commanded by Major J. How, M.C.; Cardiff captured.

IN SWANSEA RAIDS

Among the officers of this battalion is Lieutenant H.L.Buliimore, the Quartermaster, who was with the South Wales Borderers in Swansea during the big raids of 1941. Anything like a complete list of Swansea and district men would be impossible, but among the Swansea men are Private Slattery, who played for the All Whites; J. Samuel Sketty, a nephew of Judge Walter Samuel; Sergeant Bedwell, who worked in furnishings department of "Ben’s" and with the Cavendish Furnishing Company; Private S. Gibbons, who, with Captain P.M. Kempson, made two representations of Pennard; S. Vincent, from Kensington-crescent; and C. Gregory, from the Sandfields.

AS IN WALES

Villages near the line are not so war torn as their equivalent billets would have been in France in 1914-18, with its static trench warfare. They have their wrecked buildings, of course, and our own artillery joins in the shelling, but on a Sunday morning the resemblance to a Welsh village, with its groups of country people standing in the street around the church door, is complete.

One finds it hard to reconcile the curtains and heavy hangings around doors with the Germans' known passion for loot until one is shown where everything is hidden.

TRENCH COMFORT

Nothing was safe from the Germans, who used expensive cushions and drapings, and even clothes, to furnish their slit trenches. But though the residents could hide soft furnishing material, and can now put up a brave appearance, the Germans, in the last minute deported a large number of their men of all social positions to Germany. To-day is the first of the three days of carnival before Lent. There is no likelihood of processions, but the villagers are doing their best to impart a festive air, with best clothes, invitations to join them at coffee, and less careful use of food.

In the cold of winter in late 1944 the Germans launched a counteroffensive, known as the Ardennes offensive, or the Battle of the Bulge. The 11th Armoured had largely been placed in reserve around Ypres at the time. The infantry was to benefit from a longer rest, while tank crews would receive new Comet tanks, a vehicle armed with a powerful 77 mm gun which was capable of engaging German panzers at longer range. With the surprise success of the offensive, however, the 11th Armoured was urgently recalled to active service with its old tanks and directed to hold a defensive line along the Meuse river. After driving the Germans back by mid January, the division again returned to Ypres for rest.

A month later, on 17 February 1945, the 159th infantry brigade was recalled to the front, to add its weight to the Allied forces committed in the Rhineland. Under challenging conditions, Gochfortzberg was seized on February 28th, Sonsbeck on March 3rd. Later in March the battalion was withdrawn to Belgium to equip for the great drive into Germany.

Howard sprained his ankle around the time this photo of his comrades was taken in early March and was sent back to Belgium to recover (probably Ypres). However, when he heard his boys were being sent forward again, he decided he could not lay there and do nothing, and asked to return to his unit early (late March). The brigade crossed the Rhine at Wesel on 28 March.


CDN 435 Bretz Capt.
3 Bn Monmouthshire Regt.
BLA 16 Mar 45

Dear Madeline --

Just a note to let you know I a still in the land of the living, although at present I am in hospital with a sprained ankle.

It still seems very silly to me that I should get a sprained ankle up there in the front line after having been there for some time with so much death and destruction flying around.

By now the main part of winter has passed and is now just an unpleasant memory, although today is cold and raw. But it means that life in a slit trench, which is far from comfortable at any time, will be a little more bearable. I returned to the battalion during the coldest part of the winter, and fortunately at that time we were billeted in warm houses. But for the last 6 weeks we have been living here, there and everywhere, with no particular fixed abode. The best place in all that time was a German farm house where I slept one night and I managed to get the room warm enough to have a sponge bath before turning in. The fact that the area was bombed by Jerries at the time didn't concern me in the least -- I was enjoying myself too much to worry about a stray bomb.

I have been cut off from all mail for the last two weeks so I don't know what is going on in Wpg at present. By all accounts you all had an enjoyable Christening Party in January. That was about my latest news.

Best regards to your self, Jim and the kids.

Yours, as ever
Howard

 

As they moved further east, the wooded hills of Teutoburger Wald were defended by companies of NCOs, who savagely counter-attacked the Monmouthshires. It wasn't until April, with the intervention of the 131st Infantry Brigade, it was possible to overcome their opposition, and the 3rd Monmouthshires, already weakened during previous campaigns, had to be replaced by 1st Cheshires. From the Museum of the Royal Regiment of Wales;

IBBENBUREN

After the Rhine was crossed the 11th Armoured Division moved into the bridgehead and began to advance into Germany. The 3rd Monmouthshires were ordered into the Teutoburgerwald, a wooded range of hills east of the Dortmund-Ems Canal, where heavy opposition had been encountered. The Battalion's task was to clear a two-mile area of thickly wooded steep hills to open the Ibbenburen road. It was a task of unusual difficulty. The thick undergrowth and steep rough ground made it impossible to use tanks and the woods upset wireless communication. The enemy was composed of a battalion of officer cadets from a training school in Hanover who not only outnumbered the battalion, but who fought with all the fanaticism born of despair. Battalion 'HQ' was established at the bottom of the hills only five hundred yards from a bridge over the Dortmund-Ems Canal. The four rifle companies advanced at dawn on 2nd April along a track in the woods. They took their first objective - a peak - with some difficulty and advanced on another, which overlooked the road. They then ran into heavy opposition and found themselves fighting in thick undergrowth. It was difficult to keep the men together and the enemy engaged in hit and run tactics in which they would strike and disappear into the woods. The Battalion reached its objective but a counter attack drove them back with heavy casualties. They were pushed back to the first objective, to which meantime Tactical HQ had been moved. In the close fighting which followed even the Commanding Officer took part, using a bren gun. The battalion stood firm and reorganised in defensive positions. At the suggestion of the Germans a truce was organised while the wounded were collected. The men spent a wet night in shallow foxholes in the forest. Lieutenant-Colonel Sweetman returned to Battalion HQ at the foot of the hill to report that the battalion was sadly depleted and could not take its objective He was immediately greeted by a German attack on Battalion HQ and Support Company. The attack came in on three sides and was met by the whole force including cooks, drivers, clerks and mechanics. They stood their ground until relieved by tanks. Those on the ridge were holding out in the face of continuous enemy attacks. This force inflicted heavy losses on the enemy and continued fighting though it had lost contact with the rest of the battalion. It was finally relieved by a battalion of the Dorsets, who advanced into the forest supported by an artillery barrage. This attack disorganised the enemy and forced him to withdraw. In the Teutoburgerwald the Battalion's losses were the heaviest it ever suffered. The task, which it had been allotted, took an infantry brigade three days of hard fighting to achieve. The Battalion could be proud of its attempt to dislodge a superior and determined enemy.

It could also be particularly proud of Corporal ET Chapman, who won the Regiment's only Victoria Cross of the war in this battle. Armed with a bren gun he had single-handed halted or defeated repeated German attacks on his section and inflicted many casualties on the enemy. Under heavy fire he had tried to carry his mortally wounded company commander fifty yards to safety. He continued fighting in spite of his own wounds. His action, by gaining much needed time, enabled the force to reorganise on the ridge.

The Battalion's losses in this battle were so great that to its deep disappointment it had to be left behind when the Armoured Division continued to advance into Germany, and the end of the war found it on the east bank of the Rhine.

In the long campaign from Normandy to the Dortmund-Ems Canal the 3rd Monmouthshires had suffered more casualties than any other unit in the 11th Armoured Division. Its total casualties were over one thousand one hundred, including sixty-seven officers; of this number two hundred and sixty-seven, including two Commanding Officers, had been killed. The Battalion was disbanded in January 1946, having earned a fine reputation in a long and arduous campaign.

In early April, seriously depleted and exhausted, the Monmouthshires would remain behind as the rest of the 11th Armoured Division would go on deeper into Germany. The division would shortly liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 15th. Howard might have counted himself lucky that he did not witness what was found there.

The BBC's Richard Dimbleby, who accompanied the troops wrote;

"...Here over an acre of ground lay dead and dying people. You could not see which was which... The living lay with their heads against the corpses and around them moved the awful, ghostly procession of emaciated, aimless people, with nothing to do and with no hope of life, unable to move out of your way, unable to look at the terrible sights around them ... Babies had been born here, tiny wizened things that could not live ... A mother, driven mad, screamed at a British sentry to give her milk for her child, and thrust the tiny mite into his arms, then ran off, crying terribly. He opened the bundle and found the baby had been dead for days."

"This day at Belsen was the most horrible of my life."

Possibly as a result of the heavy fighting in the Teutoburger Wald, Captain Howard Bretz was promoted to a Major. But, in a letter to his sister of that time, he indicated that he wished that it was all over as he was very tired of it all. He spent the 1st birthday of his son David (whom he had never seen), with his regiment patroling the Wesel area for stray German troops.

The end of the War in Europe came shortly afterwards at a terrible cost to the continent.  The Monmouthshires certainly shared in those losses. Remarkably all 13 CANLOAN officers with the regiment survived the war.

From the Museum of the Royal Regiment of Wales;

In the long campaign from Normandy to the Dortmund-Ems Canal the 3rd Monmouthshires had suffered more casualties than any other unit in the 11th Armoured Division. Its total casualties were over one thousand one hundred, including sixty-seven officers; of this number two hundred and sixty-seven, including two Commanding Officers, had been killed. The Battalion was disbanded in January 1946, having earned a fine reputation in a long and arduous campaign.

Below are the movements of the 11th Armoured Division in 1944-1945. The blue lines indicate the approximate segments which included Howard Bretz.

A letter to his sister in June indicates he on patrol near Wesel and was weary, ready to return home.


10 June 45
3 Bn. Monmouthshire Regt
BLA

Dear Madeline --

Many sincere thanks for the birthday parcel received a while ago. Sorry I haven't been able to acknowledge it before now, but there isn't much time for letter writing these days. The socks will be very useful, as well as the rest of the parcel. I seem to lose more socks and handkerchiefs on this game than I ever use.

At present we are situated in the Wesel area and with one Rifle Cpy are doing a fair job of policing the area. It really isn't that bad here now but I'm getting a bit fed up and bored now, and would just as soon be on my way back home.

I imagine Jean is now preparing to move into the house now. From her description of it all, I'm sure it is a miniature palace, but then, they don't build houses like that within our price range.

It wasn‘t my intention to settle down in Wpg as securely as that after the war but now that the house is built, I guess we will stick around for a while. I wanted to go out to the west coast though. Once you lived there for a while, Madeline, you would feel very discontented with the prairies. The mountains get into your blood.

Although Dad’s last letter wasn't recent, he seemed to be in good health and spirits at the time. I tell him he is getting younger every day, which seems to please him.

Best regards to Jim and the kids, and write again when you have time. Hope I'll be home sometime this summer.

Yours, as ever
Howard

 

Howard transferred back to the Canadian Army, at age 34, as the 'Acting Commanding Officer' of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. He held that position until the 1st Canadian Paratroop Battalion returned under the command of Lt. Colonel Fraser Eadie, and Howard was what he called "2 I C" (second in command).

Along with veterans of the Riel Rebellion, they were presented with the flags of the Riel Rebellion, with a 'march past' ceremony.

As the Pacific War had not finished at that time, the Winnipeg Rifles were being prepared to ship out to another battlefront against the Japanese. However, Japan surrendered at the beginning of September and then the Winnipeg Rifles demobilized into Reserve Status.

In the fall of 1945, following his discharge from the regular army forces, Howard returned to the Tuckett Tobacco Co. as a salesman traveling east to Kenora, Sault Ste. Marie, Atikocan, and Thunder Bay/Port Arthur. He continued with his WLI military association during the winter months that followed, as indicated by the following newspaper articles;


Howard was not much for the activities of the Legion nor the Remembrance Day Services, however, my Aunt Jean informed me that he often attended military activities at the Minto Barracks for a number of years after the war until he again became a traveling salesman after returning to the Tuckett Tobacco Company. Afterwards, he was out of Winnipeg for lengthy periods of time and not able to participate.

Howard and Jean (and after his death Jean alone) would attend an annual meeting of the CANLOAN Association for many years (into the 1990s). In the 1950s Howard took on the role of Vice-President of the Manitoba chapter of the organization. Howard had many friends from the service he remained in touch through these dinners with including Ted Basing and Nelson MacLean.

When asked to relate more of the happenings he experienced during his wartime activities, he rarely would.

He was written up in the newspaper a few times, one being with an innovative idea in Normandy to use a truck's water pump to rig up a makeshift warm shower so the boys could at least wash the sweat and dirt from their tired bodies. Another when Howard wrote to his sister and told her one night that he was the only one in a deserted house with shelling occurring everywhere and he really didn't care or want to take cover as he was in the midst of a sponge bath. He seldom was able to enjoy such a luxury. Howard said that the worst job they had to do was to recover the bodies from an Allied bomber which had been shot down a week or ten days earlier.

Apart from his physical injuries and painful memories about which he would not talk, one of the only souvenirs Howard took was a black hardwood carved walking stick which he obtained/took from a German officer who had served in North Africa - the wood was unique to that area. He also had a copy of the book Mein Kampf that was later lost, and a large Nazi flag he collected from somewhere which he hung in his basement rec room, also lost.

Howard also kept his army pistols for many years - an Enfield .38 and a Wembley .45 caliber standard Commenwealth army issue - in his dresser drawer. As well he had two crops, one leather and one silver that he had received. He also mentioned that after spending all of that time with the Welsh regiment, he really didn't care for English food rations ever again!

Due to his absence from Winnipeg in his sales position with Tuckett Tobaccos, Major Bretz had to withdraw his military services and devote his energies entirely to his employer and to his family. He did, however, join the Kiwanis Club (K-4O) which he enjoyed for many years during the1950's.

His third son, Neil, was born November 7th, 1953.

In the latter part of the 1950's, Howard was experiencing some difficulty with his injured shoulder and subsequently had to have an operation at the Deer Lodge Hospital to prevent continued deterioration of the bone.

In 1960, his employer transferred him to Vancouver, B.C. and in 1963 again transferred him to Hamilton, On. About 1964, the Tuckett Tobacco Company was sold to the Imperial Tobacco Company and Howard was given the choice of transferring to any Canadian city. With careful consideration and family consultation, it was decided that they would move back to Winnipeg so that their second son, David, could enroll in the University of Manitoba. Howard returned to sales and then he volunteered his administration experience to the Conservative Party of Manitoba.

Howard was a quietly personable man who was always immaculately groomed and very well dressed. In the true military training, his hair was short, moustache trimmed, shoes shined and always a sharp crease in his pants. Also, he was a member of the Northwest Commercial Travelers Association.

In the late 1960's, Howard was experiencing circulation pains in his legs. In the fall of 1970, he entered the Winnipeg General Hospital to have an operation to move the leg veins in an attempt to improve the circulation. This procedure may have been successful but unfortunately, blood clots had formed following the operation. Most likely, with today‘s advanced technology of blood thinners and medication, he would have survived this situation. But on January 26, 1972, these clots attempted to pass through his heart unsuccessfully and he died at age 60 in the chair where he was sitting in his basement rec room. He left his widow, Jean, his three sons and two daughters in-law as well as six grandchildren.

Major Bretz's service medals include (left to right);

The medals now reside with his grandson Jeff Bretz.

 

 


 

Further reading: