By Mark Nielsen, PRBN Staff
Jack Wilson considers himself to be one of the lucky ones.
Although Jack joined the Canadian army, he never had to go overseas, and, after an 11-month stint, was discharged in December 1945.
While that was the end of his career as a soldier, it was not the end of his association with the military. In 1961, he and his wife, Shirley, went to France where he taught school at a Canadian armed forces base for two years.
It was during that time that he got a first-hand look at what might have been in store for him when he visited both Dieppe and Normandy.
Dieppe was the site of an ill-fated operation in which thousands of Canadian troops were killed by German bullets when they tried to establish a beachhead.
Some historians have argued that Dieppe was nothing more than an attempt to test German defences in that region, with Canadian troops being used as guinea pigs.
“Here’s the water coming in on a stone wall and these guys are supposed to climb up there and do some shooting, and take that place?,” he said. “It’s lucky anybody lived through that. It was terrible.”
Normandy was where many of the Allies landed on D-Day which proved to be the turning point in the battle against the Nazis. Although a much more successful operation, Jack could see how it was possible that so many troops died there.
“The Normandy beaches were a nice place to land,” he said. “However, back up the hill a little bit were all these cement pill boxes with machine guns.
“I don’t know how anybody ever got off the beaches. but the organization for the landing was something.”
Indeed, Jack readily admits that the military proved to be more of an opportunity than a challenge.
When he joined during World War II, Jack took basic training in Saskatchewan, and advanced training at Camp Borden in Ontario before being attached to the Canadian Provo Company, or the military police.
“The best part of that was learning how to ride a motorcycle, an old Harley-Davidson,” he said.
When he got out of the army, Jack became a teacher in Dawson Creek. While on vacation in Europe, many years later, he met an old friend who was in the air force. He suggested that the Wilsons come over to teach at the base.
It took almost two years to complete the arrangements, but eventually the Wilsons ended up in Marville, a village in northeast France.
From there, they were able to travel to the Middle East and into Scandinavia during the summer breaks, as well as travel through France, Holland and Germany.
But, for all of the experiences he gained thanks to the military, the sacrifices that the soldiers had made are always a part of Jack’s thoughts. “That military business is a sad, sad thing,” he said.
This article is taken from the Peace River Block Daily News, Dawson Creek, with the permission of the publisher. The Daily News retains all rights relating to this material. The information in this article is intended solely for research or general interest purposes.