Frank Wilkinson was born in Toronto, Ontario on 27 March 1921 and enlisted with the Canadian Army on 7 September 1939.
In 1940 Frank joined the 3rd Canadian Light Anti-aircraft (LAA) Regiment and was sent to England with his Regiment in 1941. During the trip overseas, the men on the ship were asked if anyone could type, and Frank put up his hand. From that moment on he was slated for administration.
He was made an Orderly Room Sergeant upon his arrival in England, and remained in that position for the entire duration of the war. He served with the Regimnt in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. Upon his return to Canada in 1945, he was transferred to the 68th Light Anti-aircraft Regiment in Calgary, Alberta.
In 1949 he joined the Calgary Highlanders and remained with them until 1964. He became an employee of Canada Post in 1964 and worked for them for the next 25 years. He volunteered as secretary with the Tri-Services for 20 years, and was President of the Retired Postal employees for 6 years.
He was also a very active volunteer with The Military Museums in Calgary from 1990 until 2005.
The 3rd LAA Regiment
The 3rd Canadian Light Anti-aircraft (LAA) Regiment was formed in 1940 in Western Canada and became part of the Artillery of the Second Canadian Infantry Division.
It was composed of a Regimental Headquarters and four Batteries of three Troops, each Troop having a complement of four guns. Each Battery was under command of a Major and was made up of units enlisted from Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg. These were the 15th, 16th, 17th, 38th and 53rd LAA Batteries.
The Regiment was sent overseas in early 1941. They disembarked in Scotland and were sent to Colchester, England for further training. By the summer of 1941, several of the Batteries had been dispersed to various aerodromes and factories south of London and along the coast of Kent, providing defensive cover against raiding German planes.
In February 1942, the Regiment began intensive mobile training to practice rapid re-siting of guns. This ensured they would be more adaptable to changing battle conditions and could revise their fire plan at a moment's notice. In June of 1942, the Regiment took part in their first combined operations exercise on the Isle of Wight. This was a foreshadowing of things to come.
The Dieppe Raid
In August 1942, members of the 3rd LAA Regiment took part in the raid on Dieppe, France. Several Officers and soldiers from the 16th, 17th, 38th and 53rd Batteries took part in the raid. Most of the parties were expected to land ashore to provide anti-aircraft cover from the beach.
A fifth party however, attached to the Royal Regiment of Canada, was tasked with the specific objective of capturing a German anti-aircraft gun, to investigate a new type of gun sight that the Germans were suspected of using.
Of the five parties who set out, this group of 2 Officers and 24 soldiers from the 16th Battery were the only ones who made it ashore. Because of the disorder and confusion on the beaches that morning, none of the other raiding parties were able to land.
The moment the Regiment landed they were immediately hit with intense machine gun fire and mortars from the cliffs above and were pinned down on the beach. By 1100 hours it was clear the situation was desperate, so the landing craft were ordered to return. Only seven servicemen from the original party made it back, both Officers and seventeen soldiers were reported missing.
Afterwards, it was determined that thirteen members of the party had been killed during the raid including one Officer. The rest had been captured and spent the remainder of the war as POW's.
By September 1942, the Regiment had returned to active air support in England, and later that year, the 53rd Battery was sent to form part of a new LAA regiment.
Return to France
In early July 1944, the Regiment was moved to a marshalling area near London, and by July 6th, just one month after D-Day, they were in Normandy, unloading their equipment in support of the 3rd Canadian Division.
On July 11th, soon after the Regiment had arrived along the Divisional front near Carpiquet Aerodrome, twelve low flying Messerschmitt 109's appeared on the horizon.
They banked sharply towards the coast and flew directly over the Regiment's guns. Every gun in the battery opened up and promptly sent seven 109's down in flames, while damaging the other five. The following day, six more 109's appeared and three were shot down.
The Regiment went into support of the 2nd Canadian Division in the Crossing of the River Orne and provided supporting fire for the breakthrough at the Falaise Gap. They continued to move north providing covering fire for the Infantry, and by August 1944 they had reached and helped recaptured the town of Dieppe.
The Regiment then moved through Belgium and into The Netherlands where they took part in the capture of Antwerp and the Scheldt estuary. The accuracy of the AA guns also proved themselves during ground attacks by taking out snipers and observation posts that were holding up the Infantry.
By the time winter arrived in November 1944, the Regiment was holding a defensive position in the Nijmegen sector of Holland. Sometime in early December, the Regiment got its first glimpse of Germany's new Messerschmitt 163 and 262 jet aircraft.
On the morning of December 18th, three Me 262's appeared flying at almost treetop level. The guns of the 17th Battery opened up and hit one of the 262's which crashed nearby. This was believed to be the first jet-propelled aircraft shot down by any Canadian Light Anti-aircraft Regiment.
By February 1945 the Allies were on the move again and by March had crossed the Rhine River. Progress was rapid as resistance had diminished and enemy air activity virtually ceased to exist. The Regiment entered Germany on 18 April 1945 and soon afterwards, they were ordered to relieve the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade in support of defending the Divisional Headquarters.
The significance of this was not lost on the Regiment. Their reputation was sufficiently high that they had been given responsibility to hold, patrol and advance on a front formerly held by a entire Infantry Brigade. By early May 1945, the order was received to "stand down". The long war in Europe was finally over.