|Estabrooks, Frederick W. Canadian Provost Corps and Canadian Military Motorcycles
Lieutenant G. Murray Williams, HQ Company, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, riding a Matchless G3L, 350cc OHV, 1943 contract motorcycle, during the advance from Lembeck through Coesfeld, Germany, 30 March 1945. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3588776)
Canadian Military Motorcycles & the Canadian Provost Corps (C Pro C) in the Second World War
One of the author's relatives, Frederick Walter Estabrooks, served with the Canadian Provost Corps and as a Dispatch Rider in Europe during the Second World War. Fred described using a number of different military motorcycles during his service and this led the author to investigate what they were. A number of useful photos of Canadian military motorcycles in service during the Second World War can be found on the Library and Archives Canada website, and a few of them are included here.
Canadian military motorcycles have been in use with various elements of the Canadian Forces since at least 1908. For specific and detailed information on the subject of the Canadian use of military motorcycles, the author highly recommends the 2010 book put together by author Clive M. Law. He has compiled an impressive history on the subject with the title "Military Motorcycles in Canada", Service Publications, Box 33071, Ottawa, Ontario, available through his website at www.servicepub.com.
Canadian Provost Corps badge.
Frederick Walter Estabrooks, Canadian Army Provost Corps (C Pro C)
Frederick W. Estabrooks joined the Canadian Army at the age of 16 in Woodstock, New Brunswick late in 1942 and then did basic training in Fredericton befopre being posted to Sydney, Cape Breton, where he served with a Coastal Defence unit manning searchlights. He was sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia for course in mechanics. In May 1943 he sailed to England on the Queen Mary along with 20,000 other Canadian troops and landed at Southampton.
In England, Frederick joined No. 11 Provost Company of the Canadian Provost Corps (C Pro C) serving with the Military Police until the end of the war. No. 11 Provost Company was part of the 1st Canadian Army HQ. Frederick would have worn a red and blue diamond patch over his C Pro C shoulder flash.
During his training in England in 1943 as a C Pro C Policeman, Frederick met some very interesting people. On one occasion he spoke with 16-year old Princess Elizabeth while her father the King was inspecting Canadian troops. This photo is of HRH Princess Elizabeth about two years later when she was serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, April 1945. Her Majesty still drives her own vehicle on Sundays. (British Government Photo TR2832)
Frederick saw and spoke with Winston Churchill while patrolling routes for convoys through the Reichswald Forest in Germany. This is a photo of Winston Churchill in NW Europe, 25 Mar 1945. (Sgt Morris, No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit, IWM Photo)
Frederick spoke with General Harry Crerar, Commander of the Canadian Army, at a rest stop on one of the routes where Fred was directing traffic. He was also in a group of Canadian troops addressed by General Bernard Montgomery in England and again later in Antwerp. This is a photo of Canadian Lieutenant-General Guy Granville Simonds, British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, and Canadian General Henry Crerar at Allied Headquarters, Feb 1945 about the time Fred would have seen them. (IWM Photo).
He saw General McNaughton and General Eisenhower about the same time. This photo of General Eisenhower was taken in France late in 1944. (Eisenhower Library Photo)
Frederick's personal side-arm was a Browning 9-mm semi-automatic pistol.
Jeep used by the C Pro C, Leavesden, England, 15 Apr 1946. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3518851). Frederick went ashore at Juno Beach on 11 June, the 5th day of the landings at Normandy, with two C Pro C sections, 26 motorcycles, and two jeeps on a landing barge.
Harley-Davidson Type WLC 1942 motorcycle, ca 1943. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3613098). At this time he was still serving with No. 11 Provost Company attached to 1st Canadian Army Headquarters. He rode a Harley Davidson 40/41 low clearance motorcycle which he felt was too low.
Harley-Davidson Type WLC motorcycle, Canadian War Museum.
Matchless G3L 1942 motorcycle. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3613093). Later he rode Matchless motorcycles.
C Pro C members of No. 2 Provost Company on Norton 16H motorcycles, Fleury-sur-Orne, France, 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3231487). Frederick was at Rouen, France with No. 4 Provost Company riding Norton and Triumph motorcycles.
Norton motorcycle, RCAF, Rockcliffe, Ontario, 7 Dec 1942. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, LAC MIKAN No. 3392467)
Norton 16H motorcycle, Canadian War Museum.
Triumph motorcycle, 532176, on display in the New Brunswick Military History Museum, CFB Gagetown, New Brunswick.
Triumph TRW motorcycle, Canadian War Museum.
While Frederick was directing traffic in the battles North of Caen in France, he lost his motorcycle to shell fire. He was then attached to the No. 3 Provost Company with the 3rd Canadian Division, which wore a red diamond patch on their uniforms.
C Pro C members in the ruins of Falaise, France, 17 Aug 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3227266)
Motorcycle rest, Falaise, France, 14 Aug 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3225761)
Personnel of No. 2 Provost Company, C Pro C, on their motorcycles, Falaise, France, 13 Aug 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3225470)
Canadian armour and infantry observing the aerial bombing of German positions from a forming up point (FUP) in preparation for continued heavy fighting through Normandy on the Caen-Falaise Road, France, 8 Aug 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4164905). Frederick was in the vicinity of the unfortunate Allied bombing of the Polish Armoured forces serving under the Canadian Corps when they suffered tremendous casualties. He counted more than 200 ambulances on one of the roads he was traffic controlling, and on at least one occasion had to use his pistol to order an officer’s staff car off the road to make way for the ambulances. His supervisor, Sergeant-Major Ray Chambers took note and approved.
German Second World War 8.8-cm FlaK 37 AA Gun captured near near Bayeux, France, 26 Aug 1944, being examined by Canadian soldiers. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3396244). On 14 November 1944 a shell hit close enough to him to destroy his motorcycle and blow him up over the cab of an oncoming truck near Nijmegen in the Netherlands. He bounced off the hood of the cab on the truck and landed in a water-filled ditch on the other side. The German 8.8-cm shell fragments took a chunk out of his right arm and pieces went through the calf of his left leg, leaving his legs black and blue for months. He was sent to the Casualty Clearing Post at Cenocky sur Mer, and then to the 6th Brigade General Hospital in Antwerp for five weeks to convalesce about the time of the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 through to March 1945.
Following his recovery he was sent to No. 4 Provost Company with the 3rd Division in Antwerp, which wore a light blue rectangle patch on their shoulders, and then to No. 13 Provost Company with II Corps, with the dark blue diamond patch. He was on traffic control duty and served as the Company Dispatch Driver in a Willys Jeep, moving up to Apeldoorn in the Netherlands and then across the border into Germany. He passed through Goch and on to Bad Zwishenheim over the next three to four weeks, where he was serving when the war ended on 8 May 1945. He then volunteered for duty in the Pacific War with Japan.
C Pro C members guarding German Biber minisubs, Ijmuiden, Netherlands, 25 May 1945. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3211661)
Frederick returned to Canada at the end of July 1945 on the Isle de France at the age of 20. The war ended before he was to be deployed west. He was in Montreal for 30 days leave then went back to Saint John and then on to Fredericton where he was discharged on 21 November 1945. He was on train patrol from Fredericton to Newcastle for the winter of 1945-46, and was married to Joyce Taylor from Woodstock in 1946. He worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway before moving to Guelph, Ontario, where he met up with his former Sergeant-Major, Ray Chambers who he had served with in No. 4 Provost Company. Ray put in a good word for him with the Chief Inspector in Guelph and Frederick was hired on with the Guelph Police Force a week later. He served with the Guelph Police Force for 30 years from September 1949 until his retirement as a Staff Sergeant in June 1979. He and his wife Joyce travelled in a trailer coach for four years before settling near a lake in Bobcaygeon, Ontario in 1983. Their two children Gary and Linda and their families live in Ontario.
Staff Sergeant Frederick W. Estabrooks with the author and Cindy Estabrooks, Guelph, Ontario, Aug 1971.
Staff Sergeant Frederick W. Estabrooks, City of Guelph Police Force passed away on 24 Feb 2015.
Canadian Military Motorcycles
A group of despatch riders of the Canadian Signal Corps on Hendee motorcycles (Indian Powerplus) , Camp Valcartier, Quebec, ca 1917. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3336987)
Four motorcycle Bren gun teams of the Royal Montreal Regiment taking part in a training exercise at Petworth Camp, England, 28 Apr 1942. They are mounted on 633cc Norton Big 4 motorcycles equipped with a Motley Mount and Bren gun. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3593052)
Harley-Davidson Military Model Type WLC 1943 motorcycle with windshield, (Library & Archives Canada Photo)
Despatch Rider, Royal Canadian Corps of Signals (RCCS) riding a Norton motorcycle during a 4th Canadian Armoured Division training exercise, Aldershot, England, 11 Jan 1943. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3607514)
Despatch Rider from No. 3 Despatch Rider Section, RCCS, HQ First Canadian Army Signals, accepts a pideon message at Hanley, England, 10 Feb 1943. Private J.W. King is riding a Harley-Davidson Military Model WLC 1942 motorcycle. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3228795)
Servi-cycle motorcycle, one of 24 obtained for the Canadian Army in April 1942. Ten were sent overseas and the remainder were trialled in Canada. No further purchases were made. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3613094)
Norton motorcycle, ca 1943. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3613095)
Norton motorcycle, ca 1943. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3613097)
Norton motorcycle, ca 1943. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3613100)
Norton motorcycle, ca 1943. (Library and Archives Canada Photo)
Sgt Gordon Davis, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, riding a Welbike Mk. I lightweight motorcycle used by Airborne Forces, Carter Barracks, Bulford, England, 5 Jan 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3298166)
Welbike Mk. I 98cc lightweight motorcycle, Airborne Forces, NBMHM, CFB Gagetown, New Brunswick.
Brigade Sergeant-Major R.M. Cooper of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade riding a James ML motorcycle, Carpiquet, France, 12 July 1944. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3613349)
Captured German Zundapp KS750 motorcycle with sidecar, Canadian War Museum.
RMC Cadets, motorcycle, Camp Borden, ca 1965. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234721