Felix (Fil) Noel came to the Davisburg area north of Okotoks in the fall of 1935. He married a local girl, Kay Bryce, in 1939. Fil joined the army on March 6, 1941 and was assigned to the Calgary Tank Regiment. This regiment was among those sent to France to raid the beaches of Dieppe on Aug. 19, 1942 just before dawn.
The initial assault consisted of British commandos, targeting headlands to the east and west of Dieppe. Their goal was to take out the German batteries of heavy guns covering the main beaches. Then the Main Assault was launched, and it consisted of waves of Landing Crafts carrying tanks -- LCTs for short. They carried 3 tanks each, often a bull dozer and individual infantrymen from regiments such as the Calgary Highlanders. There were also LCIs which transported solely servicemen.
The Canadians were first. The first three LCTs arrived just after 05:30 and were immediately targeted by the heavier German guns; two of them were hit and sunk offshore and the other one managed to withdraw after sustaining heavy damage. Three more LCTs arrived – two of them were hit while approaching the shore but they managed to each deliver their three tanks but both carriers were hit again and disabled. The other LCT in that wave was carrying three Churchill MK III tanks, affectionately nicknamed ‘Bill,’ ‘Bert’ and ‘Bob’. Inside ‘Bert’ was a crew of five including Radio Operator Trooper Felix Noel of Davisburg. The carrier tried four times to get onto the shore and, despite taking a direct hit and with its engine room in flames, she successfully landed her tanks on her fourth attempt.
The Churchill MK III tank 'Bert' in which Felix Noel served as radio operator during the raid on Dieppe. Photo: World War II photos info gallery.
‘Bert,’ ‘Bill’ and ‘Bob’ proceeded down the beach undeterred by the chert rocks that proved disastrous to other makes of tanks such as the Churchill VI. However, concentrated anti-tank batteries and seven-foot tall concrete roadblocks prevented ‘Bert,’ ‘Bill’ and ‘Bob’ from advancing further into town. ‘Bert’ took a direct hit, blowing the left track off. Some of the crew scrambled into ‘Bill’ and some into ‘Bob,’ but there was little the tank crews could do to get back to the beach.
“Fil was taken prisoner of war there and [wife] Kay was notified he was on the missing list, and later that he was missing and presumed dead. Shortly after this message was received from the government, a message of condolence came from the padre of the Tank Regiment. It was not until November that Kay received a form letter, direct from Fil, stating that he was well and a prisoner of war.” - Sodbusting to Subdivision History Book, Page 175
Stalag IID Photo: Muzeum Stargard
Trooper Noel spent almost three years as a prisoner of war. He was first taken to Stalag VIIIB at Lamsdorf where he spent 11 months. Then he along with the other Canadians captured in the Dieppe Raid were transferred to Stalag IID, a farm camp near Stargard in the former Prussian Province of Pomerania.
Envelope from Kay Noel to her husband Felix at Stalag IID, 1944. Courtesy: Salmon Arm Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village, Salmon Arm, B.C.
Fil remained at Stalag IID until early 1945 when his German captors forced the POWs to march.
“His group was on the march from early February until the end of the war, sometimes over 25 kilometres a day on cobblestone roads wearing boots too small for his feet. When he came back his feet were in bad condition with all 10 toenails black. I had him soak his feet nightly in a basin of warm water with Epsom salts added. I kept trimming on those toenails until finally I had them removed and new nails grew to replace them.” – Memories of Kay Noel, Salmon Arm Museum.
After his liberation in 1945, Fil was sent to England where he weighed 154 pounds, 30 pounds less than his normal weight of 185. He spent two weeks in England recovering from dysentery. Then he returned home to Canada and to his family at Davisburg.
Caricature drawing of himself sent by Felix Noel to his wife in June 1945. Courtesy: Salmon Arm Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village, Salmon Arm, B.C.
“I noticed his condition of stomach problems, depression and nightmares when he came home, but thought time would heal… this has not happened. The nightmares still occur, as do the bouts of diarrhea. He has always found it difficult to talk to friends and family or grandchildren about his experiences.” – Memories of Kay Noel, Salmon Arm Museum.
Felix and Kay continued to farm in the Davisburg area until 1964 when they moved to Salmon Arm, B.C. Felix passed away in 2002.
Many of the Noels’ personal documents were donated to the Salmon Arm Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village in Salmon Arm. The Okotoks Museum and Archives gratefully acknowledges the Salmon Arm Museum for providing copies of Kay’s memories as well as the envelope and caricature from Felix’s time overseas for this online exhibit.