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Archive for November 10th, 2008

Remembrance

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day here in Canada. At the 11th hour of the 11th month we will commemorate the 90th anniversary of the end of the first world war and remember those who fought and those who died in all of Canada’s military history.

This day is poignant to me since my father was a navigator with RAF bomber command during the second world war. He flew 21 missions in a heavy bomber with 625 Squadron out of Kelstern in Lincoln. He was shot down by a Nazi nightfighter in the winter of 1945, captured, and became a POW. In April 1945 he and one of the gunners from his plane escaped and evaded being recaptured until they reached allied lines. And he did all that before he was 25 years old. I know that he was proud of his many accomplishments after his return to Canada: his career as a Doctor of Optometry, his marriage, his children, his place in society and everything else that followed. However, I always had the impression that to him it was all an anti-climax compared to his contribution to fighting fascism in the 1940s.

He died of complications due to Parkinson’s disease just about six years ago. I remember him and his contribution every day, but particularly on November 11th. Cass and I will go to RVYC where they will have a ceremony and a wreath laying in honour of our veterans’ contributions. This all seems more current with the casualties our Canadian forces have suffered in Afghanistan this year.

My father became best friends with the gunner that he escaped with: Joe Williams. Their friendship spanned the decades from the war until my father’s death and included several visits back and forth between Europe and North America. I had the privilege to go with them to Czechoslovakia in 1988 to visit the site where their plane crashed. In 1983 Joe wrote a detailed account of their war experience including their escape and visits to europe to try to see where they had been in 1945. It’s a compilation of three accounts entitled “A Timely Reminder”, “No Turning Back” and “Death of a Warbird, Sequel”. They’re reproduced here with permission of the author. It’s long, but if you have an interest in this period of history it’s a fascinating first hand account.

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