True Wartime Service: A Family Story
Russell, John, Wilfred, Lawrence, Eric and Harold.
What do these lads have in common?
Well, let’s start with their last name—True.
All six boys—the sons of Henry and Bertha True of Ottawa—served Canada in time of war. One of them—Wilfred—made the ultimate sacrifice during the Normandy Campaign in the Second World War.
In all, Henry and Bertha had 16 children; 11 sons and five daughters. Two of their sons died within the first year of birth. In addition to the six who served, the Trues had three other boys who were deemed medically unfit for military service.
First to join the military was Russell, in early 1941. When he left home, he was 22 years old and his young wife was pregnant. Russell’s service with the Royal Canadian Engineers took him to CFB Petawawa, Ont., and London, England. When he returned home after the war, his daughter was six years old.
Next to join was John, in March 1941. He was a leading aircraftman and served as a motor mechanic with the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Motor Transport Division. Postings between 1941 and 1946 took John to Labrador, Newfoundland and Ontario.
Third in was Wilfred. He joined in the summer of 1941, but was—according to the family—honourably discharged in October of that year on account of his age—16. That, however, did not keep him out of the war. He re-enlisted in May 1943 and served with the Queen’s Own Rifles. Wilfred landed in France on June 10, 1944, and was killed in action on Aug. 18, 1944, during the fighting to close the Falaise Gap.
The fourth one into uniform was Lawrence, at age 20. He served with the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps but was medically discharged in April 1943 while at Camp Borden in Ontario.
Nineteen-year-old Eric also joined in 1943. He served in Italy and Northwest Europe with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment.
Harold was the sixth boy to join the military. He served with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps and the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps with service in Canada. During the 1950-53 Korean War, he spent 14 months with an airborne field ambulance.
We thank Harold True for sharing this family history of incredible military service. He tells us that his parents were proud, but in constant fear for their boys during the war. Losing Wilfred was very painful, but Henry and Bertha felt luckier than some parents who lost more than one son.
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