NWORA Remembrance Vol.4 - NE99


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Page 71 of 97

Forget-me-not Remembrance Vol.4 67 O ur Dad was born in 1897 and we were three sons, Noble (1921), Hugh (1934) and me (1937) thus he was 40 when I came along. 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WW1 an event that helped shape our family as well as the lives of many other Canadian families and as we all know the battle for Vimy Ridge among all of the battles became a seminal moment in our country's history. It is therefore important for me to honour him and his contribution to Canada and so perhaps you will indulge my reflections. In a manner typical of veterans, Dad rarely talked about his military experiences in either war but shape him, oh yes most certainly. It goes without saying that all of these important WW1 events in his life happened long before my brothers and I were even a "twinkle…" Much of what I know is from occasional glimpses into his life as a soldier and from his letters home which were saved for us to discover. Dad was on holiday at Wasaga Beach on Georgian Bay when WW1 broke out – he had just turned 17. He and his Dad returned immediately to Toronto only to find out that his twin brothers had already enlisted and in September were off to Valcartier. The entire family rallied around with great enthusiasm and pride as they embarked on what would literally be the singular and tragic adventure of their young lives. They were 1½ years older than Dad, had been in cadets and were newly assigned to the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. Their cousin Henry in Bowmanville had also joined the ranks of the QOR of C. Blessedly for my grandparents, Dad was as yet too young. One twin, Hugh was the first to die in April 1915, he was reported missing and the family had hope that he might have been taken prisoner but all efforts to locate him were dead-ended. His remains were ploughed up by a French farmer in 1921. His brother Noble was KIA in July 1916 and cousin Henry, known as Hal, in October that year. I cannot imagine the grief that my grandparents and their extended family must have endured throughout their lives, a grief shared by thousands of families across Canada as the death toll mounted daily. And then there was our Dad. He turned 18 in June '15 and of course imme- diately joined up. He promised his father that he would be a non-combatant to assuage the family fears for his safety. He was to be a stretcher-bearer but once enlisted, he became an infantryman instead and was soon in England at Camp Sandling, Kent. (photo on the left). He volunteered for machine gun training and was in action in France in early 1916, a Vickers gunner in No.3 MG Company, 3rd Division. These things I know from his letters home. He never complained about his lot only that he was always hungry and grateful for the food parcels from Canada. The photos home show his transformation from recruit to hardened veteran. Remembering Our Dad By David Sproule

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