Oral Interviews of Military Colleges alumni

granatsteinE-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


Percy Arthur Stanley Todd

1131 BGen (Ret’d) Percy Arthur Stanley Todd (RMC 1915) CBE, DSO, ED, CD was interviewed in Ancaster, Ontario on 8 May 1991. Stanley Todd was born in 1898 in Ottawa. He was educated at Bedford, England, and at the Ottawa Collegiate Institute. In the year following the outbreak of the Great War, he was one of 200 eager young men who undertook a seven-day, highly competitive examination competing for the 53 available positions at the Royal Military College. He was a RMC graduate in 1916 of a war-shortened one year course. He joined the Royal Artillery on graduation, served in the UK, Egypt and Palestine, and was invalided out to Cairo in 1917 after being paralyzed by diphtheria. He was discharged from the British Army and returned to Canada in 1919. It took him about 7 yrs to recover fully. He worked as the City Manager for an insurance company while continuing to serve in the Governor General’s Foot Guards of the Non-Permanent Active Militia. In January 1921 he transferred to the 1st Field Brigade, Royal Canadian Artillery where he continued to serve until the outbreak of the Second World War, rising to command the Brigade as a Lieutenant-Colonel in 1939.
Early in 1940 he volunteered for active service, reverting to the rank of Major to do so. After seeing his gunners off to England, he spent six months instructing at the Canadian Artillery Training Centre, Kingston. He was appointed to command a battery of the 5th Field Regiment and, in November 1941 was posted as Brigade Major, Headquarters, Royal Canadian Artillery, 2nd Canadian Division. In late 1942 he was appointed to the Order of the British Empire and promoted to command the 4th Field Regiment until his appointment in January 1943 as Commander, Royal Artillery, 3rd Canadian Division with concurrent promotion to Brigadier. He was responsible for the training, preparation and implementation of the massive tri-service fire plan supporting the 3rd Division D-Day assault on Normandy. He coordinated the fire support from the bridge of H.M.S. Hilary. The need to fire artillery from the deck of wildly pitching landing craft in rough seas and the unique control measures necessary presented many challenges. In recognition of his work he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. In November 1944 he was appointed Commander, Corps Royal Artillery, 2nd Canadian Corps and subsequently given command of the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade (often referred to as the Canadian Berlin Brigade) in June 1945. He soon returned to Canada and was placed on the Reserve List. Todd organized a D Day commemoration in UK and France in 1954. When interviewed by Dr. Granatstein, BGen. Todd was almost 94, but he was very sharp indeed, clear-headed, funny, and vigorous in judgment. BGen Todd died on the 20th of June, 1996.

Returning to civilian life once again, Brigadier Todd assumed the appointment of General Manager of the Hamilton Street Railway and, as before, maintained his long association with the army. He was appointed Commander, Royal Artillery 1st Division (Militia) in January 1946, a position he held until September 1954 when he transferred to the Supplementary Reserve. He played a key role in the reopening of the Royal Military College after the war and served as Chairman of the Conference of Defence Associations.
He served as Honourary Colonel of the 18th Field Regiment from 1954 until 1959 and as Honourary Colonel Commandant of The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery from 1958 until 1962. Brigadier Todd passed away in 1996.

On Royal Military College and Canadian Soldiers

There was no truth to the Royal Military College old boy net. He had found good and bad ex-cadets. There was no soldier like the Canadian for initiative. He was amenable to discipline if properly led and if he could be persuaded that discipline would help save his life in action. What you had to do was to instil pride and get him away from his civilian attitudes.

On Command

It is, Brigadier Todd said, a frightening thing to command 30,000 men in action; it’s pleasant to wear red tabs in peacetime, however, but not in action.

On the pre-war militia

The pre-war militia was very tiny. His artillery unit in Ottawa had just enough for four gun crews, but there was a lot of education going on in the training of officers and Non Commissioned Members. The militia staff course was an 8 months commitment of evenings and a month off work in the summer for full time. People got to know each other. He met, for example, many of the wartime senior commanders at Petawawa camp.
Todd said he had 18 months with a battery and 12 with a regiment. He knew his job really well after that, and this made it easy to be CRA and CCRA–there really wasn’t anything he didn’t know about the regiment’s work. Still, you had to give credit to the old boys who gave up their businesses to take the army overseas and to provide the 18 months or so for everyone else to learn their jobs. And if we’d had to fight? Well, there’d have been more casualties than there should have been.

On war

Brig. Todd had been preparing for D-Day for 17 months. During the D Day planning, the division’s planners were in row houses near Victoria Station, under tightest security. All were supposed to stay in the row houses 24 hours. He taught every man in his regiment driving, gun laying etc. The implication was that the army was learning only some of its roles. He had to retrain his gunners on armoured 105s. These were scrapped after the invasion when the artillery went back to 25 pounders. They had to design the run in, and had to learn how to fire from the sea which was hard because the guns needed aiming sticks, survey etc. Fortunately, he had time unlike the UK 3 Div which was sending drafts to the Mid East up to a few weeks pre D-Day and which had only 1 month to prepare. The UK army, having lost everything in 1940, was at a real disadvantage compared to the Canadians. We had four years without casualties–that was why we were better. But there was a real shortage of reinforcements after the Scheldt and infantry replacements were badly trained.

On 3521 LGen Granville Simonds, C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O. (RMC 1925)

Brig Todd knew LGen Simonds before the war from Petawawa. As a young officer Simonds had spent all his time studying and reading. Simonds had served as an associate professor of artillery and instructor of tactics at RMC in 1938. He did know strategy and tactics, and he had a good understanding of politics and national psychology. Todd was impressed with LGen Simonds and grew to admire Simonds enormously as a commander of 2nd Canadian Corps 1944-5. At Xmas l944, Simonds stayed in the mess for a long evening, something almost unprecedented, and spoke at length on the future course of the war, on the great powers etc. Simonds could be ruthless in getting where he wanted to go; if something held him up, he’d sack people until someone was there to do what he wanted. The tactical ideas he produced were almost certainly his own, the product of long nights thinking in his caravan. Simonds went to sleep about 0100 and was up at about 0600 to go off in his armoured car. Simonds also at the start line for big attacks to make sure things went well, and he was not beyond pushing and pulling the infantry to make sure they got moving. But Todd said this caused problems for him, as Simonds wanted his CCRA with him. This took him away from his HQ where all his communications were and as the artillery had the best information (FOOs at the lead units), he was therefore hampered. Simonds almost never questioned Todd’s artillery plans. Simonds would derive his appreciation and make his plan and then ask Todd to tell him how the artillery could help achieve it. Todd recalled an attack on Emmerich where the Rhine makes a sharp turn west. Simonds had to attack on a Friday and Todd was to soften the hill that was the heart of the enemy position. Todd worked out a system of dividing the hill into 100 yd squares and then put one gun on each square to fire 4 shells/hour at irregular intervals. Simonds questioned this and ordered a Victor target–every gun in the corps, despite Todd’s protests. After a day, Todd’s system went back on. The attack went in without opposition, the Germans putting up white flags. Why? The continuous shelling had stopped food, sleep, etc. Simonds then apologized to Todd and after that never altered Todd’s plans. Todd said that the end of the war Simonds thought of not returning home–he’d sent back a lot of prominent men who would now try to do him in.

Brigadier PAS Todd http://www.gunner.ca/English/Great%20Gunners/todd.htm