Posts Tagged ‘war’

Every Remembrance Day, for as long as I can remember, I spent with my Dad. Whether it was at a Cenotaph, in an arena or auditorium, or beside a sickbed; I was with my Hero… my Dad at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. This year, I will stop at the appointed time and take pause with 2 minutes of silence & reflection to remember, but this year will be different. I will be on my own. I will be remembering my Dad.

Dad enlisted before he had turned 18 and fought in the 2nd World War and in Korea. He served in Canada, Britain, the Central Mediterranean Area, Northwest Europe and the Far East. I now cherish the medals and decorations he was the recipient of. His documents say they are the 1939-45 Star, Italy Star, France and Germany Star, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Clasp and War Medal 1939-45, Korea Medal and United Nations Service Medal. He wore them proudly.He was a proud Veteran and taught me well what the day represented. He was a proud Father & Grandfather especially when accompanied by his sons & grandsons who also served our country.


In his civilian life he continued to serve his Country & Community and received the Commemorative Medal marking the 125th anniversary of Confederation. He was also very active in his Legion for many years. In fact, many of our family celebrations took place at the Legion. Today I would like to share an article that my Dad wrote about the Legion in Niagara Falls, ON. It appeared in the Niagara Falls Review in a section called First Words.


The first veterans organization to form in Niagara Falls was known as The Great War Veterans Association. This group came together in 1917. Then in 1925 the many and diverse veterans organizations decided they would be more effective as a single group and The Royal Canadian Legion became a reality, as the Branch 51 indicates Niagara Falls Received the 50 first charter in Ontario.
The Royal Canadian Legion from its beginning was first and foremost about remembrance. The Legion conducts annual services of remembrance in our nations capital and in communities throughout Canada on the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month. These services are in memory and to honour our comrades who made the supreme sacrifice for their country. Every year youth Remembrance Day essay, poster and poem contest are held with the winners, at the national level, being taken to Ottawa for the Nov. 11 service. The Silver Cross Mother representing mothers across Canada who lost sons and daughters during conflict in which our country was involved is sponsored by the Legion.
The first Legion building was on Roberts Street but the longtime home of Branch 51 remembered by many in Niagara was the white frame house on Victoria Ave. at Stamford Street, that was home from 1918 to 1971. In the beginning at our first home, support was provided mainly for veterans as many servicemen and women returning from the First World War suffering from war related illness and wounds were left on their own. It will be a surprise to many that 18 to 20 veterans at one time were housed and fed at Branch 51; there was no other help for our returning heroes.
Through the ensuing years a Second World War and the Korean War there was no shortage of service work on behalf of veterans but it was only a matter of time until we reached out to serve the community at large. In the past 10 years Branch 51 has donated $17,000 a year to the community plus donations from poppy funds and our ladies auxiliary.
A story about the Legion without prominent mention of our Ladies Auxiliary would be remiss; it is the ladies who prepare and serve the delicious dinners at all our social events.
In addition, the ladies have bake sales, fashion shows and craft shows to raise money that is returned to the Legion in millions of dollars annually. Then in their spare time the ladies hold euchre games and help at bingo, it is hard to find an activity at the Legion that they are not involved in. The ladies also offer student bursaries and scholarships from secondary school to university level as well as school of nursing and schools for the handicapped.
The Royal Canadian Legion community assistance goes to many diverse groups but perhaps our favourite has been the youth of our community. We are the major supporter of Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Sea, Army and Air Cadets, as well support is given to YWCA Children’s Camp and Summer Playground, N.F. Summer Playground, Boys and Girls Club, Pee Wee Baseball and Hockey. The second most favoured recipient is our local hospital beginning in the 50s with an ice machine and continuing through the years with cash donations of $25,000 over a five-year period. Branch 51 has donated for such equipment as pre-natal monitors, endoscopy, cat scan, birthday beds and recently we furnished a palliative care room at GNGH.
Branch 51 is proud of our contribution to our country and our community we are not financed by any level of government and in fact have turned down the offer of financial assistance from government. We urge anyone that would like the pleasure of helping their community to consider Legion membership, the Legion have the facilities and structures that enable a member to make a difference in your community and your country.

I am sorry to say that I was unable to date this piece, but can tell you at the time of its writing the Legion was located on Valleyway. This was the only location I remember. I am also sorry to say that the building on Valleyway was sold. My Dad became a member in Port Dalhousie for his remaining years. However, there are still lots of healthy, thriving Legion Branches in the cities we all live in now. Like my Dad, I would encourage you to consider Legion membership and the opportunity to make a difference in your community.

Thank you Dad… for everything. I will remember.

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Today is the 11th day of the 11th month. At 11am I was with my Dad participating in Remembrance Day services. My Dad is my “Hero”. The following is a story he wrote years ago for the “Humour In Uniform” section of Readers Digest. I would like to share this with you. My copy is hand written and I will type it out without any editing.

17 Year Old William Duncan Gillies

17 Year Old William Duncan Gillies

It all began in 1939, a war erupted, I was underage when I enlisted (seventeen) so the first three months my duty was guarding the locks of the Welland Canal, then six months of basic training.  Training can become boring so I volunteered for the Pipes & Drums of the number two training depot stationed at Camp Borden.

This was an enjoyable time, we practised daily and took part in parades for War Bond Drives where the local residents fed & treated us royally.  When in camp the retreat ceremony was one of our duties this was an interesting and colorful performance that ended with the lowering of the flag to conclude the day.

During all the guarding, training, and parading I followed the progress of the war with great interest, in particular the exploits of the British Tank Corps and the German Panzer Divisions.  My interest was whetted to the point that I decided when I was old enough my service would be as an adventurous tank driver.

So it was in mid 1940 a notice was posted on the bulletin board the 11th C.A.R. (Ont. Tank Regt.) wanted volunteers.  At last my dream had come true.  I was in a tank troop.  Imagine my surprise when on my very first day the Sergeant said I could drive!  The troop assembled in groups of five (a tank crew).  Four men formed a square and the tank commander (a Sgt.) took his place in the center.  It was then my balloon was punctured.  The Sergeant turned to me and with a slight smile on his face ordered,

“Driver Advance!”

There were no tanks in Canada we trained on foot.


Submitted by

 Wm. (Bill) Gillies

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ThankyouThank you for reading my blog.

We Canadians are famous for our politeness. We throw around “Excuse me”, “I’m sorry”, “Please”and “Thank you” with abandon. It’s like it’s second nature for us. Maybe that is because it is second nature for us. We could be known for worse things! However, our common use of these polite phrases can make us take them for granted.

At a recent seminar entitled “Knocking Down Silos”, www.realhumanbeing.org the speaker, Dave Howlett, guides us to become “Real Human Beings” (RHB). Among the several insights he offers on the road to becoming an RHB is this challenge. Over a period of five weeks, send out two thank you cards each week. That means you have to actually buy 10 thank you cards. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive. It means you have to buy 10 stamps (remember those?). You have to actually write something in the card and mail it. The key is to make them sincere and specific. Send them to people who have made a difference in your life. This seemed like a simple task and I was eager to tackle it. There are many people in my life that made a difference and when I really thought about it, I had neglected to let them know that. The results were astounding!

As I wrote my first couple of cards I found myself pouring out feelings of gratitude I had never put into words. I scribbled out mistakes and created words (no spell check here) and made a decision to mail them as I wrote them, errors and all. I can’t tell you the sense of fulfillment that came over me as I dutifully mailed these cards. If the results stopped there, it would have been enough. That’s not what happened. I received an overwhelming response. Every card I mailed was gratefully acknowledged, read and re-read, and cherished by its recipient. My 87-year-old father received the second card I wrote. Now, my father knows I love him and I know he loves me. We tell each other every time we talk. This veteran of wars, marriages, and life phoned me in tears, overwhelmed by this card. He talks about it constantly and shows it to everyone who will let him (he’s really not one you can say “no” to). He has insisted on displaying it at his wake (hopefully not too soon).

How can such a simple gesture mean so much to people? My theory is that you have acknowledged their contribution to you, and too many people go unacknowledged for anything. Needless to say, I have long ago seen the end of my original obligatory 10 cards. I continue to send out “thank you” cards on a regular basis. It’s a simple thing but I am always rewarded with a smile, a hug or just a “thank you”.

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