Tag Archives: veterans

World War I Reunion 1987

63rd-battery-1987-veterans reunion LFP.
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Battery mates knock back last one

Treasured jug becomes casualty of final reunion

By Pat Currie, London Free Press

With reverence, Bill Davis cracked the seal on a carefully preserved bottle of 51-year-old whisky Thursday [Sept. 25, 1987] and tipped out shots for himself and three old buddies.

“This is it. There won’t be any more,” said Davis as he clinked glasses with Walter Allsop, Walter Day and George Parker.

Davis wasn’t talking about the bottle of whisky in this bittersweet moment at the Grosvenor Club on a bright September afternoon.

It was the 67th and final reunion of the 63rd Battery.

Davis, 88, Walter Allsop, 91, and Walter Day, 89, all of London, and George Parker, 89, of Sarnia tipped their glasses and drank a final toast to Bill Riseborough, 90, of Goderich, who couldn’t attend, and to all their dead comrades of long ago as trumpeter Earl Todd sounded the Last Post.

1921 was 1st reunion of 63rd Battery

“There will be no more reunions, at least not as a unit,” said Davis, who could recall Toronto in 1921 when 600 attended the first reunion of the London-based depot battery that supplied trained gunners and drivers to the Canadian artillery on the voracious western front.

“It’s gradually slipped,” Davis said of the number attending the annual reunion down the long years. In 1978, at Blenheim, only eight of the old-timers were on hand.

The carefully hoarded bottle of Seagram’s Crown Royal was set aside at a battery reunion at the old Hotel London in 1936.

“The stipulation was that it wouldn’t be opened until the reunion of the last four or five members,” Davis said. “This is it.”

The four who gathered Wednesday with a handful of friends and relatives are all old men. All, except Parker, spent time on the western front in 1917-18.

All are deaf to some degree, perhaps as a result of the crash of howitzers across the mud of Flanders.

The Western Front

“I was there – everything from Passchendaele to the armistice in 1918. I was in Mons the day after the war ended,” said Day. I never expected I’d be sitting down at a reunion in 1987. But then, I never thought that even last year.”

Allsop said he “started at Vimy and went right through.”

How was it?

“Oh, good and bad.”

The manpower shortage was so bad in late 1917 that Davis and his draft were shipped out of Halifax on Dec. 1 after only one week of what was supposed to be a two-week quarantine. Five days later, an ammunition ship exploded in the harbour, killing 1,630 people.

“We were supposed to still be there,” Davis said.

Parker admits he got only as far as England but there, he says, “I learned to roller skate.”

His combat was limited to a trip to Dublin “where we all ended up in jail.”

Bob Symington, a nephew of Davis and a Sarnia justice of the peace, drove Parker to London for the reunion.

When the glasses were recharged with what Davis called “sipping’ whisky,” Symington proposed the toast: “We’ll all meet again in 20 years.”

Replied Parker: “Not unless some of you young fellows change your ways.”

1936 Seagrams Crown Royal

Davis said the group had planned one toast, then would decide on the fate of the remainder of the bottle of 1936 whisky. But it soon became apparent the bottle was about to become a certified casualty of the day.

Davis said the bottle – “they don’t make them like this any more” – had been sought avidly by a distillery representative.

“I’m going to give to the RCR (Royal Canadian Regiment) Museum …

… was opening that bottle, all I could think of was all the fellows who have passed on.

“I feel it in my bones, I know I’m going to be the last guy.”

Mom clipped this article out of the London Free Press in September 1987. However, she missed part of the conclusion on the other side of the page. That’s why there’s a bit missing at the end of my transcript.

So I don’t know who felt it in his bones that he’d be the last guy alive. But from what I found out about these men, maybe it was Bill Davis. Here’s what I learned googling them:

William Carlton Davis, Driver, Reg. No. 334049

wm-c-davis-exeter-ont-findagraveBill Davis was born June 29, 1899 in Exeter in Huron County, Ontario, son of Ellen and Arthur Silas Davis. His attestation papers give printer as his occupation. He married Ruth H. Hills. He died in 1996, aged 96 or 97. The troopship he sailed on from Halifax, just before the explosion, was the White Star Line’s SS Megantic. She went out of service in July 1931.

Walter George Day, Gunner, Reg. No. 334125

Walter Day’s attestation papers say he was born in 1895. This article says he’s 89, making his birth year 1898. Perhaps he made himself older when he enlisted. His papers list his occupation as farmer. He died in 1990. An online genealogy of his wife’s family says, “On January 15, 1917 Walter enlisted with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force with the 63rd Artillery Battery… While in Europe he was involved with the battle at Vimy Ridge.”

George William Parker, Sgt. Reg. No. 3132758

George Parker was born in 1897 in Watford, Lambton County. His occupation is farmer on his enlistment papers. He died in 1990. The Lambton County Museum website says, “William and Sarah [Parker]’s son George served in the 63rd Battery in World War I where they used horses to pull big guns into position. When he returned from the war, he began working at Mueller’s Brass Foundry in Sarnia. Despite having only a Grade 8 education, he became President of the company. He also had a farm at Lot 28, Con. 1 SER.”

George Walter Allsop, Gunner, Reg. No. 333829

Walter Allsop was born in 1896 in Toronto. His parents Charles and Matilda lived on Askin Avenue in London when he enlisted in 1915. His occupation was given as printer. I found reference to a marriage that might be his. If so, he married Madeline Mabel McCullough, on September 23, 1922 in Middlesex County, Ontario.

William James Riseborough, Driver, Reg. No. 334338

William-James-Riseborough-gatheringourheroes.caBill Riseborough was born in 1899 in Blenheim, Chatham-Kent in Ontario. His parents were Elizabeth and George William Riseborough. He was a student at the time he enlisted.

That is all I could find out about these five men. Their attestation papers are at Library and Archives Canada. And the Seagrams bottle? The RCR Museum at Wolseley Barracks in London doesn’t yet have a full listing online of their artifacts. I took a virtual tour of their WWI display (in Gallery) but did not see it.

63rd Battery, CFA CEF

recruiting poster 63rd-Battery-London-Ont-iwm.org_.uk_collectionsThe 63rd Battery was based in London and Petawawa, Ontario. It was part of the Canadian Field Artillery of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Organized in March 1916, absorbed by No. 1 Artillery Depot in Oct. 1918, it disbanded on 1 Nov. 1920.

I am so glad my mother kept this article. It was a joy to read and to get to know these men a bit. Also humbling. Especially Mr. Allsop’s assessment of going “right through” from Vimy Ridge to the end as “oh, good and bad.” To their descendants, you have good reason to be proud. Thank you, Drivers Davis and Riseborough, Gunners Day and Allsop, and Sgt. Parker.

poppy photo d stewartLest We Forget

100 years ago today, the guns fell silent at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  After four years and three months of war. 1,564 days. Nearly 60,000 of about 620,000 in the Canadian Expeditionary Force died in battle.

Code Talkers

youtube code talkers-white house
L-R: Fleming Begaye, Donald Trump, Thomas Begay, Peter MacDonald, Nov. 27/17

In the early part of World War II, the enemy was breaking every military code that was being used in the Pacific. This created a huge problem for strategizing against the enemy. Eventually a suggestion was made in early 1942 to use the Navajo language as a code.

The Marine Corps recruited 29 young Navajos, not telling them what they are being recruited for because this was a top secret operation. They were just asked ‘you wanna join the Marines? You wanna fight the enemy? Come join the Marines.’ Then they were separated from all the rest of the Marines. Took them to a top secret location. That’s where they created a military code to be used in the Pacific.

After creating 260 code words, the 29 young Marines – half of them were sent overseas to join the 1st Marine Division. On August 7th 1942, 1st Marine Division hit the beaches of Gaudalcanal. This was the first battle where the Navajo code was to be tested in actual battle.

Three weeks after the landing, General Vandegrift, Commander of the 1st Marine Division, sent word back to United States saying, this Navajo code is terrific. The enemy never understood it, he said. We don’t understand it either, but it works. Send us some more Navajos. So that opened up the gate for United States Marine Corps San Diego to start recruiting more and more Navajos, using the same tactics.

The 13 of us, we still have one mission. That mission is to build National Navajo Code Talker Museum. We want to preserve this unique World War II history for our children, grandchildren, your children, your grandchildren.

Why? Because what we did truly represents who we are as Americans. America, we know, is composed of diverse community. We have different languages, different skills, different talents, and different religion. But when our way of life is threatened, like freedom and liberty that we all cherish, we come together as one. And when we come together as one, we are invincible.

-Peter MacDonald, Sr., Navajo Code Talker

This is part of what Peter MacDonald Sr. said at the White House on Monday. Mr. MacDonald, Fleming Begaye and Thomas Begave are Marine Corps veterans of World War II, Navajo Code Talkers. It played on Wednesday’s As It Happens on CBC Radio (beginning of Part 3).

Navajo US Marine Corps code talker recruits, Fort Wingate NM wikicommons
First 29 Navajo US Marine Corps code talker recruits being sworn in at Fort Wingate NM

This was a rare opportunity to hear about the history of the unit directly from those involved. But Mr. MacDonald’s speech didn’t get a lot of television coverage. Yep, President Trump opened his mouth.

So thank you, CBC, for playing this excerpt. It made me go look for the full speech, which I found on Real Clear Politics – both transcript and video.

Homeless Companions

From St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 4, 2013. Reposted in honour of US Memorial Day and Harold Palmquist, a US veteran who is biking across the country with his dog to raise money for homeless vets and their pets.

homeless man and dog in phone booth RO_B_new_Bucharest_apartment-photo-Miehs-wikicommonsPlease God, I have never had to beg on the street and I’ve never been homeless.  I don’t know how I’d look after myself, let alone a dog or cat. But people do; they survive on the streets of even the coldest cities, and many do so with a pet.

I have had to carefully parcel out funds so that rent was paid and my cat and I had something to eat. A student promotion credit card was our lifesaver, if a month’s supply of money ran out before the days did. The cat and I ate some odd meals – whatever I could find in the limited food section of Woolworth’s. Grocery stores did not accept credit cards then. Fortunately for us, those times were not frequent.

Amazon link for A Street Cat Named Bob
Click to see on Amazon

For some people and their animals, it’s a more regular occurrence. Today, on CBC Radio’s The Current (sorry, story no longer available), the stories of some people perhaps marginalized by society but not by their companion animals. James Bowen, whose cat helped him out as a busker and now as an author. As he said, thanks to Bob the cat, he now pays income tax. A woman whose cat keeps her off crack. A woman in Edmonton who started a pet food bank, with donation bins in pet stores and a system for getting the food to those who need it. And a University of Colorado sociologist who has talked to homeless pet owners and written a book called My Dog Always Eats First.

Amazon link for My Dog Always Eats First: Homeless people and their animals
Click to see on Amazon

That book’s author, Dr. Leslie Irvine, talks about homelessness being a “master status” in our society. That means that it overrides all other statuses that a person holds. Those may be “ascribed” such as gender or ethnicity or “achieved” such as profession or educational level. Whether a holder of an advanced degree or a high school dropout, a person sleeping in a doorway is seen only as ‘homeless person’. And you’re not likely to even think to ask what else a panhandler is as you drop your change in his or her cup.

But there is another master status, I think, that people ascribe to themselves:  that of “pet owner”. As one, I will go over and talk to a “homeless person” if he or she is accompanied by pet. I see the animal and want to make contact with him or her, and therefore the person as well. This is not to suggest that homeless people should get pets in order to improve their chances on the street.

Accommodating people and their service or pet animals has caused real problems for many shelters trying to be inclusive. Dog fights, fleas, provision for people with allergies and abandonment of animals in the shelter are some that I remember from a radio documentary I heard a few years ago (sorry, can’t find a link).

Dog in animal shelter in Washington, Iowa, Nhandler WikicommonsBut for many of us, homeless and homed, our pets are solace and friendship, providing someone else for us to think about and care for. And every dog, cat or guinea pig living happily with their person on the street is one less unwanted animal needing rescue or dying from neglect.

Living “Equipment”

canine members of armed forces -Augustine G Acuna, Scout Dog, Vietnam Combat ArtArmed Forces Day in the US is the 3rd Saturday in May, honouring those who protect and defend. But what of Military Working Dogs, important contributors to any country’s defence?

Below is a May 2012 email from the ASPCA. With so many touching photos online of present-day K9 teams, who knew this was still the case? I thought the US Armed Forces long ago stopped treating military animals as equipment to be left behind or destroyed. So, please, if you are in the US, email your senators*. If you aren’t, please publicize this and also maybe check into your own military’s practices. I couldn’t find much information on the Canadian Armed Forces, only a couple interesting articles on bomb-sniffing dogs in Afghanistan here.

(ASPCA) Help the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act

Each branch of the Armed Forces uses military working dogs (MWDs) in service to the country. Many of these intelligent, loyal animals serve alongside our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they have prevented countless injuries and saved lives.

Unfortunately, these heroic dogs are currently classified as “equipment” by the U.S. Department of Defense. This classification not only trivializes these animals’ contributions, it also makes it difficult to transport dogs serving in foreign lands back to the United States for adoption once they’re ready for civilian life.

The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act will remedy this issue by reclassifying MWDs as “canine members of the armed forces” and instituting programs to assist with their placement and veterinary care after retirement from service—all without using federal funds. This legislation seems like a no-brainer, and yet the bill has only seven cosponsors in the Senate.

Dogs for Defense Save Lives logoWe need to generate greater support for the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act in the U.S. Senate. Please visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center online right now to email your two U.S. senators in Washington, D.C., and urge them to cosponsor the bill.

Thank you, advocates, for standing up for America’s military working dogs.

*Looking for updates on the Bill, all I could find was that it passed, in part, in early 2013. The part reclassifying MWDs as Armed Forces members rather than ‘equipment’ was deleted. That means costs of returning them to the US must be borne by adopters instead of their military service branch. (Republished this US Memorial Day from my St. Thomas Dog Blog, May 24/12.) 

 

Australia honours Smoky

Smoky in helmetAustralia honours Smoky with medalOn July 20, 2012 in Brisbane Australia, Smoky the war dog was awarded posthumously the Australian Defence Force Tracker and War Dog Association medal for military service. At the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, design of ADFTWDA service medalUS Consul General Niels Marquardt accepted the medal on behalf of Bill Wynne, Smoky’s person.

The ADFTWDA Secretary, a tracker team veteran of Vietnam, read a poem in remembrance of all Military Working Dogs, especially those left behind. It is by Connie Chronister:

I Wait By The Gate

In a strange land I was sent, not knowing my fate;

In a pen I was put and I sat by the gate.

I watched and I wondered what do I do now?

Then I looked up and saw you, as you walked up with a smile.

We trained and we worked and I showed you my best;

You rewarded me and petted me and I did the rest.

Through trails and paths and roads we did go;

And I was to smell, for traps that would blow.

Many times I stopped you from ending your life;

From an enemy trap wire that was set to end your life.

Never have I thought that we would ever part;

Because of the love that we had in our hearts.

Oh, I was proud to walk by your side;

With all of your friends and being your guide.

Then one day you put me back into my pen;

You smiled, you petted me, you said, “Goodbye my friend.”

You looked back one more time,

and I saw the tear in your eye;

And I knew it was the last, and was your way of saying goodbye.

German shepherd Prince sits at Washington DC Vietnam MemorialMy life, it so changed when you went back home;

And I stayed behind to a fate still unknown.

It’s been over 30 years since I’ve seen your face;

But I never forgot you, my friend and my mate.

So please don’t worry, I’m waiting by Heaven’s gate;

For my best friend, my brother, but mainly my mate.

War Dog

The tracker dogs who served with the Australian armed forces in Vietnam were not brought back to Australia. They were Caesar, Janus, Juno, Mercian, Mila, Trojan, Cassius, Julian, Justin, Marcus and Tiber. According to an Australian government site, it was because of American military reports of their dogs dying from a disease believed to be transmitted by ticks.

Smoky_statue-Brisbane-12Dec12An accidental soldier, Smoky’s wartime action saved lives and time and, in peacetime, she entertained thousands on stage and television. She also worked her magic in hospital and nursing home visits. Those visits showed the value of a dog in recovery and wellbeing, both physical and psychological, and led to official recognition of therapy dogs.

I hope that she and all the dogs remembered in granite statues and in soldiers’ minds mean that no Military Working Dog will ever again be ‘the soldier left behind’.

Plaque-12Dec12-Smoky war dog 1st PTSS dog Brisbane HospitalThanks to Mr. Wynne for sending me a video of the medal presentation, it was truly lovely.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Aug. 10/12. On Dec. 12, 2012, a statue was unveiled at the Brisbane Hospital in honour of Smoky (photos right and above). The other side of the base reads “Dedicated to all war animals. They also served. Lest we forget.” The story is at Monument Australia with photos by ADFTWDA historian Nigel Allsopp.

 

Yorkie Doodle Update

After I wrote a review of Yorkie Doodle Dandy (St. Thomas Dog Blog, April 2012), I got a lovely email from author Bill Wynne. 

 Yorkie Doodle author Bill Wynne with Yorkie in Cleveland parkThank you so much for the wonderful review of my memoir about my dog Smoky… I’m working a on a second book because YDD has been popular and resulted in many diverse things happening. Among them, some readers asking for another book. It will be “Angel in a Foxhole:  Yorkie Smoky and Her Friends.”

Below is what is happening currently with our 69 year old hero:

A British TV company will record an interview in Cleveland Ohio, for “SUPER TINY PETS” broadcast, at the Smoky Memorial to be aired in the U.K. May 9, 2012

Smoky will have a memorial in Brisbane Australia within the next month or two. There are six memorials for her in the U.S.A. The following is part of the program that will be printed for a Smoky memorial dedication in Brisbane Australia.

Smoky-with-wounded-soldiersThrough the encouragement of Nigel Allsopp, one of Australia’s foremost animal advocates and dog experts, Smoky is to be honored by the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital on an original site where she medically served at a U.S. Military Hospital in 1944.  I am so proud that she is to be remembered here, the land of our close WWII Ally and in the city of her birth. Unwittingly we began the animal therapy movement which has proven its benefits for many of the maladies brought on during war and peace throughout the world. Smoky led the way, performing her special magic. Helping cure those in need in the unique way that therapy dogs are so innocently capable of doing. “Smoky is the First Therapy Dog of Record” (from Animal Planet, research)

Smoky Too beside pile of Smoky books
Click for larger view

My sincere thanks to the Board and Staff of Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for establishing this memorial. To the Australian Army Forces who participated in the ceremony honoring ” WWII’s smallest soldier,” thank you…

See attached photo for many publications inspired by YDD. This photo was taken last Sept [with Smoky Too]. There are 11 publications out since.

Sincerely, Bill Wynne

Thank you, Mr. Wynne, for keeping the memory of this little dog – soldier, therapist and entertainer – alive. What makes Smoky so remarkable is that she was truly a Renaissance Dog – she did it all. By honouring her, we remember and honour them all.   Military dogs, guide dogs, therapy dogs, search dogs, sled dogs – all working and service dogs, as well as those who simply excel at being our best friends. (From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, June 7/12)

 

Yorkie Doodle Dandy

Click to buy on Amazon

I don’t know much about WWII, and even less about the American campaign in the South Pacific. I learned a lot, and felt it, reading about a Yorkshire Terrier. William Wynne’s book about his dog Smoky takes you to the war with him. He explains it so clearly, the geography of battle, the military sorties and the day-to-day existence of the soldiers.

Military history was not his purpose in writing Yorkie Doodle Dandy: A memoir. It is about a dog he acquired in New Guinea while stationed there as an aerial photographer. One part of the story of how Smoky came to be with Bill really struck me. Another soldier found the tiny dog alongside a road, trying to get out of a foxhole. He didn’t like dogs, but he couldn’t leave this little scrap of a being to fend for herself. He brought her back to camp even though he wasn’t even remotely tempted to keep her. That, in an environment where death, killing and suffering are part of everyday life, is the act of a truly good man.

26th photo recon squadron logoWhen Smoky came to Bill soon after, he did basic obedience training with her for her own safety. Then, out of boredom and seeing how quickly she learned and enjoyed it, he began teaching her tricks. She became a star performer, providing entertainment for his mates and putting on shows for troops and in hospitals for wounded soldiers. While not an official war dog, she performed military duty, becoming a mascot of his squadron and given the honourary rank of corporal. She logged many hours of flight time, in reconnaissance and combat missions. Yorkshire Terrier Smoky in her specially made war coatHer most important military action was pulling telephone wire 60 feet through a drainage pipe. It took her minutes to do what would have taken men days.

Back in the USA

He brought her back to the States where she became a celebrity both as a war dog and performer. With Bill’s wife Margie, they spent time in Hollywood in the movie dog training business. He tells us about kennels and trainers known to all of us who love watching dogs in movies. They returned to Ohio when Bill was offered an aerial photography job in NACA (National Advisory Memorial to Smoky and war dogs in Cleveland 2005Committee on Aeronautics), later NASA. But performing was in Bill and Smoky’s blood. They entertained in circuses, hospital wards, stage shows and on their own live television show. She also was the first therapy dog on record due to her work with wounded soldiers and later in US hospitals.

Yorkshire Terriers were not common in the US at that time and, with her, Bill became involved in dog shows and the Yorkshire Terrier Club of America. Smoky lived to a good old age, happy and pampered and forever the star, also forever the war hero. There are monuments to her for her war work and her irrepressible spirit of fun.

The greatest tribute to her is this wonderful memoir about her life by a man Bill Wynne accepting PDSA bravery award for Smokywho deeply loved her. It also is a tribute to the soldiers who loved and protected their official and unofficial war dogs. He tells of the extraordinary measures they took to make sure their animals were part of ‘bringing the boys home.’ He didn’t intend the book as such, but it’s also a testament to him – a good man and a great veteran. Thank you, Mr. Wynne, for sharing your war and your dog with us.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, April 26, 2012