Before too long, his daily traverse was noticed by the Windsor Star, and they ran a story about it. When the reporter asked him why he did it, he said he was accustomed to long walks in adverse conditions due to the many forced marches he was subjected to during his tenure as a WWII POW. It turns out that he was in the force that landed at Dieppe, and on the same day they landed, was taken prisoner, and spent the next 3 years in a series of German POW camps. This was the first time I learned of his war experience. I would have been about 18 or 19 at the time, the same age he was when taken prisoner.
Not long after that he died, while barely in his 50s. It was then that I found out that he had chosen to battle his demons with alcohol, falling prone to addiction at a fairly early age.
That explained his moods and made me think about the horrible paradox of his life - and likely the lives of many more veterans: the war had defined him and destroyed him at the same time. The events of one single day shaped the rest of this man’s life. In one day, an18-year-old was yanked from the sunny optimism of youth, thrown into the darkest possible horrors of manhood, and was kept in that black hole of humiliation and deprivation for 3 long years.
So even though we ‘won’ the war, even though he came home a hero and by all appearances settled into ‘normal’ family life, he never stopped being a prisoner, first of the camps, then of his memory, and ultimately of the bottle. He sacrificed his soul so that my generation would not have to. I never thanked him for that. I wish I had.
Jeff Calvert - North Vancouver, B.C.
This isn't your typical family war story...
In the mid-90s, I took a trip to Europe to visit Vimy (as well as friends in London and Amsterdam) and found myself with time on my hands and a car, so went to Dieppe as well. On my return, I bumped into my grandparents at my aunt's house. I mentioned to them that I'd just come back from Vimy and Dieppe. My grandfather said that there was some relation of my grandmothers who was buried in the Canadian cemetery at Dieppe, where I had been 2 days earlier.
I was surprised I'd never heard this before. I tried to query my grandfather about him but he mumbled something and walked away. I asked my grandmother and got nothing.
Later, I asked my mom about it. She said that she didn't know the whole story either, but she understood that the family member in question had been such a bastard that nobody had been too upset when he'd been killed in action and it hadn't been spoken of since. It's the dark side of the history of the war, I suppose. It's not all bravery and heroes and good men dying. I'm sure a lot of the men who went to war were wife beaters, child molesters, murderers or rapists and some probably got what was coming to them. Certainly, when wreaths are laid at Dieppe and warriors are remembered and thanked, nobody says "except for that guy, whose family quietly thanked the German soldier who ended their misery."
But I'm sure it happened more than we might think. But I'm also sure, that as in my family, the stories were buried and put away, not to be passed on through the generations.
Patrick Savoy - Toronto, Ont.
I am a Savoy - My Uncle was Major Paul Savoy who died heroically in the raid on Dieppe. His memory lives on through the Savoy foundation and we still honor both him and his cousin (Corporal Pierre Savoy who died in Italy WWII) every year at cenotaph ceremonies in Montreal. Both My grandmother and Great Aunt never missed a commemoration ceremony until their deaths.
Lloyd Williams - Camrose, Alta.
My father, WOII Larry Williams, was the RQMS of the Calgary Tank Regiment. On August 19, 1942 he was in the LST containing the tanks of the commanding officers of the regiment and a platoon of infantry (I think it was the Essex Scottish from the Windsor area of southwestern Ontario). Dad's job would have been to resupply the tanks with ammunition as needed during the raid. He had a jeep and several bogeys of ammunition under his control.
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