I am the third oldest of 13 children born on 24 August 1923 to Charles Hilton Boyce and Harriet Magdalene Hay in Amherst, Nova Scotia. On 31 October 1926 my family moved to Truro where my father owned and operated the bowling alley on Inglis Street. My mother was a housewife. From kindergarten to grade nine I attended Willow Street School then I went to Truro High School. I worked for a few years and then spent three years in the Army. I was out of school for a total of six years when in September 1945 until May 1946. I went back to a school operated by the Department of Veteran Affairs, where I graduated with my senior matriculation. Before joining the military I worked at A.E. Hunt & Co. Men’s and Boy’s Clothing and at the same time I was a member of the 2nd Battalion North Nova Scotia Highlanders (also known as the Non-Permanent Active Militia).
I attended two, six-week courses in Aldershot, where I qualified and was confirmed as a Sergeant. I suppose you could consider my training in the Non-Permanent Active Militia as Basic Training. As a qualified Sergeant, I could have been kept in Truro to train the troops, which, in reality, were reinforcements for our 1st Battalion. But that was not to be. Approximately once a month a Colonel MacLellan from Amherst would come to visit the 2nd Battalion in Truro. It was during once of these visits that my Major, Harold Goodspeed, advised the Colonel that I wanted to transfer to the Regular Army. After training one night I was advised to report to the Colonel who not only granted me a transfer but also recommended me for my commission. So I ended up going to Brockville Military Academy and graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant. Then I went to Aldershot for my promotion to 1st Lieutenant.
From there I was transferred to Yarmouth Basic Training Center as a staff member. One time my roommate, who was also a commissioned officer, got into some trouble and the Colonel placed him under house arrest, which meant he required an escort. Well, I ended up being his escort and being it took several months to get to a hearing instead of being there 2-3 months I ended up staying for eight months, one week and one day. The only good thing about it was that I learned a lot about military law. I never had any regrets. I learned a lot because I made the best of every situation.
On Christmas morning 1943 from Halifax Pier 21 I boarded the French liner PASTEUR to go overseas to England and then Europe where I joined my unit, the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. I was wounded after we crossed the Rhine River. Things never go as planned. We had to attack another unit’s target to push on and we were ordered to “take the town of Beinen, at all costs”. I can tell you those words don’t make you feel good. When a concussion from a shell deafened me, I just kept going as long as I could. We had 73, including my Major and myself wounded and 42 killed.
I vividly remember on my way to a field hospital seeing engineers constructing a pontoon bridge and there, smoking a fat cigar and giving us the victory sign was Winston Churchill himself.
In May 1945 I set sail from South Hampton on the first peacetime sail arriving at Pier 21 Halifax on 5 June 1945. I was discharged in August 1945 medically unfit due to hearing loss. On 23 October 1950 I married Margaret MacDonald and we have one girl and four boys and they have given us 12 lovely grandchildren.
Following the war I helped my Dad run his bowling alley business; I worked in the Post Office; my brother Doug and I owned and operated Hub Electric; I was Division Manager at Simpson Sears; and I was a credit manager at Irving Oil until retirement in 1976.
I joined the Canadian Legion of The British Empire Service League on 2 May 1946. I have served on many committees and was elected President in 1966. I received Life Membership on 29 October 1985; was awarded Meritorious Service Medal on 3 November 1995 and Palm Leaf to Meritorious Service Medal in January 2005. I am presently a trustee of Colchester N.S. Branch No. 26 Truro. I am also a member of all four branches of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, having joined on 17 October 1949.
Major Dave Dickson from Fredericton New Brunswick, who became a supreme court judge and myself worked for a memorial in the town which took us over two years. But the effort was worth it. In 2000, thanks to our Memory Club, we had erected the 1st Allied plaque in Germany.
NORTH NOVA SCOTIA HIGHLANDERS COMMEMORATE COMRADES FALLEN IN BATTLE AT BIENE, GERMANY
The North Nova Scotia Highlanders Memory Club gathered in Amherst in 1999 for their annual reunion. Major Dave Dickson, former Company Commander of “D” Company, and Lieutenant Ron Boyce, former Platoon Commander of 18 Platoon, at the time of the Allies last big push to end World War II, were discussing this event, recalling that they had crossed the Rhine River on Saturday, March 24, 1945.
The following day, the Novas received orders to take the stoutly defended town of Bienen, whose capture was all-important in the Allied advance from the Rhine Bridgehead. The town was captured but the costs were high. Forty members of the North Novas were killed and 73 wounded. Some five decorations for bravery were awarded to members of the Regiment for their efforts that day.
As they reminisced, the idea of a tablet to commemorate the battle was discussed. Word was put out and many of their fellow comrades and friends agreed with the idea and soon the money came in. Mr. Dickson faxed the Burgomeister (Mayor) of Rees-Bienen and, after several messages, it was agreed to have a tablet cast and taken to Bienen. Originally, it had been hoped that the inscription on the tablet would be in both English and German. The extent of the wording and of the message to be conveyed, however, dictated that, if the tablet were to be kept to a reasonable size, only one language should be used, and the language of the community was decided upon After settling on the wording, the Lunenburg Foundry cast the tablet in brass.
Mr. Boyce picked the tablet up and brought it to Truro and then to Amherst for local members to see before it headed overseas. Mr. Dickson contacted the Department of National Defence who delivered the 80 pound tablet from Nova Scotia to Holland in May, 2000 where he picked it up and took it to Bienen and there turned it over to the Burgomeister.
The people of Bienen decided that the tablet should go on a new wall which was to be built that summer as part of the courtyard of the attractive and ancient Roman Catholic church located in the town. Its origins date back 1100 years to 900 AD. In the year 2000, Remembrance Day was to be observed on November 19th and this date and occasion was appropriately selected for the unveiling and dedication of the tablet.
Mr. Dickson represented the North Nova Scotia Highlanders on November 19, 2000 in the town of Bienen, Germany for the ceremony that dedicated the tablet. He laid a wreath in memory of fallen comrades and spoke briefly to the large gathering assembled. The occasion received considerable publicity in the German media. The following day, Mr. Dickson visited the Canadian Military Cemetery at Groesbeek, Holland, and placed poppies on the graves of the North Nova fallen.
As far as can be ascertained, the Bienen Tablet is the first Allied memorial to mark the location of a land engagement on German soil in the Second World War. Its erection commemorated the 55th anniversary of the event and all who have participated in the project, whether through financial contribution or otherwise, may take great pride in furthering the Canadian heritage.
This tablet has been placed by a group of surviving Canadian veterans of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, 3 Canadian Infantry Division, in proud and grateful memory of those forty members of their regiment who fell in battle at Bienen, Germany on Sunday, March 25, 1945 and in memory of those fellow combatants of 9 Canadian Infantry (Highland) Brigade and 51 British Highland Division who died in the same battle and in the same cause and as well, in respectful memory of those adversaries in the German army who died on that fateful day.
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them.
Erected at Bienen on the 55th Anniversary of the event in the year 2000.
IN EHRENVOLLEM GEDENKEN AN DIE VIERZIG MITGLERDER DER NORD NOVA SCOTIA HIGHLANDER, TEIL DER 3. KANADISCHEN INFANTERIE DIVISION, DIE AN SONNATAG, DEN 25 MARZ 1945, IN DER SCHLACHT BEI BIENEN GEFALLEN SIND UNDZUR ERINNERUNG AN DIE TAPFEREN KEMPFER DER 9. CANADISCHEN INFANTERIE (HIGHLAND) BRIGADE UND DER 51. BRITISCHEN HIGHLAND DIVISION, DIE IN DERSELBEN SCHLACHT IHR LEBEN VERLOREN HABEN UND ZUM RESPEKTVOLLEN GEDENKEN AN JENE SOLDATEN, DIE IN DER DEUTSCHEN ARME GEKAMPFT HABEN UND AM GLEICHEN SCHICKSALHAFTEN TAG IN DERSELBEN SCHLACHT GEFALLEN SIND.
WENN DIE SONNE GLUHED VERSINKT
UND AM MORGEN DAS LICHT ERWACHT,
WERDEN WIR IRER GEDENKEN.
DIESE TAFEL WURDE IM JAHRE 2000 VON KANADISCHEN VETERANEN DER NORD NOVA SCOTIA HIGHLANDER ERRICHTET-ZUM GEDENKEN AN DEN 55. JAHRESTAG DES EREIGNISSES.