Memoirs

Memoirs

For Those Who Served At Sea

by Tom MacGregor A few miles out to sea from St. John’s, Nfld., HMCS Charlottetown, one of the modern Halifax-class frigates, pulled up beside a floating block of ice the size of a small ship. Known as growlers to Newfoundlanders because of the noise they make when they roll over, the ice is only a fragment from the icebergs that drift south from the Arctic Ocean each spring. It was a scenic setting for a solemn ceremony. Canadian Forces chaplain Lieutenant-Commander Jacques Cantin was joined by several St. John’s clergy in the saying of prayers. The Act of Remembrance was recited in English and French and this was followed by Last Post, the lament and Reveille. The most solemn moment came when the 24 veterans of the WW II Battle of the Atlantic, ship’s crew, serving military a...
Memoirs

A Show Of Support

by Dan Black Beyond the jagged edge of the evergreen forest the armored personnel carrier makes another sharp turn on the mountain road before heading down across the valley. I’m standing in one of the carrier’s rear hatches, watching a great big moon rise over Bosnia-Herzegovina. As the carrier shifts gears and gains more speed, my ears are pounded by the noise coming from the huge engine. Suddenly–in rapid succession–I see the twisted, moonlit skeletons of bombed-out houses and overturned vehicles; gloomy reminders of the 1991—95 war that killed 250,000 men, women and children. Down below–squeezed into the belly of the carrier–five members of a 17-member Canadian Forces entertainment troupe are comparing notes on what they saw that day in the northwest Bosnian town of Drvar a...
Memoirs

Burial In Belgium

by Mac Johnston On Nov. 10, 1997, in Geraardsbergen, Belgium, a nurse from Chilliwack, B.C., went to the funeral of an uncle she had never met. As a tribute, Maureen Thom wore on her coat the WW II wings of Pilot Officer Wilbur Bentz who died four years before she was born. Wib Bentz was a pilot in 426 (Thunderbird) Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force based at Linton-on-Ouse in Yorkshire, England. His plane, Halifax bomber LW682, M for Mother, was part of a 120-bomber raid on the railway yards in German-held Louvain, Belgium. On the flight home, LW682 was shot down at about 1 a.m. May 13, 1944, by a German night fighter. The bomber crashed in a bog and the Germans recovered and buried the bodies of five members of the eight-man crew. Canadian authorities later declared ...
Memoirs

On Liberation’s Trail

by Bill Fairbairn The Canada Museum in the Flemish village of Adegem, Belgium, portrays much more than the village’s liberation by Canadian troops in September 1944. It also embodies a local man’s promise to his dying father, paying tribute as it fixes a part of WW II history in the minds of its visitors. So it was when the 1997 Dominion Command Youth Leaders Pilgrimage of Remembrance to Europe reached the museum 16 kilometres outside of Brugge on July 14. An enthusiastic Gilbert Van Landschoot greeted the Legion party of 31 at the entrance to the museum he opened two years ago, keeping a promise made to his father that he would honor Canadian soldiers and the local resistance for their roles in WW II. Before his death, the father disclosed that he had served in the Belgian ...
Memoirs

Pilgrimage To Dieppe

by Ray Dick The weather was clear and hot when the ferry from Newhaven, England, arrived at the French port of Dieppe. It was August and several of the men lining the rails were Canadian veterans who on a similar morning, 55 years ago, landed on the rock-strewn beach. But back then it was a living hell that greeted the Canadians as they rushed ashore into vicious German machine-gun fire. With that memory intact, the Dieppe veterans would once again revisit some dark moments in their lives, but they would also see a new Dieppe and witness the solemn commemoration of their courage and sacrifice. All of them were participating in a Veterans Affairs Canada pilgrimage to mark the anniversary of the Aug. 19, 1942, raid. These men and the others who were with them during that day long...
Memoirs

Return To The Ridge

by Tom MacGregor The young guide who met the group of veterans and youths at the Vimy Memorial in France had a well-rehearsed speech, but when he reached the part describing the morning of April 9, 1917, an old man in a wheelchair piped up, "I was there!" The statement startled the student guide, not because it was said louder than necessary because of the speaker’s difficulty in hearing, but because the last thing a guide expects on his tour in 1997 is someone who can tell the story first hand. The speaker was 104-year-old Harry Boyce, a member of the Legion’s Regina Branch. He was a sergeant with the Canadian Garrison Artillery that day in 1917 and would later fight at Passchendaele and elsewhere. In June 1918, Boyce was gassed and sent to hospital in England. He was one o...

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