When my father enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in July, 1942, my parents decided to marry immediately, before he went into basic training. They’d been engaged for over a year, but had postponed their wedding because of the war, and also because my mother would have to resign from teaching once she married. But now they couldn’t wait any longer. As my mother told me, “The future was so uncertain. Nobody knew if there’d even be a tomorrow.”
My parents married on a Saturday at my grandparents’ farm. On Monday morning my mother accompanied my father to Toronto’s Union Station to see him off. Along with hundreds of others in the bedlam that was Union Station that day, they wept as they parted, knowing they might never see each other again.
After my father’s train left, my mother wandered around the city, lost and bereft, unsure what to do. Then she marched to a recruiting office and signed up for the RCAF (Women’s Division). She too was now in for the duration.
My father was sent overseas, but he couldn’t disclose exactly where. His letters were censored and took weeks to arrive. Meanwhile my mother was posted to Halifax. She worked at Operations Headquarters, plotting ships in the harbour. Directions were given her through earphones, by someone she couldn’t see, who addressed her in code. It was all top secret.
As for my father-in-law, he served in the militia from 1932 -1939. He was then on active service with 48th Highlanders of Canada and Canadian infantry Corps, stationed at Camp Borden as an Infantry instructor until 1945. With increasing responsibilites and hard work he rose to the rank of Lieutenant. As a civilian after the war he continued a life of service as President of his Legion. An active participant in school Remembrance Day activities, he also promoted a Legion bursary for graduating high school students. And he wore a kilt again to play in the Legion Pipe Band.
Here’s a memorial to him, part of the Newmarket Veterans Walk of Honour.
My parents and father-in-law were lucky to survive the war when so many thousands didn’t. But because of all who served, whether in the Armed Forces or as civilians working for the war effort on the home front, I’m even luckier. I’ve had the privilege of living in a free and democratic country my whole life, and so far have never experienced war.
I can only hope that my children and their children and their children’s children will be so blessed. I am very grateful to those who served in the past and those who do so today. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
May the whole world someday live in freedom and peace.