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Lives Lived

Ronald Charles Reynolds Add to ...

Veteran of the Dieppe Raid, PoW, husband, father, grandfather. Born Sept. 29, 1919, in Toronto. Died April 18 in Cobourg, Ont., of heart failure, aged 90.

Ron Reynolds almost missed the Dieppe Raid. While stationed in England with Toronto's Royal Regiment, the handsome and high-spirited 22-year-old didn't want for English girlfriends - and often went AWOL to see them. Returning late to camp on May 19, 1942, he found that the regiment was pulling out. After a bawling-out from his sergeant, Private Reynolds was ordered to jump into one of the departing army trucks.

In the early morning of Aug. 19, 1942, Ron crouched in a landing craft as it raced toward Blue Beach, east of Dieppe. The enemy greeted the Royal Regiment with gunfire and mortars. The Royals suffered the worst casualties of any regiment. Ron made it to the seawall and, under intense fire, carried one of his wounded buddies to the far end of the beach. There he discovered that a bullet had gone right through his foot and into his boot.

After the surrender, Ron limped into Dieppe at gunpoint. Only there did he realize how disastrously the raid had failed. He was sent to a hospital in Rouen and eventually to Stalag VIIIB, a PoW camp deep inside Germany. Conditions were harsh, and for more than a year the Canadian prisoners had their wrists shackled as a reprisal for the raid. In the winter of 1945, as the Russians were invading from the east, the PoWs were ordered out into the snow on what would become a death march. Ron quickly became skilled at foraging for food. Later, he escaped from his captors and met up with an Allied unit.

After the war, Ron returned to his family home in Toronto's east end. Like many PoWs he was left troubled by his wartime ordeal, but post-traumatic stress was then little understood. Though he quickly recovered his sunny disposition, he would suffer from nightmares for the rest of his life.

Ron soon resumed the factory job he had first taken at 15 when his father's tuberculosis required him to become the family breadwinner. In 1946, he married Margaret Scougall. They had two children, James and Joyce. In the mid-fifties the family moved to a bungalow in Scarborough, Ont. Ron worked in construction as a welder and steamfitter and was a founding member of the Dieppe Veterans Association. He and Marg eventually retired in Port Hope.

Last February, Ron had to have a leg amputated because of circulation problems. After the operation his normal ebullience soon returned and he was often seen wheeling himself around the hospital, greeting visitors and flirting with the nurses. Sadly, it was not to last, and eight weeks later he died from heart failure.

On Aug. 19, the 68th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid, Marg and her family stood on Blue Beach and scattered Ron's ashes as he had requested in his will.

By Hugh Brewster, author of two books for young readers, Dieppe and Prisoner of Dieppe.

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