Portraits Of A Farewell

"Flying through a monsoon is something you only want to do once in a lifetime. Honest, Don, they are grim. If it was just the rain it wouldn’t be too bad, but those damn clouds have so many winds and air currents going in about 80 different ways that it is only by the grace of God that the wings stay on." Warrant Officer William Rogers was 22 when he wrote those words in a letter to his younger brother, Don. Seventeen days after writing the letter–on June 21, 1945–Rogers and five other Canadian airmen died when the military transport plane they were on crashed in the Burmese jungle, probably because of severe monsoon weather (Recovery In The Jungle, March/April). Almost 52 years later–on March 5, 1997–the remains of the six airmen were buried together in a teak casket in the Taukkyan...

In A Grandfather’s Footsteps

by Dan Black On Nov. 22, 1916, my grandfather was lying in the mud near the recently captured Regina Trench north of Courcelette, France. For as far as the eye could see, the land surrounding the farmboy from Almonte, Ont., had been blown apart and turned into a virtual morass of mud, slime and decay. It did not seem likely that the plows would ever work the earth again or that the wheat would ever rise again. The 22-year-old private with the 73rd Battalion of the Royal Highlanders of Canada was suffering from a compound fracture to his right leg, the result of being hit by shrapnel from a high-explosive shell. During the six previous weeks, my grandfather spent part of the time crouched under a rubber groundsheet while trying to get out of the icy rain. Other time was spent on...

The Germany Zone

by Dan Black Thomas Andrews is tired, but he’s not ready to shut it down for the night. The 72-year-old Legion zone commander is sitting behind the wheel of his parked Nissan station-wagon. It’s well past midnight, and you’d think he’d want to say good night and head up to his room in the small German hotel across the street. But no, he wants to talk some more about what The Royal Canadian Legion is doing in a country that was our enemy through two world wars. Andrews says he met delegates at this year’s dominion convention in Toronto who were quite surprised when he told them the Legion had three branches in Germany. "They didn’t know of our existence, let alone what we do over here." Removing his glasses, Andrews continues to talk as he rubs the dark semicircles under his ...

The BCEL At 75

by Tom MacGregor "This conference has taken on more the nature of a pilgrimage to the site of our founding," Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh told delegates to the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League conference in Cape Town, South Africa. "I could almost feel (the founders’) presence during the opening ceremony." Those founders were members of veterans organizations in Great Britain, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Transvaal and Natal who came together to form the original British Empire Services League in Cape Town in February 1921. But if this was a pilgrimage, it was not one to remember deeds long-past or mourn those who had died in their youth. The Feb. 25 to March 1 meeting was a tribute to the survivors, who have kept on caring about their comrades l...

Neglected In South Africa

by Tom MacGregor Private W.J. Ross of the Royal Canadian Regiment died in Cape Town, South Africa, March 6, 1900. However, his final resting place remains a mystery to Tony Gordon and fellow members of South Africa’s British War Graves Committee. Like most Canadian casualties of the South African War, or what we usually call the Boer War in Canada, Ross died of disease and his name was duly recorded on the Field Force Casualty Lists. Those lists have formed the starting point for committee members trying to match each name with a grave. In Ross’s case, the committee believes it has finally located the right cemetery, but not the exact location of his plot. The search for the grave has pinpointed the Cape Town suburb of Wynberg, where tucked among towering high-rises and dens...

To Burma And Beyond

by Mac Johnston You seldom hear the phrase ‘the Far East’ these days, but during WW II it was a significant theatre for our military, involving more than 10,000 Canadians in many roles. That’s why Veterans Affairs Canada conducted a Far East pilgrimage from Nov. 28 to Dec. 14, 1995. Organized under the Canada Remembers program, it was the last major event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of WW II. Diversity abounded in this theatre. The Royal Canadian Air Force was a major player, providing two transport squadrons–435 and 436–that supplied the British 14th Army as it drove the Japanese out of India and Burma (now Myanmar) in 1944 and ‘45. A number of individual Canadians served with the 14th Army, including Major Charles Hoey of Duncan, B.C., who was awarded the...



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!