CWO Buxton

By Tom Hassett – November 1968

It was still raining just as it had been for weeks. In fact it was in the middle of the forty days and forty nights of rain in that November and December of 1968 when Chilliwack, with all its animals, had more than enough water to float away. The Canadian Airborne Regimental headquarters had decided – for purely tactical reasons – to set up camp in Cultus Lake park, with its well drained camp sites. It was an island of comfort in a sea of cold, wet misery. I had been assigned to a tent with the Sigs Sgt Major and his friend, RSM Buxton. The latter’s scathing remarks had ensured him a place in the memory of every man who served with him. His abrasive way of dealing with people was most obvious in his language which had given a spectacular new dimension to the old saying, “he swore like a trooper” – as in “paratrooper”.

And yet, I can honestly say that I personally had never heard him use a single obscenity, and I believe the Protestant Chaplain, Bob Jackson, could say the same. He respected the office we held – but that did not stop him from considering us, even more so than the other officers, as untidy amateurs who were badly in need of his gentle direction. His pointed observations on my dress and general deportment were always delivered privately, in the Queen’s English and with amused tolerance, rather like the way one treats a retarded, but otherwise harmless imbecile. He deliberately ignored my suggestions that his remarks were blatantly anti-clerical. The worst of it was, the man was such a first-class soldier, no one could find a crack in his armour. Clearly, someone with a morbid sense of humour had assigned us to the same tent. Was it the Colonel or the RSM himself, as part of a training program? I never found out.

After a day spent in stumbling up and down a mountain with Echo company, I was too tired and wet to care who my tent mates were. To make matters worse, the evening had turned into a complete fiasco. A death message had come in. Translated from French into English it said – after the man’s name and number –

“Mother died suddenly seven Tuesday love Marie.”

Lovely. Just lovely. Seven this evening or seven this morning? Much more important, was that Marie’s mother or Jean Claude’s? So what could I say to the poor guy?

“I’m sorry but either your mother or your mother in law has died – this morning or this evening. Whoever and whichever it is, I’m very sorry.”

Yes, as the RSM would say – adding his favorite adjective – that’s lovely, just ……. lovely. I found a jeep, ran out of gas, walked back, got another jeep with full jerry cans and eventually discovered 1 Commando or “1 Cadoo” in deep darkness. Those poor sodden soldiers of Quebec had camped – for tactical reasons – on a little island made in the fork of a creek which had overflowed during the night. Everything was soaking; air mattresses were floating inside the tents, sleeping bags and clothing were in muddy heaps while men were trying to sleep under trucks or in any sort of shelter from the drenching rain. When I found Jean Claude, I explained as kindly as I could about the confusion in the message. It turned out that his mother-in-law had been very ill but his own mother was quite well. Just to make sure, I drove with him to a pay phone down at the base, hunted for enough quarters from the MP’s to phone Marie at 2 a.m. Quebec time and to discover to his horror that it was indeed his own mother who had died. I tried to help him through the initial shock and then drove him back to his company to pack up his wet gear and get ready for the long, sad trip home.

When I finally made it to my tent the CSM was asleep and the RSM had still not returned from checking out the local game. Just after 0100 hrs, he arrived with a small chip on. All afternoon he had not seen so much as a rabbit – apart from road kill – and he was wet to the skin. I offered him the remains of my scotch – for medicinal purposes – so he poured it into his mess tin and sat down on his bed. Convinced, as always, that offence was his best defence, he began with,

“And what have you been doing with yourself all day?”

A faint slur in his speech warned me that he had been into the sauce somewhat earlier in the evening so I decided to ignore the obvious sexual connotation to his question. Instead, I started to tell him about the death message and my miserable evening but he interrupted me.

“What do you tell people, huh? What do you say to people at a time like that?”

He didn’t give me time to answer but started talking, almost to himself, staring off to one side at something far away. The words came tumbling out as if a barrier had suddenly broken down.

“In Korea, we suddenly came under heavy mortar fire. Most of us made it into the bunker in time but there were four who were caught in the open. After the worst of it was over we crawled out to get them. Three were already dead but the fourth man was still alive. His legs were blown off and he was dying. Now what would you say to him? How would you deal with that?”

His voice was angry like something was still bothering him but again he did not wait for an answer.

“Well, I’ll tell you what I did.”

His voice became a harsh whisper,

“I knelt down and I took him in my arms and I held him very gently and I held him there until he died, and I didn’t say anything to him, nothing, not one word. I just held him. That’s what I did.”

His voice had been very quiet, full of anger and weariness and grief. Then he turned his back on me, lay down and was fast asleep in seconds.

The next morning I was rudely awakened by his best parade square voice. He was in a rage that someone had had the gall to borrow his mess tin for whisky and then had left it, unwashed, beside his kit! After glancing at the CSM, who naturally shook his head, he even had the cheek to glare in my direction as the obviously guilty party.

I was still half asleep so I could hardly believe my good fortune. Finally, after nearly six months, I had him in my sights and even at this ungodly hour of the morning, both barrels were loaded for bear. Adopting what I imagined to be my most unctuous, Chapel manner, I intoned:

“Mr. Buxton, to take the last of a man’s scotch was merely an un-Christian thing to do, a typical, Protestant trick. But to forget about it the next morning? Mr. Buxton, that is pure sacrilege!”

For perhaps the only time in his life, one loud snort was all that he could muster for an answer and then he was gone, out in the pelting rain.

Two years later, the RSM was killed in Edmonton in a parachuting accident. I believe his former buddy from Korea was probably the first one to greet him on his way. I think he owed him that.

In 1968, Tom Hassett was a Captain and the first Roman Catholic Chaplain assigned to the newly formed Airborne Regiment.

10 Responses to “CWO Buxton”

  1. on 27 Mar 2008 at 1:39 pma. tompkins

    i first meet RSM BUXTON that year as i reported
    in for duty, as a young SGT. needless to say i like
    many was terrifed to report ,so i mustered all the
    nerve i could find and actually meet him in the mess
    thinking here i would have strength in numbers( you
    can guess) it did not work
    he welcomed me to the regiment and just when
    i thought i had it made he checked me for having a
    button undone on my right combat trouser pocket
    i fell we became as good a friend,s as RSM to SGT
    could be he always apoke to me with respect and
    was more then willing to assist me and show me the
    errow,s of my way,s i was on leave in london when i
    heard of the accident and i can assure there was MORE
    then one tear shed
    a . tompkins
    RSM (RET)

  2. on 14 Dec 2008 at 12:05 amEdward Hansen

    Great story on Dick Buxton by the Padre, I will use it in my next newsletter. I will also return in the future with a story of RSM Buxton and me (both Sgt’s at the time) and at Dick’s suggestion that we take a trip to Seoul (Korea) for a few hours of R & R. Transportation … our issue boots.

  3. on 17 Feb 2009 at 1:28 pmwayne franklin

    Good day, am looking for any stories or pics of Dick Buxton, as am a family memeber. I myself served in 2 PPCLI, and my grandmother (dick’s sister) would love to hear any stories that anyone cares to share. On Dick or the other boy’s. Any help appreciated. Thanks.

  4. on 25 Mar 2009 at 9:18 amRichard Buxton

    The poster of the message for 17 Feb 09 does not appear to have left any contact info. If he reads this, then perhaps he would like to contact me (one of Dick Buxtons sons).

  5. on 11 Apr 2009 at 6:28 pmClo. B. Bachynski CD, KStJ

    Nice write-up.Appreciate these stories of our Service Men & Women. Please continue. I had 6 of my paramedics attached to an American hospital ship in the First Gulf War (1990)…CO 16& 19th Med Coys

  6. on 08 Jan 2010 at 10:25 pmg.g. hamilton

    pp waitingcli depot feb 62 myself and another recruit being keen young soldiers had some of our meagre pay deposted with the local bank . fri afternoon no money bank closes at 1500. last order of the day aprox 1430. no one allowed of the camp in training dress. bank a good 25 min walk ,decide to take a chance, are hustling along and a car stops. need a ride boys glance in the car RSM mick the stick in passenger seat. BQMS Buuxton driving. rsm and bqms of depot. waiting for the shit storm to begin. first question where are you going, to the bank sir.the reply thats of the camp boys. yes time to change into civvies and make the bank sir. arrive at the bank and get out.still waiting nfor the storm to start,nothing. have a good weekend boys . we hustle into the bank followed by the supposed tyrants of the depot. get our money and head out at double d double all the time wondering our we going to hear it from sgt levesque on monday. monday nothing. aprox 6 wks later now allowed to leave in uniformoff the camp. marcvhing smartley down the road car stops need a ride boys guess who . first words a bet you young buggers think we forgot about you eh no sir . bqms buxton bull fnnnshit think we are to fnnnn old to on and on for at least 5 mins. then get the hellin the car going to the bank are we yes sir. not another word till we get toi the bank nice tunout boys have a good week end. yes sir. many years later on a concentration casmp in wainwright after a nightn jump and slog all night .i ran into mr Buxton in camp .good day sir cpl dont i know you yes sir oh wait now i remember depot right yes sir. i knew would turn out all right. showed inititive back then and were ready to take your punishmenrt when we caught you.Mr Austin told me that day we need more people like them.not scared to take a chance.yes sir and away he went with a big shit eating grin on his face. memorable soldier.

  7. on 01 Oct 2010 at 9:50 pmBill Wolfe

    If you have any pictures of him I’d be greatly appreciated if you sent them my way. I knew him as private soldier.

    Bill Wolfe

  8. on 19 Oct 2012 at 10:34 pmjohn wheatley

    csm buxton told me to get a haircut
    even has i had just got one i was in dog coy 1 ppcli 1960-1962

  9. on 06 Sep 2015 at 1:34 pmJoseph"TINY" Morin

    I had the good fortune to be at the range on this day. it was pistol day 9 mm/Browning, great pistol ????. Except on this day. Mr. Buxton walked up took a pistol loaded and proceeded to the firing point. With sure aim and breathing control. checking for wind & elevation Mr. Buxton “pooped off” a round. Due to the proximity firing point to target you could see the round hit left of target, SO Mr. Buxton put a Death Grip on this offending Browning, and squeezed of another round. left of target again. Much Blood rushed to the face of OUR RSM. A few more rounds were pooped off same results. A quick about turn looking for another/better Browning ??? Mr. Buxton clearly stated F*&^ing.F&^KER’s F(*&ED…/AMEN. No body is sure how OR what the results were with the “better” Browning. As we ALL F&*(ED off at the high port. except for the range officer?? It was a Very Good Day, the very famous RSM Buxton. just being one of The Guys. THEM WERE THE DAYS/TINY/AIRBORNE/1968

  10. on 30 Sep 2019 at 7:21 pmTerrace Lee Smith

    I am Terrance Smith , Buxton was my great uncle. My nana Peggy has told me many amazing stories. About how amazing of a soldier he was. Any family that sees this contact me 2509107183

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