Memoirs

My dad, the air force doctor
Memoirs

My dad, the air force doctor

The nooks and crannies of my parents’ red-brick house in Halifax held many secrets and, as a child, my insatiable curiosity took me into closets, drawers, attic and basement, most often in search of my father’s past. Edward Lefferts (Ted) Thorne III was born on Friday, June 13, 1913, and some might say he was cursed. He’d likely tell them otherwise. He had survived tuberculosis, and lost his mother—a First World War nurse—and brother to the same dreaded disease. He had seen his father lose all in the Depression and his first wife drop dead from a brain hemorrhage. He would lose a daughter to breast cancer. But in his 90 years on this earth, Dr. Thorne—my dad—delivered hundreds of babies, saved hundreds of lives and, by the time he retired from general practice at 87, he had cultiv...
The Silent Ward
Memoirs

The Silent Ward

The author was a nurse in the First World War. She lived in Winnipeg and graduated from the Winnipeg General Hospital in 1909. She went overseas with the first contingent of the Canadian Army Medical Corps and served the entire war in France, Salonika and England. Her first posting was at the #2 Stationary Hospital, which was established in the Golf Hotel at Le Touquet, France, in 1914. This was written in March 1915. This letter is provided by her great niece, Sandra Moulton. IN A WAR HOSPITAL. It may be of interest to you all if I try, however inadequately, to describe three days of our recent work here, as the best means of impressing a picture of the conditions on your minds. This is by no means ‘the front’ and compared to those of the English sisters and the Red Cross volunteers, ...
Not all Veterans wore uniforms
Memoirs

Not all Veterans wore uniforms

Story by Brian Purdy Son of Gordon Purdy Through the worst years of the Great Depression my father slogged away, first getting a degree in chemistry, then a post-graduate degree. That led to a job in a chemistry lab, then marriage to Mom, and his first child—me. That was his situation in July 1941, a time when German bombers were dropping incendiary bombs on London and setting the city ablaze. Dad was on loan to the Canadian government from Imperial Oil, and worked in the Sarnia lab. He was developing a formula to fireproof the asphalt shingles on London rooftops, so they would not burn even if hit by a thermite bomb. In order to test his compound, Dad had to manufacture the ingredients of a German thermite bomb in the lab. He was stirring the ingredients in a mortar with a pestle w...
Tears of Remembrance
Army, Memoirs

Tears of Remembrance

At the first strains of the anthem, backs straightened and shoulders squared. For a few brief minutes the white hair and canes were forgotten and eyes shone bright with dignity and pride. This was Holland, 1995, and these were the Canadian veterans who gave their youth and innocence without reservation. I am a daughter of one such man, and as I stood humbly beside these men, I felt honoured to be part of the fibre of this regiment, the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards. I was part of a tour organized by members of the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the war. On the way to Rotterdam, we’d stopped at Hastings, on the south coast of England, where the regiment was billeted until they were sent into active combat. I was delighted to see the Cana...
Remembrance
Memoirs, Navy

Remembrance

On Remembrance Day or, for a naval veteran, Battle of the Atlantic Sunday in May, I am called upon to recall those fellow Canadians who gave their lives for us. At naval events the ships that were lost are frequently read out, but I have this vaguely detached feeling. I was never in a ship that was torpedoed, or even at risk, as far as I know. Nor did I serve in a ship and get to know her and her idiosyncrasies—one I could call “my ship”—that was subsequently lost. Assuredly, I appreciate the price paid, in lives, in ships, in aircraft, during the struggles. After all, we were in the same service, faced potentially the same dangers. But to some extent it’s a bit distant. It doesn’t affect me on a personal level, in my heart or gut. And this is probably true enough for many Canadians unle...
The search for an old contemptible
Memoirs

The search for an old contemptible

It all started with a random tweet. My first inclination had been to ignore it because rule No. 1 on Twitter, as a journalist, is to avoid being baited personally. The sender, however, did not appear to be an aggrieved reader, nor a partisan hack with an axe to grind. She also didn’t appear crazy, something which surprisingly comes through loud and clear even with only 140 characters. What followed was a long, direct message exchange that opened a window on the past; a portion of family history my grandmother had skillfully edited out of our collective consciousness. Tapping the iPhone keys on that long, cold December night, it quickly became apparent I was connected with family in Britain I did not know existed; smart, warm, compassionate people whom it’s become a privilege to know. T...
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