The Watchmaker of Normandy: Murray Jacobs

Murray Jacobs, (Ellin Bessner photo).
I had the honour to interview Murray Jacobs last December, 2014 at his Toronto home as part of my research into the contribution of Canadian Jewish servicemen and women in the Second World War.
Murray was a former president of the Royal Canadian Legion #256 General Wingate branch in Toronto. He was a tireless campaigner to raise money to improve the lives of today’s surviving veterans and to honour the legacies of those Jewish servicemen who didn’t come home
Murray was a trained watchmaker from Toronto who was called upon to use his specialized trade in Normandy during the war in the battle that begun Aug. 7/8, 1944 called Operation Totalize. His commanding officer Lt.-Gen. Guy G. Simonds decided to get the workshop men to make it safer for infantry to get into the fight. He asked Jacobs and his team to turn 75 Canadian Priest tanks into so-called “Kangaroos” (or defrocked priests as they were called): take out the gun turret and reinforce the sides and voila you have a safer way to transport men into battle. They did the conversion work in three days in an orchard under the blazing August sun. These were the first use of armoured personnel carriers for the Canadian infantry in the field. And those men who rode in them suffered fewer casualties then the infantry who walked. The Kangaroos were used in the fighting to close the Falaise Gap. Murray also was a proud Jew who wore a prayer shawl under his uniform. He actually had two of these, because his father made a pair so he could wear one at all times (if the second was dirty or in the wash). He told me he was the only watchmaker the Canadian army had in Normandy. So sorry to hear of his passing.
On Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at home. Murray Jacobs beloved husband of Millie Jacobs. Loving father and father- in-law of Tami and Joel Kligman, Nancy and Marty Frankel, and Howard and Chris Jacobs. Dear brother and brother-in-law of Arlene and the late Sheldon Miller, and the late Bess and Bill Nowack, Kay and Moe Greenbaum, Morris and Ethel Jacobs, and Art and Sophie Jacobs. Devoted grandfather of Sarah and Brian, Joe and Julie, Sabra and Dan, and Dylan. Devoted great- grandfather of Jesse, Alexander, and Ben. Interment Jewish War Veteran’s section at Mt. Sinai Memorial Park. Memorial donations may be made to the Murray Jacobs Memorial Fund c/o the Benjamin Foundation, 3429 Bathurst Street, Toronto, M6A 2C3, 416-780-0324 or

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