Memoirs

Letters to Mom
Memoirs

Letters to Mom

During the Second World War, 21-year-old Allan Coburn was one of a million young men and women whose sense of duty and hankering for adventure drew them to serve in the Canadian Army. He was “the second son of a farmer, with no passion for farming,” said his son Douglas Coburn of Winnipeg. “So, what to do?” Join the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. Allan Coburn enlisted on Jan. 9, 1942, leaving his parents Dwight and Isabel, older brother Ted, younger brother Glen and little sister Kitty on the family farm near Carman, Man. After basic training, he joined the tank brigade signals, which was reorganized into the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade Signals on July 26, 1943, after he got to England. He served just shy of four years in England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. His moth...
Cross Border Doctor
Memoirs, Military History

Cross Border Doctor

It can be extraordinary who and what you will find when digging into family history. In an article for Legion Magazine last year, CBC journalist Murray Brewster wrote about the Battle of Ridgeway and the eyewitness account of his great-great-grandfather, a doctor and United States Civil War veteran, who in June 1866 tended wounded and dying Canadian soldiers and Fenian raiders (May/June 2018). His research opened the door to an even more intriguing story about his ancestor’s war service, the thousands of Canadians who served on both sides of that cruel and bloody conflict, and how the divided loyalties among our southern neighbours spilled across the border. The Confederate soldiers on the riverbank opened up with a violent stream of fire that poured through the gun ports of the Union g...
Pépère’s war story
Memoirs

Pépère’s war story

Hormidas Odilon (Henry) Goulet enlisted with the 22nd Battalion in Montreal in 1914. When he gave his name, the officer apparently told him, “We’ll call you Henry.” He fought in France and Belgium until he was wounded in 1916. He was discharged in 1917. His journal was recently adapted into this memoir by his granddaughter Michelle T. Lambert. It’s 1914. I’m fed up with the farm and doin’ my own cookin’. No steady girlfriend. An ol’ man tells me about the war. It can’t last very long, he says. Canadian government’s recruitin’. I talk to my good friend Ephrem Tremblay and we go to Saskatoon to enlist. Be back by spring, we think. They turn us down. “More applications than we need but you’re French Canadians. Go to Montreal. They’re forming a French-Canadian battalion.” We hitch back ho...
Battlefield doctor
Memoirs

Battlefield doctor

My great-great-grandfather was a surgeon who treated soldiers at the Battle of Ridgeway in 1866 It is a largely forgotten battle, even though it was one of the few ever fought on Canadian soil. By the standards of the time, it wasn’t an enormous fight in terms of lives lost or duration. Coming as it did in the shadow of the American Civil War and one year before Confederation, the Battle of Ridgeway had a significant, underappreciated impact on Canadian history. Growing up in Welland, Ont., I didn’t know much about it, I confess, despite driving past Limestone Ridge literally thousands of times. I knew nothing of my personal connection to the event until a cousin inadvertently discovered a newspaper article from the 1920s referring to an ancestor who, like the battle itself, had been la...
Canada’s man in Havana
Memoirs

Canada’s man in Havana

The story of a young Canadian diplomat spying on the Soviets in Cuba on behalf of the CIA with the blessing of our prime minister is improbable, but no more so than its context. This was the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, when the world came within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear holocaust. The context extends to the immediate and still-perilous aftermath of that drama in which my miniscule role was played. Incidental to the story, but relevant to present-day missile rattling, is the memory of how hubris and stupidity almost brought the planet to its worst modern disaster and how, in the end, strength of character and human values on the part of the two foremost protagonists reeled the world back from the edge of the precipice. The protagonists were, of course, Nikita Khrushchev and Jo...
Buried alive at the Somme
Memoirs

Buried alive at the Somme

When I was a young child of four or five, my grandfather would say to me in his cockney accent, “Swee’ar’, fetch me legs for me,” and I would dutifully bring him what he called “his legs”—steel rods screwed into the heels of his shoes for support with a leather cuff at the top which would rest just below the back of his knees. When he lifted up his pant legs to put on these supports, it revealed gaping holes in his calves. One hole was so large I could see from one side of his calf right through to the other. Somehow, I knew I wasn’t to ask any questions but that image has stayed with me all these years. My grandfather, Ainger Roger Berry, the oldest of seven children, was born on March 15, 1879, in London, within the sound of Bow Bells. As a boy seaman in the Royal Navy in the early 1...

CANADA AND THE
VICTORIA CROSS

SPECIAL ISSUE | $14.95

PRE-ORDER NOW | DELIVERED IN NOVEMBER
The next issue in the award-winning series Canada’s Ultimate Story is Canada and the Victoria Cross. No one ever set out to earn a Victoria Cross, which is awarded for “valour in the face of the enemy.” For dozens of action-packed accounts of valour and sacrifice on the battlefield, order Canada and the Victoria Cross as your next issue!
close-link