Whether we like it or not, war is a prominent aspect in many of our family histories. My own history includes Americans on both sides of the Civil War, WWI and WWII vets, Mormons at war, and, if some family rumours are to be believed, some of the Natives they were at war with. It is, for the most part, not a proud history. While the world wars are perhaps digestable, other ancestral military engagements are far harder to defend. Regardless, they are an undeniable part of our history - we cannot tell the true story of our family without including the tales of our many soldiers. Part One of the War Stories series focuses on the one (and probably only) war we can all agree was necessary : WWII.
Frederick, born 1917, was the grandfather I never knew. My mom's father, he passed away 9 years before I was born. He worked for the Canadian Postal Service for much of his life, but also served in the war. He was notoriously silent about it, so everything we know about his experience is learned through the history of his division, and the ship he sailed on.
Fred was a Private for the Queen's Own Cameron regiment in WWII. The regiment's own website describes their part in the war thusly:
In April 1940 the Cameron turned in their kilts, and the new battledress trousers and jackets were issued. They would not fight in the traditional highland garb as had their fathers twenty-five years earlier. On 24 May, the Battalion moved to Camp Shilo, Manitoba. At Shilo, unit training from section to battalion level took place as well as brigade exercises. The 2nd Battalion was formed as a component of the reserve army. By late August it was almost at full strength. Its role throughout the war was that of home defense and reinforcement training.
The 1st Battalion embarked for overseas on 16 December 1940, arriving in the UK on Christmas Eve. At Cove, Hampshire the Battalion was assigned a defensive task adjacent to the Aldershot area.
While it must be stressed that this is pure speculation, it is believed that Frederick was part of Operation Jubilee - a battle in which the Canadians were harshly defeated. The ship SS Louis Pasteur carried 807 of the Queen's Own to battle, and by its end, saw 160 killed, and more than half wounded, my grandfather likely among them with a bullet wound to the back. He would have returned home as a casualty in late 1942.
George Alexander Stalker, my great-grandfather, enlisted on June 26, 1940. A Gunner for the 1st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, George likely would have been involved in several intense battles. The regiment., under the designation "Lanark and Renfrew Scottish Regiment", served as home defence as part of the Atlantic Command
, and later, as the 1st L.A.A., in the Allied Invasion of Italy. In 1945, they were moved to North-West Europe, and officially disbanded later that year.
My great-grandfather did not talk much about the war, but he did hold on to material memories of his time there. His stripes, war photo, pay-books (he made a whopping $50/mo.), and various related IDs remain to this day.