The Military Museums

Stan Waters

Stan Waters was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1920 and joined the Calgary Tanks Regiment as a Private in 1941.

Stan Waters

Stan Waters was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1920 and joined the Calgary Tanks Regiment as a Private in 1941.

Stan Waters

He was a member of the First Special Service Force from 1942-1944 and served in the US, Aleutians, North Africa, Italy and Southern France. He commanded various units throughout the war from platoons to battalions. During the Italian Campaign, he led the first Company to enter Rome after the city was liberated.

In 1945 he was transferred to the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion as a Major and served with this unit during operations in Germany. He also commanded one of the first allied sub-units to link up with Russian forces near the end of the war. Stan ended his military career in 1975 as Commander of the Canadian Forces Mobile Command. In 1990, Stan became Canada's first elected Senator.

Lt.-Gen. Stan Waters, CD, Silver Star

Canada's first and only elected senator and soldier who rose through the ranks to become a lieutenant-general started both his political and his military careers at the grassroots.

Stanley Charles Waters was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in June 1920, but he attended high school and university in Edmonton. When the Second World War started, Waters joined the 14th Army Tank Battalion (Calgary Tanks) in 1941.

But before the Calgary Tanks left for England, Waters, now a young lieutenant, was assigned to the First Special Service Force, a commando style military force that consisted of both Canadian and U.S. soldiers.

In Dec 1943, using ropes and climbing gear, Waters led his unit up the sheer cliffs of Monte la Difensa to attack German positions on the summit. His unit held out for six days repelling numerous German counter attacks. The FSSF suffered over 75% casualties during the operation, but their actions in capturing the stronghold helped clear the way for the Allies advance on Cassino.

As a member of the Force, Stan also took part in the American 5th Army's Salerno and Anzio landings in Italy. At Anzio, the Americans awarded Waters the Silver Star for Gallantry for exposing himself to enemy fire while directing a coordinated infantry-tank attack. Later, after the breakout from Anzio, he commanded one of the first units of the FSSF to enter and capture Rome.

After Italy, Waters was promoted to command the First Canadian Parachute Battalion in Europe where his unit made first contact with the Russian Army near Berlin during the fall of Germany. After the war, Waters commanded the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and also served as Canadian Liaison officer with the U.S. Marine Corps School at Quantico, Virginia.

He also served as Assistant Chief Military Observer, United Nations Military Observer Group India-Pakistan (1961-1963), Commander 1st Canadian Brigade Group, Calgary (1966-1968), Chief of Staff Operations and Training Mobile Command, St. Hubert (1968-1970), Assistant Chief of Staff Plans and Policy SHAPE Belgium (1970-1972), Deputy Chief of Defence Staff National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa (1972-1973), Colonel of the Regiment, The Canadian Airborne Regiment (Appointed August 1970) and finally he commanded the Canadian Forces Mobile Command from 1973 to 1975, the year he retired from the Canadian Forces.

Stan Waters joined the Mannix organization in 1975, serving as the president of the Loram Group, a Mannix subsidiary. He co-founded Bowfort Group of Companies, which focused on Western Canadian industries, namely farming, real estate and investment. He retired from business in 1989.

During a conversation with Waters in 1988, he described the soldiers of the First Special Service Force as "clever, courageous and just a little bit crazy!" He went on to say that "Members of the force carried a special fighting knife designed by the Force Commander, Lt.-Col. Frederick.

The knife had a dagger style blade, sharp as a razor, with a sharpened ‘skull punch' on the end of the handle grip. After any night raid on a German position, the Force's members would leave calling cards, displaying the Force's logo of crossed arrowheads and the words "the worst is yet to come" written in German. Needless to say, the Germans never heard us come into their positions. To the Germans, we were indeed, the Devil's Brigade."

The southwest peak on Ex Coelis Mountain along Highway 11 (David Thompson Highway) in the Saskatchewan River Valley carries Water's name. Along with Stan Waters Peak, the other four peaks of Ex Coelis Mountain—Normandy Peak, Ardennes Peak, Rhine Peak and Elbe Peak—are named for battles the First Canadian Parachute Battalion fought in.

Ex Coelis, the motto of the First Canadian Parachute Battalion, is Latin for "Out of the Clouds."

Two years prior to his retirement, Stan Waters helped to organize the Reform Party of Canada. Waters became Canada's first elected senator in 1989 and served in the Senate until his death in 1991. Senator Lt.-Gen. Waters, CD, Silver Star, was without question, one of Canada’s finest soldiers and a true patriot.

Recollections of Stan Waters

A story related by Canada's first elected senator, Stan Waters, who as a young Canadian infantry officer, served with the First Special Service Force as a platoon commander. According to Waters, (who attained the rank of Major General with the Canadian Army's PPCLI Regiment), General Frederick, the Force Commander, wanted to arrange a short period of relaxation during one of the Force's rest periods.

In doing so, General Frederick ordered several of his men to disarm U.S. sentries and liberate a quantity of wine from an Italian wine cellar. The wine cellar turned out to be the forward headquarters of the U.S. 5th Army!

The First Special Service Force, also known as the legendary Devil's Brigade, was successful for several reasons. It was superbly trained in all aspects of warfare and the men of the force, both Canadian and American, were professional soldiers who took great pride in their unit and its exploits. Perhaps most important was the Forces leadership. Major General Frederick was a remarkable soldier who demonstrated every day, the positive aspects of military leadership.

General Frederick never asked anything of his men he wouldn't do himself. Said one of his soldiers; "He was always at the front and got just as dirty, wet and miserable as anyone." His example was followed by all of his officers and NCO's, resulting in a fighting unit consisting of soldiers who not only respected each other, but came to love each other as combat brothers.

Britain's Prime Minister Churchill called Frederick; "the greatest fighting general of all time," while other generals called him; "that crazy son of a bitch." Both statements are of course, remarkable signs of respect.

The First Special Service Force won every battle, took every objective and succeeded at every task it was ever assigned. It never failed. It is no surprise that Canada's Airborne Commando Unit, Joint Task Force 2, is styled after the First Special Service Force.

Read more: The 1st Special Service Force  

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