Oral Interviews of Military Colleges alumni

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e-veritas has been given permission to publish excerpts of 5105 Doctor J. L. Granatstein’s (CMR RMC 1961) interviews (1991-1993) for “The Generals: the Canadian Army’s Senior Commanders in the Second World War”. 5105 Doctor J.L. Granatstein fonds are at the National Defence HQ Directorate of History and Heritage.

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1814 Major General (Ret’d) Norman Elliot Rodger CBE, CD (Entered RMC 1924 – Graduated 1928)

Club’s oldest living Ex-Cadet recently celebrated his 101st birthday! He is the only Second World War Canadian general still alive.

1814 Gen (Ret’d) Norman Elliot Rodger CBE, CD was interviewed by Granatstein in Ottawa on 21 May 91.

1814 Major General (Ret’d) Norman Elliot Rodger CBE, CD was born in 1907 in Amherst NS. MGen Norman Elliot Rodger graduated from the Royal Military College in 1928. Rodger then worked for Gen E.L.M. Burns in the survey section. He studied at McGill University and was commissioned in the Royal Canadian Engineers in 1928. He went overseas in 1940.

Rodger worked for Gen Maurice Pope as GSO 3 Intelligence in London once the war started, in effect a go-between the War Office and CMHQ. Gen Pope had taken Rodger on as GSO3 from his survey work. Rodger stayed 4 yrs and worked on Defence Scheme #3, the despatch of an expeditionary force. The positions required in the force were noted, but names weren’t slotted in during this period (1932-6). Rodger also wrote the censorship manual which Pope had tried to get DEA to do; but External said as there was no war this could wait. In 1929 when Rodger was at the UK School of Military Engineering he had to get a new commission authorizing him to command UK troops–he couldn’t with a Canadian commission. After Camberley, Rodger went to l Div as A&Q under Gen Pearkes. Rodger had known Pearkes at NDHQ as DMT, and served as his secretary when Pearkes was president of the Cdn Club or USI in Ottawa. Rodger then became a liaison for Gen McNaughton with Ottawa on extra-Corps matters. Rodger briefly had a brigade command under Gen Worthington.

In September 1942, in the rank of brigadier he was appointed commander of the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade. Rodger was Chief of Staff to Gen Guy Simonds (RMC 1925). Brigadier Rodger was made Commander, Order of the British Empire as per Canada Gazette dated 23 December 1944 and CARO/5235 dated 3 January 1945. “Brigadier Rodger has done outstanding work as Chief of Staff, 2 Canadian Corps, during the training period prior to sailing, in the planning phase of the move of this Corps to France and during operations. The abilities and energies he has applied to his work have been largely responsible for the harmonious and efficient working of Headquarters, 2 Canadian Corps.” He was Mentioned in Despatches per Canada Gazette and CARO/5512, both dated 31 March 1945.

His Commander of the Order of Orange-Nassau, with Swords (Holland) was awarded as per Canada Gazette dated 22 December 1945 and CARO/6291 dated 24 December 1945; Chief of Staff, 2 Canadian Corps Headquarters. “Brigadier Rodger has made an outstanding contribution to the success of operations in the Netherlands by the able and aggressive manner in which he has carried out his duties as Chief of Staff. The efficient manner in which he has collated and interpreted all available information concerning enemy forces and our own resources and his accurate appreciation of the problems involved has been of considerable assistance to his commander in the planning of operations. His clear interpretation of his commander’s plans to lower formations and his constant careful coordinating of their efforts plus those of the supporting arms has done much to ensure the successful liberation of Holland.”

His Legion of Merit, Degree of Commander (United States) was awarded as per Canada Gazette dated 30 March 1946 and CARO/6478 dated 1 April 1946. He was recommended by Lieutenant-General G.G. Simonds for services with Headquarters, 2 Canadian Corps; document with Headquarters, First Canadian Army, 15-21 July 1945 when signed off by General H.D.G. Crerar. “During the campaign in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, Brigadier Rodger served as Chief of Staff with exceptional ability. His sound and accurate appreciation of enemy resources and intentions was of great assistance to his commander in planning the many operations involved; his clear and concise interpretation of his commander’s plans to lower formations and his aggressive and constant assistance to them in carrying those plans to completion was a marked contribution to the success of operations. Brigadier Rodger has distinguished himself by his exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services throughout the entire campaign in Northwest Europe.”

After the war he served in a number of senior army appointments, including quartermaster general, general officer commanding Prairie Command, and vice chief of the general staff. He retired in 1956. He became a prominent businessman in Winnipeg. He served on the board of Halifax Insurance. He was an ardent outdoorsman and a member of ‘les voyageurs’ a group of prominent men who retrace by canoe the routes of the Early French explorer traders. In 1965, Gen Rodger was appointed Colonel Commandant of the Cadet Services of Canada, the service organization that administers the Royal Canadian Army Cadets. http://www.armycadethistory.com/biography_MGen_N_E_Rodger.htm

On Gen Edson Louis Millard Burns (RMC 1915); RMC instructor 1924-6; GOC 1st Canadian Corps 1944; deputy minister Veteran’s Affairs 1950-4; Commander UN Emergency Force (Middle East) 1956-9; adviser to the Canadian Government on disarmament 1960:

Gen Burns was an enigmatic man, who Gen Rodger first met at RMC where he was an instructor and Rodger a cadet. He played and sang rude ditties on the piano. Rodger then worked for him in the survey section, but because there was no money he did odd jobs elsewhere. Rodger thought Burns was very brainy, but grumpy and dour.

On LGen Granville Simonds (RMC 1925) associate professor and instructor of tactics RMC 1938; GOC 2nd Canadian Corps 1944-5; CGS 1951-5.

Gen Simonds was BGS and in charge of training and he’d been Rodger’s senior at RMC. Rodger went to Corps as Simonds C of S. He never knew why Simonds chose him–he could pick whomever he wanted–except that he must have seen that Rodger minded his own business and did what he was told at l Div.
Simonds didn’t discuss personnel changes with Rodger or, very much, with Crerar–he just informed him. Simonds was receptive to staff ideas, but he usually had them first. He remembered Simonds’ O Gp prior to the night armour attack on the road to Falaise: “But it’s never been done before.” “That’s why I’m doing it.” The British desert commanders, Simonds would say, “had sand in their ears”. Simonds was “not a man one wanted to go fishing with”, though he called him “Elliot” after the war; in the war, Rodger called him General or Sir. Still at Simonds’ funeral, his wife gave Rodger Simonds’ II Cdn Corps gold cufflinks, obviously something he had directed. And Simonds got Rodger put on the board of Halifax Insurance. Simonds was very precise. He remembers him writing in longhand a paper in early l944 on how to fight the Normandy battle. It went to a sergeant typist to do and it had one word missing. “Do it again.” There were never any further mistakes.

On General Edward James Schmidlin senior professor RMC 1926; director of engineering services Ottawa 1933-40; QMG Canadian Army 1940; head Mechanical Engineering Department Queens 1942-6:
At RMC in the 1920s, Schmidlin walked around with a wrench in his pocket; his uniform looked like he was a mechanic.