Cliff Chadderton lost part of himself on the battlefield, but found a calling.
A veteran of the Allied D-Day landing in Europe, Mr. Chadderton, at age 25, commanded a company of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles battling for the Scheldt estuary in Belgium and the Netherlands. By this time in the European theatre – the autumn of 1944 – it had become urgent for the Allies to clear both banks of the Scheldt waterway to open the port of Antwerp to Allied shipping.
By Nov. 8, the Allies had finally cleared the port areas, at a cost of nearly 13,000 casualties, half of them Canadians. Young Lieutenant Chadderton was lucky. At the Leopold Canal, an enemy grenade sent chunks of shrapnel in all directions but took only half of his right leg, below the knee.
Sitting in a slit trench alongside the regimental padre, “I saw a German up above drop a grenade on me,” he recounted in his dictated memoirs, Up Close and Personal.
“And that’s all I remembered.”
As he recounted in Faces of War, a collection of veterans’ reminiscences, “I should have died right there,” adding, with a grin, “hell, I stepped one foot into Holland, and left it there.”
For him, the war was over, “and I must say in all honesty that it was a feeling of great relief to realize that my role was over. But, thank God, I didn’t get it on D-Day. I had my four months in and that was fine. I figured I had done what I was paid to do, I guess.”
Back home, after several operations, he was fitted with a clunky steel prosthetic, standard for the time, but still “pretty primitive,” noted his stepdaughter, Sandra Richmond. But Mr. Chadderton saw it another way. “I divided my body into parts,” he recounted. “I don’t need my legs, really. I need my head and my head was okay. So with the head, I could go out and challenge the world and find something to do that would be useful.”
Believing strongly that amputees can help each other as no one else, he joined the War Amps, an outfit founded in 1918 by amputee veterans returning home from the First World War. By 1965, Mr. Chadderton was executive secretary, and he led the organization as chief executive officer until 2009.
Known to Canadians as “Mr. Veteran,” he was a visible presence in television ads and at Remembrance Day observances. As the War Amps tribute noted, he was this country’s most influential developer of programs and services for war, civilian and child amputees, and a tireless advocate for veterans.
He was most proud of his work on behalf of children. Mr. Chadderton founded the internationally renowned Child Amputee Program (CHAMP), which assists thousands of amputee children across Canada with the cost of artificial limbs and education, and provides counselling and regional seminars. He also established Playsafe to promote child safety; Matching Mothers, which brings together new and experienced CHAMP families for advice and support; and Jumpstart, which helps multiple-amputee children learn computer skills.
He was also chairman and, at the time of his death, honorary chairman of the 60-member National Council of Veteran Associations. He played key roles in several pieces of legislation that sought to improve the lives of war veterans.
“Canada has lost a great man,” said a statement from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office, “but his legacy will live on in the many people whose lives he has touched.”
Mr. Chadderton was a “truly great Canadian,” Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino said in a statement. “We have lost not only a friend of the veterans’ community, but a strong advocate for those who have served and sacrificed.”
Mr. Chadderton died of pneumonia at an Ottawa veterans’ health centre on Nov. 30. He was 94.
He was born Hugh Clifford Chadderton in May, 1919, in Fort William (later Thunder Bay), to William Chadderton, a war veteran and entrepreneur of Welsh stock, and Gladys Blackburn. The family moved to Winnipeg and in a short time, lived in seven different homes, as best Mr. Chadderton could remember.
Journalism and hockey were his first loves. While attending the University of Manitoba, he worked part-time in reporting and editing jobs at The Canadian Press and the Winnipeg Free Press, and played for the Winnipeg Rangers hockey team – the farm team for the New York Rangers (his family says he played one game in the NHL).
He enlisted in October, 1939, but as a player for the military’s Royal Winnipeg Rifles hockey squad. “I didn’t join as a military guy at all,” he explained. “I had been playing, and that’s really why I got into the army, but it wasn’t for military reasons at all.”