As always in the lead-up to Remembrance Day, I find myself thinking
about my Dad, about the brave and honourable man he was, about the sacrifices he made for Canada, and about the wonderful, loving father he
became. I think, too, about my Mom, the separation and uncertainty she
endured during the six long years of World War II, and the overwhelming relief and joy she must have felt when her
soldier, the love of her life, came marching home.
At the end of 1939, Dad enlisted in the Irish Regiment of Canada. He trained at Camp
Borden, north of Toronto, and was based there until his deployment to Europe in 1941. Here's a photo of Mom and
Dad, taken on his last leave. Mom found his midnight pass with its poignant and hopeful "keep
this for me" note, tucked into her pocket after they'd kissed goodbye.
Dad and The Irish served briefly as the Queen's Guard
at Sandringham. Here he is, standing proudly at attention with the Queen and
Princesses Elizabeth and Anne. If you follow stillpoint, you'll have seen this image before. It's one of my favourites. This was a proud moment for Dad, a bright spot in the darkness of war.
Dad's platoon was shelled while on a midnight reconnaissance mission in Italy and he was wounded by shrapnel. As a teenager, twenty years later, I began having nightmares about darkness, explosions, and pain. Only then did Dad share the story of that terrifying night. I can't explain it but we both believed I was somehow reliving his experience in that field in Italy. I described things he'd never shared, not even with Mom. After we talked it out, my nightmares stopped. I'd like to believe Dad's did, too. We never spoke of it again.
After a short stay in a field hospital, Dad returned to active duty and served in Italy until the end of the war. It was a snowy, mid-winter day in Toronto when the Irish Regiment came home. This was my grandparents' house on Norway Avenue, all decked out with flags and bunting. (You can't see it in the picture – and no other photo exists – but Dad was sporting a carefully cultivated strawberry blond handlebar mustache. Mom told him it would have to go if he ever wanted another kiss. Dad claims he'd never shaved so fast in his life!)
Thank you Dad, for all you did and for all you were. And thanks to all the brave men and women who have served and sacrificed for Canada and for peace.
Labels: Canadian Irish Regiment, Dad, family story, history, Remembrance Day, Toronto, WWII