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Bill Hosie

 

Date and Place of Birth: 1912 Govanhill, Glasgow, Scotland
Date and Place of Death:    August 1, 1944 Caen, France
Baseball Experience: Semi-Pro
Position: Shortstop
Rank: Corporal
Military Unit: Calgary Highlanders, Canadian Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

William Hosie was born in Govanhill, Glasgow in Scotland in 1912. His father, Alex Hosie, was a tramcar conductor in the city and a champion piper. The year William was born his father was invited to Medicine Hat in Alberta, Canada, to join the Medicine Hat Kiltie Band – a bagpipe and drum ensemble.

Medicine Hat, known as the Gas City because of its large natural gas fields, is in south-eastern Alberta and about 175 miles south-east of Calgary. The Medicine Hat Kiltie Band became well-known throughout Canada and the United States until many of the band members signed up with the Canadian Army at the start of the First World War. Seeing service in Europe with the 17th Canadian Seaforth Highlanders, Alex Hosie finished the war with the rank of Pipe Major. None of the other members of the Kiltie Band survived the war.

While his father worked as a janitor at Elm Street School and performed as pipe major in Medicine Hat’s Canadian Legion band, Bill Hosie was earning a reputation as a fine baseball player. Professional baseball had been played in Medicine Hat during the early part of the 20th Century until the outbreak of World War I, with the Medicine Hat Hatters being a mainstay of the Class D Western Canada League. When William Hosie was playing baseball during the 1930s, the professional game was a distant memory but southern Alberta still operated a top-class semi-pro circuit with games often played before crowds of up to 4,000.

By 1934, Bill Hosie was the shortstop with the Medicine Hat Royals, who played at Athletic Park on Riverside, helping them clinch the Senior Alberta baseball championship that season. “Bill Hosie, Medicine Hat’s slugging home run leader,” noted the Calgary Daily Herald after one of his regular offensive outbursts in May 1934, “added further laurels to his credit here Sunday afternoon and evening by slamming three home runs, one three-base hit, two doubles and several singles in a doubleheader exhibition tilt [against] the Lethbridge Cubs.”

Also that month the Daily Herald reported that Hosie “was the big hitter of the afternoon” in a game against the Lethbridge Galt Miners sending “sizzling drives in every direction, and in the fourth inning turned in a beautiful homer.”

Hosie joined the Three Hills team later that season but returned to Medicine Hat in 1935 and helped the Royals clinch the Southern Alberta Semi-Pro League championship in 1936. The Royals became the Monarchs in 1937 and underwent a further name change in 1939 when they became the Tigers. But 1939 was to be Hosie’s last summer of baseball in Medicine Hat. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, launching Hitler’s tyrannical reign of terror and thrusting Europe into war. Days later, Canada – a British Commonwealth country - declared war on Germany and that same month 27-year-old Bill Hosie travelled to Calgary where he enlisted in the Canadian Army with the Calgary Highlanders rather than wait to be inducted.

Throughout the summer of 1940, the Highlanders trained in Shilo - a remote training base in Manitoba – where inter-unit ballgames dominated off-duty life. In late August, Corporal Hosie and the Calgary Highlanders set sail for Britain aboard the SS Pasteur and arrived at Gourock in Scotland on September 4, 1940. It was probably the first time he had been in Scotland since shortly after his birth and the train that took them to their new home at Guillemont Barracks, near Farnborough, England, would have passed through his birth city of Glasgow.

The Highlanders assisted with the coastal defence of southern England and trained in preparation for combat in Europe. During this time, Hosie captained the Highlanders baseball team which competed in the 2nd Canadian Division league. On July 13, 1941, the Highlanders played the South Saskatchewan Regiment baseball team at Bexhill-on-Sea; reportedly the first time a baseball game had been played in the seaside town. In a close fought contest on the town's cricket field which enjoyed a big turn out from the local population, it was Bill Hosie who got things off to a flying start with a deep drive to left field for a home run. "Both teams were playing a swell brand of baseball, "reported The Glen - the Highlanders' regimental magazine, "and double plays were a dime a dozen with hot shoe-string catches thrown in for good measure." The game was won in the last inning by the South Saskatchewan team with a final score of 5-4.

On August 19, 1942, Hosie took part in the ill-fated Dieppe Raid. As part of a 22-man mortar platoon – the only members of the Calgary Highlanders assigned to the raid – Corporal Hosie was aboard landing craft tank (LCT) 6 as it approached the German-held beach. Pieces of shrapnel began clanging against the craft and pretty soon the engine-room burst into flames. Although the crew managed to put out the fire, when they were 70 yards from the beach the wheelhouse took a direct hit that killed the helmsman. LCT 6 limped to the beach and finally touched down on the shale; the gates creaked open, the ramp fell and before them was Red Beach with dozens of dead and wounded Canadian soldiers strewn across the stones. Amid merciless gunfire and total chaos the LCT unloaded a bulldozer and two tanks that were promptly immobilized. With little hope of being able to set up their mortars on the beach, Hosie and his fellow Calgary Highlanders did not disembark and remained with the LCT as it returned to the sea. Several times the LCT went back to the beach – the mortar team still aboard – as they attempted to rescue troops.

The Dieppe Raid was an unmitigated disaster. A total of 3,623 of the 6,086 men who made it ashore were either killed, wounded, or captured and no major objectives were achieved.

Hosie remained in England with the Calgary Highlanders as they continued to train in preparation for the assault on mainland Europe that would come almost two years after the Dieppe debacle.

On July 6, 1944, one month after the Normandy landings, the Calgary Highlanders landed in France. In Operation Spring, they were part of the Battle of Verrières Ridge, along with the Black Watch, in which the regiment took heavy casualties.

Corporal Hosie, aged 32, was killed in action in France on August 1, 1944, during the Battle for Caen – one of 36 Highlanders who lost their lives that day. He was originally reported as missing in action; his family were notified of his tragic death at the end of the month. Hosie was survived by his wife (Cleo) and two children, his parents (Alex and Lizzie), three sisters (Bessie, Reta and Ella) and a brother (Alfred).

Bill Hosie, husband, father, ballplayer and battlefield veteran, is buried at the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery in Calvados, France.

Thanks to Sheila Drummond, Head of Reference Services at Medicine Hat Public Library and Tanya Field, Archives Clerk at Esplanade Arts and Heritage Center for help with this biography. Also many thanks to the Calgary Highlanders Regimental Museum and Archive for help with information and photos.

Date Added June 4, 2012

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