Memories: A telegram, then 'many falling tears'

The Globe and Mail

Norman G. Marler, who was killed in action at the age of 22 in November 1944 over Germany's Ruhr Valley. (Courtesy of Sandra D. Barber)

Sandra Barber’s first memory is of the day her family was informed, via telegram, that her father was missing in action over Germany’s Ruhr Valley. Ms. Barber, who was just a few weeks shy of her fourth birthday, recalls “hearing agonized cries and witnessing many, many falling tears.”

Her father, Norman G. Marler, was a 22-year-old wireless operator and tail gunner in a Lancaster bomber. The oldest of eight, he was born and raised in Toronto, attending Kimberly Public School and Eastern High School of Commerce.

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He was married with two young children, Sandra and Gordon, when he was shot down near the town of Gelsenkirchen on November 9, 1944. Initially buried there, his grave was moved to the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery in Kleve, near the Dutch border, in the late 1940s.

Six decades later, Ms. Barber visited the spot where her father rests, near his crew.

“It was the most humble day of my life,” she says. “Rows and rows of white crosses and headstones bearing the names of all those killed during the war spoke loudly to the major sacrifice that each one made. So young. So brave. So sadly missed.”