Past blogs here brought you some of that story.
In remembrance to those who fought and in many cases gave their lives, we have a duty. That being to recognize those at the battle front, and those at home that paid so dearly for the freedoms we have. Freedoms, we far too often seem to forget.
Years ago I discovered a grave stone for a veteran who served with my old regiment... the Toronto Scottish. The grave was in the Canada Veterans Affairs cemetery commonly known as God's Acre.
The grave slipped my mind over the years, but when I heard of the Candlelight ceremony in remembrance of the Battle at Dieppe, I went out to the cemetery to again find the grave. It took hours and would have been fruitless until the Staff at the cemetery and particularly the Canada Veterans Affairs staff and some 2,500 files finally produced the location of the grave.
Upon examination of the grave once again, I was startled to discover that the soldier was also a military hero for bravery. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). This medal is just one down from the famous Victoria Cross.
I was further stunned to realize that this officer, a Major, earned his medal at Dieppe!
I immediately advised those in charge of the up and coming Candle Light Ceremony of this service, and at the very battle in which the service would be taking place.
Sadly plans did not allow for a major change such as this, and for sharing with the guests at the ceremony days later.
Nevertheless, I attended, as noted in past blogs, and placed a lit candle at the foot of this hero's grave.
Though shown recently in this space, here again today is Major Curry's grave marker...
Many mentioned the heroism of Cecil Merritt who would earn a Victoria Cross, one of only three in the battle, and in fact the first of the war.
I took special interest in this as he was a distant relative of my mother, and also going back even further was related to Sir Charles Tupper, a Nova Scotia Premiere, PM of Canada, knighted, and the first ever president of the Canadian Medical Association. His son, of the same name, was also knighted.
One of the presenters at the ceremony was Lillian Luyk of Victoria. Her father Ken Curry, no relation to the above Major, died just a few years ago. He was a Dieppe Veteran and in fact that last surviving Dieppe veteran from the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. (RHLI)
During the service she was called upon to read the formal Act of Remembrance.
After the formal presentations took place she and all the other dignitaries took part of placing a lit candle at the foot of one of the veteran's graves.
When the service was over many guests took the opportunity to talk with the presenters. I acknowledged my lineage to Lt. Col Cecil Merritt, spoke to some of the presenters and then asked Mrs Luyk if she would allow me to meet with her on another day for an interview.
From that day to this we have met several times and she has provided me with a considerable amount of documents and photo's re the battle and her father's service.
This photo was among the materials supplied...
Around Ken's neck he wears the commemorative medal for 50th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. The image, though quite difficult to see, actually has several images engraved on it. They represent the cliffs, a plane, landing craft and the beach so many died in an attempt to capture.
Lillian tells me that at the top of the various badges on the right side of his blazer is an actual miniature set of handcuffs.
When Hitler heard of the German success and number of POW's taken he gave an order that all the POW's would be cuffed day and night. Rope was first used to secure the men, but later handcuffs were put to use. With few exceptions each wore these restraints day and night for YEARS before being rescued. (Or so the Nazi's thought!)
Lillian also told me the story that the men removed lids from red cross packaged cans of food, cut out the metal and fashioned then into shapes of keys. Thus, while in barracks and not well supervised by the Germans, they managed to free themselves, till reapplied before the next day's muster.
The 80th Commemoration of the battle in France, other countries and all across Canada took place this year on August 19th.
In the next blog I will talk about the memorial services in France. Following that I will address the services in Hamilton Ontario.
And finally, after all of these, it is hoped that I can again return to the theme of these blogs, that being the Medal of Honor.
See you soon,