Saturday, September 3, 2011

Capt George V Eckenfelder

Service from 1938 to 1945: Born in Trochu,  Alberta  in 1910, George Eckenfelder was the son of Leon C. Eckenfelder, and  Valentine Figerol.  His father came to Canada, from France, in 1904 and joined two others as a junior partner in the St. Ann Ranch Trading Company Ltd. The company formed the nucleus of the first settlement at Trochu. George graduated from the University of Calgary, with a degree in civil engineering in 1933. He gained employed in the Unemployment Relief Camps as a junior supervisory, and later joined Calgary Power as an engineer. He enlisted in the 13th District Signals (militia) in 1938 and went "active" as a second lieutenant with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division signals unit in May 1940. After six months training at Barriefield Camp, Kingston, Ontario he moved to Debert, Nova Scotia. There he was posted to 14th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery and went overseas in July 1941. In February 1943 he was sent to North Africa for battle experience with the British 1st Army. Returning to England in August 1943, he was posted to the 7th Infantry Brigade as a captain and spent three months training on the Isle of Wight before moving to a concentration area north of Southampton from which, with the Brigade Headquarters, he moved directly to their ships for the D-Day invasion. On D-Day plus 3 he was captured by a group of by-passed Germans who, despite occupying a large cave and a strong defensive position, after a day, the Germans surrendered to him as senior officer prisoner.  After Falaise the 3rd Division moved on to Boulogne and Calais, then to the Scheldt Estuary, remaining there until November  1944. He was then transferred to Army Troops Headquarters, moved to Aldershot, and returned to Canada in September  1945. Upon his return he was rehired by Calgary Power as an engineer.He died in British Columbia in 2007.

Military Oral History Collection  Link


Snappy Sales Talk By Albertans Outwitted Their German Captors

 The story of  how two quick-thinking and quick-talking army officers from Alberta persuaded their German captors and a group of 140 enemy soldiers to surrender to them during the early days of the Normandy campaign was told in Calgary Wednesday by one of the pair who has returned to Canada.
He is Capt. George Eckenfelder of Trochu. who received his final discharge papers from the army Wednesday after serving five years with the R.C.C.S.
It was on D-Day plus 3 that 1Capt. Eckenfelder was taken prisoner outside the village of Fontaine Henri. about three miles Inland from Courseulles, where the landing had been made.
He was signals officer for the 7th 1nfantry Brigade and was on his way alone along what he had been told was a direct route to division headquarters. As he turned a corner of the road, he  was shot at by a machine gun and several snipers who were ambushed at the side of the road.
Eckenfelder jumped to the ditch and attempted to fire back at the Germans, but was soon surrounded and taken to a huge cave which was a good defensive position for the Germans. The group of about 135 men and four or five officers had been left behind when the advance of the Allied forces had forced the enemy to retreat,
The cave was a large underground quarry, capable of housing 10,00o people. There were about a dozen trucks and armored cars, masses of supplies, but not very much ammunition, Capt. Eckenfelder related. A small first aid post had been set up where 20 wounded soldiers including a Canadian and a British Tommy were being treated.
"There were also large supplies of wine and cigarettes;’ he said.
“The Germans offered me some or the latter, but I preferred the Canadian brand which are much better.”
About ten minutes after Capt. Eckenfelder  had been taken to the cave, another Canadian officer and several men arrived. The officer was Lt. Howard Germen, former high school teacher of Munson and Drumheller. who had been captured in the same manner as the Trochu soldier.
The incident had occurred about 9 o’clock In the morning. and during the day mortar fire became increasingly heavy, A Canadian infantry regiment was  gradually working up to the stronghold in the cave, but at that time, the Allied prisoners did not know about it.
“The Germans got more and more nervous as the firing got closer. We helped matters, conversing in French, by telling them the roof of the cave would not stand many more mortar bombs.” Capt. Eckenfelder said.
“Finally about 8 pm. the major in charge of the Germans came up to us and said. ‘we're out of ammunition and we have many wounded men; we want to surrender to you. Evidently our sales talk had some effect on him.”
Capt. Eckenfelder and Lt. Germen lined the men up and marched them outside the cave.
The German officer in charge then called to several of his men who were hidden in the woods surrounding the cave, and the whole party was marched to division headquarters.
Germen is now a major and is believed to still be in England in the Canadian Provost Corps. Capt. Eckenfelder is the son of Mrs. L. C. Eckenfelder of Trochu. He plans to return to his work at the Calgary Power Company where he was employed for seven years prior to the war.

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