Philip Walter TATTERSFIELD (1917-) and Family, Vancouver, Canada

This section was written by Philip Walter TATTERSFIELD himself. Philip, who has contributed a graphic account of his experiences outside England, is descended from the London family of TATTERSFIELDs. His great grandfather, James (Ware?) TATTERSFIELD, moved from London to Leamington in Warwickshire in about 1844, where he raised nine children. He has been variously described as fishmonger and grocer. Philip’s grandfather, Walter, moved to Brentford, West London in the early 1900s. Philip’s father, Walter Harold, had two sisters, who seem to have emigrated to East London in South Africa. Philip’s ancestry is: John (d.1790) | James Ware (1787-1848) | James (Ware?) (1817-1896) | Walter (1854-1919) | Walter Harold (b. 1887, d. 1969 in Vancouver). Philip’s account is as follows:-

I was born in Beckenham, south of London, England, on the 5th of June, 1917 during a bomber raid by German zeppelins. My brother Anthony William Tattersfield was also born there in 1922. He was killed in action while serving in the Canadian 404 squadron of Lancaster bombers operating out of England in 1944 and 1945. He was shot down in March of the latter year, and is buried near Brunswick (Braunswick) in Germany.

I was educated at the Beckenham Grammar School and graduated from there in 1934. My mother, a schoolteacher, and my father, a mechanical engineer, had their residence in Beckenham and lived there continually, although they had to move 3 times during the 2nd World War as they were bombed out, and had to be allocated with temporary residences. After graduation in 1934, I was apprenticed to a landscape nursery in New Beckenham, south of London. This lasted for 2 years. I was then successful in attaining a position as a tour guide with Thomas Cook and Son, and visited France, Belgium, Austria Switzerland, Italy and Hungary. This gave me experience of some of the magnificent landscapes of these European countries which served me in great benefit in later projects. I was later employed in 1937 by the Federation of British Industries to organize travel for their major members. Meanwhile, in 1936, I had joined a Territorial Army unit called the Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry, which, at that time, was horse artillery. In August 1939, all members of the Territorial Army were mobilized and directed to detailed training on Salisbury Plain, in Southern England, for the conflict to come.

In 1939 horses and 4 inch Howitzers were withdrawn, and we were equipped with the new 25 pounder, motorized, and formed into batteries in support of the Divisions detailed for service overseas. The word came in 1940 to proceed by troopship to the Middle East by way of West Africa, South Africa and the Red Sea to Suez, where we arrived by late 1940. We sailed without escort in a fast motor ship called the Highland Brigade, normally used to transport refrigerated beef from the Argentine to the English market. The voyage was uneventful except when we noticed tracks of a torpedo that was fired at us as we passed Sierra Leone on our way south. The other memorable part of the voyage was the welcome given to us in Cape Town, where were shown the Stellenbosch valley and the wonderful vineyards.

We duly arrived in Suez in 1940 and were sent through Egypt to its Western Frontier with Libya and we joined the Desforce under Generals OíConnor and Wavell. After several skirmishes we were then formed into an expeditionary force called Gazelle Force, and proceeded to Southern Sudan to engage the Italians who had occupied Ethiopia and Eritrea. The campaign was memorable because of General Wavellís capability of creating an impression of tremendous military strength with very small forces ó towing trees to create large clouds of dust. To me the memorable part of that campaign in 1941 was the battle before the Eritrean town of Keren, where our 25 pounders were attacked by the Italian Cavalry, which rode their horses right into the gun pits at point blank range. I have always regarded this as an example of the magnificent, but futile, bravery of the Italian Army of East Africa at that time.

Another memory is that of the mountain on the Eritrean table land Amba Alagi, some 14,000 feet high, which formed the basis of our observation posts for our assault on the Italian infantry. It took 3 days to climb the mountain and we had to send about half of our party back due to the effects of extreme exercise in very thin air. At this time we were part of the 4th Indian Division, together with Probynís Horse, the Bengal Lancers, Central India Horse and other elite Indian Army units which had been motorized on leaving India for East Africa. Another memorable happening was the epidemic of what was then called jaundice, which hit the British, Indian and Italian Armies and severely limited all our activities.

We duly arrived in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, to accept the surrender of the Italian armies in East Africa. My personal interest at that time was the period when I was attached to the French Foreign Legion (the Brigade d’Orient) as artillery support and met my first American who was acting as adjutant to the French commander. America at that time, in 1942, had not declared war, but my friend felt that he had to make a contribution.

We then made the long trek back through the Sudanese and Nubian deserts, navigating by sun compass mounted on the vehicle hood. This brought us to Almaza, near Cairo, the main British base in Egypt for reequipment to support the 7th Armoured Division and its attack through the frontier to deal with the recently-arrived German Africa Korp. Our forces suffered victories and defeats through Libya and Tripoli, and the tank battles were absolutely nerve-wracking for those who had not experienced desert warfare.

My unit was moved into Tobruk to join the Australian 8th Division after its encirclement by Rommel and the Africa Korp. At that time I was told I had to report to the Officer Cadet Training Unit in Egypt. This course took 3 months, and in 1941 I emerged as a brand-new 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery.

I was posted to the 3rd Field Regiment as Information Officer and Assistant Adjutant. We were then ordered to join Paiforce (Persia and Iraq Force). With this body I spent time in Palestine, Iraq, Iran and Syria, and as far north as the Russian frontier in Azerbaijan. My experiences in Syria were centered in Beirut, a delightful city called the Paris of the Middle East. I had become Adjutant of the 3rd Field Regiment in 1943 with the rank of Captain. We were then ordered back into the desert in preparation for the final engagement of Rommelís Army as far West as Tripoli. As history records, we were left to defend Tobruk.

After the battle of Alamein, eventually, we got back into Egypt for the invasion of Italy. I was promoted to Major, commanding 18 Battery. Subsequently, we were successful in overcoming German resistance with certain notable battles like Casino and Ortona. Arrival in Venice was followed by the armistice of May, 1945. I was ordered to take my battery back to Naples to await transportation to San Francisco as a token force to join the American assault on Japan. American bombs solved that problem for us. We were then shipped back to England as the war in Europe had run its course. I was offered a post in military government in Germany, which I declined.

In 1947 I married Ellen McInnes, who I had known for many years as a school friend. Daughter Janet was included in our emigration papers. A legacy of my war service of 6 over years, apart from minor wounds and loss of hearing, was acknowledged by the award of the Military Cross, a Mention in Despatches, the 8th Army clasp, among other campaign medals. I was demobbed in 1948, and went back to the Federation of British Industries as their Southern Regional Secretary.

We sailed for Canada with Janet and our first son, Andrew James, age 2, and our bull terrier in June 1952 on a very old Cunard Liner which originated in Germany, destination Canada. We arrived in Quebec in June, 1952, and were subjected to meticulous Customs inspection by the officers in Quebec, apparently looking for hidden weapons. We had been invited, meanwhile to stay with former friends who had emigrated before us and were living in Toronto. After a short stay with them, we boarded what I understand became one of the last steam trains across Canada by CPR with stops in Winnipeg and Calgary. At the latter city we saw the magnificent outline of the Rockies, and we thought that this would be the place that we might like to settle. We were rewarded by traveling down through the Kicking Horse Pass to the Fraser Valley and Vancouver.

Our first problem was income as we were only allowed to bring $612 with us from England. We were very lucky to secure accommodation in South Vancouver. I was employed as an assistant to a Customs Agent, metering the caliber and quality of coffee imports. Meanwhile, we had arranged for many agencies of well-known European firms with a wide range of products from pharmaceuticals, sports and confectionary, and we endeavoured to make these profitable. But this was to be a lost cause, as most of the large department stores had their own European agents, and they would not wish to be superceded by a Canadian agent.

I therefore went to my first love, which was the landscape concept of design of residences, parks, etc. In keeping with the development of the Province of British Columbia in the post-war era, we operated as a ìDesign-Buildî office, as at that time there was no professional organization for Landscape Architects or for site development. To our great pleasure, we found that there was an enormous potential in this respect, and eventually I was able to concentrate on Design. I was lucky to secure projects in California, Washington, Alaska, East and West Africa, Israel and the Caribbean, together with licenses to practice in California, Arizona and Washington.

Meanwhile our second son, Nicholas William, was born in September, 1954. In the same year, my mother Florence and father Harold joined us in Vancouver and added to the Tattersfield family group. We eventually secured a lot in West Vancouver for the price of $250, and built our first house with 5 bedrooms to accommodate the children. This period lasted nearly 20 years, until 1981 when I first contemplated retirement.

During this time we contacted our family members in New Zealand, and Noel Tattersfield from Auckland visited us when appointed Commissioner to Canada. During my subsequent appointment as Canadian Delegate to the International Federation of Landscape Architects, a position I held for a period of 10 years, I visited the family in New Zealand as a side trip from my meetings in Canberra. Also we had received in the post-war period in Vancouver a visit from our Tattersfield family members in England and who gave us a very fine genealogical chart of our family since 1780.

In 1964 I had initiated the process whereby a Chapter of the American Institute of Landscape Architects was established in British Columbia. This resulted in the Provincial proclamation of a first Canadian Landscape Architects Act in 1968. My official stamp bears the number 1: the membership to date is 347.

Today, as an octogenarian and life member of both the BC and Canadian Societies of Landscape Architects, I now live with Ellen in a small apartment in West Vancouver. I am involved in environmental concerns relating to landscape architecture, and am a Certified Arborist and expert witness in many court actions. I enjoy painting with acrylics and water colours, as well as producing very bad poetry. In 1976 I was appointed a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

In spite of the many problems with starting life in a new country, our decision to emigrate to Canada has been vindicated many times over. Ellen and I look at our wonderful family group, which includes 7 grandchildren ranging in age from 11 to 27, and we have no regrets concerning a decision made in England in 1951. Through the Department of Veteransí Affairs, Canada has been very good to us. After receiving citizenship in 1955, I served as a scout master, volunteer fireman, Arts Council Vice President, member of many University and Municipal Advisory Design Panels, and a member of several environmental groups.

When Ellen and I celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary on 11 August, 1997, we looked back with gratitude on becoming Canadian citizens.

Footnote by John Tattersfield.

In his autobiography above, Philip did not mention two important aspects of his World War II career, which have since come to light in official documents. Military records refer to him as Philip Walter Gascoyne Tattersfield, unlike the indexes to Birth and Marriage records, which call him simply Philip W. Tattersfield.

Firstly, while in the Middle East theatre of the war, he was mentioned in Dispatches, when a Lieutenant in 3 Field Regiment, Royal artillery. This was gazetted on 13 Jan 1944.

Soon after, on 24 Feb 1944, he was recommended to be “Granted an Immediate MC” ie Military Cross. The Citation reads “On the night 13/14 Dec 1943 Captain Tattersfield accompanied the Bn as an F.O.O. On the capture of CALDARI he established an O.P. with the forward Company. This O.P. was heavily shelled during which time he continued to direct fire. He established a second O.P. which sustained two direct hits from enemy shells.

From the 14th to the 16th Dec Captain Tattersfield showed great personal bravery and at no time allowed the enemy’s fire to distract him from his duties as F.O.O.

His work was invaluable to the Battalion during the period of reorganisation and his accurately directed fire on the enemy positions undoubtedly saved many casualties.


H.R. Alexander, General.

General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, 15 Army Group.

Awarded M.C.  L6.  6.4.44.”


In his opening paragraph Philip recalled his brother Anthony William, killed in action over Germany.  A few detailed amendments and additions, based on written military records, are set out below.

Anthony William, age 21, service number 1217551, was a Sergeant in 408 Squadron (Royal Canadian Air Force) of Bomber Command. He was flying as Flight Engineer in a Lancaster bomber, Serial Number LL699, and was killed in action at 1700 hrs. on 14 or 15 Jan 1944. His duty location was Braunsweig (Brunswick). He was buried near Brunswick and is commemorated in Hanover War Cemetery, Lower Saxony.

Header Image: The magnificent Fraser Valley, through which Philip and family passed en route to their new life in Vancouver. R. Harris /