He was killed on the shores of Dieppe and is buried in the cemetery in France. My grandmother spent the rest of the war scanning news reels, refusing to believe he was gone. She never remarried. My father was only 3 1/2 when he lost his father so he never really knew him. It affected him his whole life. He died in 1995 and in 1997, while backpacking in Europe, I took some of my father's ashes with me to the cemetery there to inter them with his dad so they could be together in death in a way they never could be in life.
This is an event that had a profound effect on my life and my family and regardless of whether my story is suitable, I greatly appreciate your taking the time to honour this story.
Carol Read - Edmonton, Alberta
My father, Henry Charles Read, and his brother, my uncle, William George Read, from Windsor, Ontario, were both at Dieppe. They were Sergeants with the 11th Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers. As engineers their job in the Dieppe raid was to get into the town, set explosives and blow up their target, I believe it was a factory. They landed at Dieppe in the dark, before sunrise and before the majority of the troops came ashore. The Germans were waiting for them, and there was heavy gunfire and shelling. My uncle was injured shortly after landing. His arm was badly wounded and he was evacuated back to a hospital in England. My dad continued on with other engineers into the town of Dieppe where they set and detonated the explosives, as ordered. Eventually, the word came down the line from the Canadian command that they were to surrender to the Germans. My Dad and a few of his buddies would have nothing of that. As he said, he wasn't going to sit out the rest of the war in a German prisoner of war camp. Instead, they surveyed the land and the beach and found a spot where they 'went into the water'. They waded way out into the English Channel, where a Polish destroyer picked them up a few hours later, and they were returned safely to England.
Will Novosedlik - Toronto, Ont.
I grew up in the 50s and 60s in Windsor, Ontario. The cultural residue of WWII was very fresh in those days. We passed countless hours playing ‘war’ in our backyards and schoolyards. The good guys, of course, were always the Allies and the bad guys were always the Germans; no 'cowboys and indians' for us. All this was reinforced by movies like The Longest Day, and TV shows like Combat! and Hogan's Heroes.
While we kids played out our heroic WWII fantasies on the lawn, our parents were living out the effects of the real thing in the house. It was never talked about in family or neighbourly conversations, and as kids we never really knew what post-war demons our parents may have been struggling with.
Our next door neighbour was a WWII veteran. He was an infantryman in the Essex & Kent Scottish, our local regiment. Like thousands of other young Canadian soldiers still in their teens, he was excited by the prospect of adventure offered by enlistment. I recall seeing a photo of him and a buddy in uniform, just before they shipped out, with big smiles on their faces. They looked like they were going on a boy's weekend, or to a sporting event. Certainly not a war.
I never saw much of him, but when I did, he always seemed angry or depressed. I would mention it to my parents from time to time, but they offered no explanation. They must have considered his story too awful for kids to hear, so responded to my queries with "It's really none of our business." So for a long time I never really understood what was behind his moods.
He was a butcher by trade, and like a lot of other people in Windsor, he worked in Detroit. The shop where he worked was within walking distance of the Ambassador Bridge. His daily routine was to park his car on the Canadian side and then walk across, rather than park on the American side. We all attributed it to the fact that the neighbourhood where he worked was a rough one - it was ground zero for the race riots of 1967. We reasoned that getting your car jacked in a riot zone would make it difficult to claim the insurance, and left it at that.
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