A call to remember

October 30, 2018 by Legion Magazine

More than one million Canadians and Newfoundlanders served in the Second World War. More than 45,000 were killed and another 55,000 were wounded. Only 41,100 of them remained as of March 2017, according to Veterans Affairs Canada. Nearly all are now in their 90s.

Many, if not most, Second World War veterans were reluctant to recount their wartime experiences (except while sitting with their comrades in Legion halls across the country), choosing instead to suppress the horror of it all as they built new postwar lives back home.

Some, of course, did put pen to paper after returning. One of Canada’s best known is Farley Mowat, whose And No Birds Sang and The Regiment are first-hand accounts of his experiences with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division in Italy. Legion Magazine’s own library contains more than 350 other memoirs and regimental histories. Not to mention the magazine’s 92-year assemblage of recollections. But those represent a mere fraction of the first-person military memories that could have been recorded by that legion of reticent and taciturn veterans.

In so many cases, that opportunity was lost. We’ll never learn of those soldiers’ unique individual experiences—heroic or mundane—even if we do know where and when their units served. For those still with us, however, it is not too late. But they sure could use a helping hand.

The torch of remembrance has been passed to us younger generations, to daughters and sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It is now ours to hold high.

If you know a Second World War veteran—or any veteran, for that matter—ask if he or she would like to tell their story. Record it. Write it. Ask about photographs that may be tucked away in a shoebox in an attic. Or letters home. Or mementos. Or medals. Ask about the stories behind those objects. Ask “What did you do during the war, Great-grandpa?”

Then share those stories. With your family and friends, your local historical society, museum or regimental association, or with us at Legion Magazine via www.legionmagazine.com/memoir

If we all do this, their tales of achievement and sacrifice—recounted in their own words—will remain alive after they are gone. If we don’t, we’ll never know what was lost.

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