The Military Museums

Nic Nicolay

Clarence Norman (Nic) Nicolay was born in 1921 in Oak Point, Manitoba.

Nic Nicolay

Clarence Norman (Nic) Nicolay was born in 1921 in Oak Point, Manitoba.

Nic Nicolay

Nic enlisted with the Fort Garry Horse at the Minto Armouries in Winnipeg in Sept 1939. He had been forewarned not to join the Infantry because they always had to march, whereas the "Garrys" were going to be mechanized. When asked what his trade was, Nic replied, "truck driver", to help ensure he could avoid marching. Not long after he was sent to Camp Shilo where he was taught Morse Code and signalling.

The Regiment was then sent to Camp Borden where their military training got underway but only with old First World War equipment. The tanks they trained in were First World War Renaults. Nic became interested in wireless radio and was eventually made an instructor. The regiment soon received word they were going to be shipped overseas. In Oct 1941 they sailed to England where they were stationed in Aldershot.

Nic was promoted to Corporal and sent to the British Army wireless school in Bovington to become a Wireless Instructor. He was the only Canadian on the course. Not long afterwards he was sent to Officer Training school at Sandhurst, finishing second in his class. He graduated in May 1944 and was sent to the Elgin Regiment. He landed in Normandy with the Regiment in a Sherman tank just two weeks after D-Day.

Not long afterwards Nic rejoined his original regiment, the Fort Garry Horse, on their push from Caen to Falaise where his regiment fought in Operation Totalize during the battle of the Falaise Gap in August 1944.

After Falaise the regiment was involved in heavy fighting around Boulogne which they eventually captured. Then came the Battle of the Scheldt where the regiment was involved in very heavy fighting. On Oct 23, 1944, two members of Nic's troop were killed, and then his tank hit a mine knocking him briefly unconscious. When he scrambled out of the tank, he was hit in the leg by a German sniper.

He was evacuated to England to recover and returned to his regiment in Feb 1945. By this time the Regiment was in Northern Holland providing armoured support for the Essex Scottish as they advanced eastward. They crossed the Siegfried line into Germany when the Essex found themselves outside the town of Dinstede, held up by a minefield and strong enemy resistance.

The Commanding Officer was anxious to get to their objective, so Nic agreed that his troop would lead the battalion through the minefield. Without waiting for the mines to be cleared, Nic himself led the way in his own tank, and by skilfully employing the other tanks in his troop, they shot up all possible enemy positions in front and well out to the front of the two leading platoons.

As remarked later by the CO, Nic showed complete disregard for his own personal safety in that his tank was vulnerable to enemy anti-tank fire throughout the advance. As his citation reads:

By his courage and fearlessness, he directed the remainder of his troop overcoming all enemy positions. It was due to his leadership, enthusiasm and daring that the leading company reached its final objective with very few casualties.

The Garrys continued to fight their way eastward, supporting the Infantry attack on the Hochwald forest in late February and crossing the Rhine river in late March 1945. The regiment took part in the capture of Oldenburg in early May, when the cease-fire was announced on May 5th, 1945 and the regiment accepted the surrender of German forces in the area.

Upon his arrival back in Winnipeg, Nic was awarded the Military Cross, as a result of the recommendation of the CO of the Essex Scottish. After the war Nic served with Lord Strathcona's Horse and retired with the rank of Major.

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