Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest We Forget ...

On this Remembrance Day Nilgiris was privileged to include among its guests three veterans.

Dixon Carter lied about his age and joined the theatre of World War II as a 17-year-old. "By the time they found out, I was already deployed!" he chuckled. "Aaah, they didn't care. What they needed was bodies, and I was ready to go!"

He fought for five years and then gave the next two years to the Reserves.

Then he joined the Army. He would spend the next 22 years serving Canada in a variety of places around the globe. And now, at 86 years of age, his bearing is still upright and his manner engaging and sprightly. He is "proud of our great country," proud that he had the "privilege and opportunity" to serve.

Kathleen "Sandy" (Sandever) Head and Gordon Head

What a tale these two have to tell!

Gordon served in World War II in the Navy. A North Atlantic Submarine Detector, he worked on ("or, more accurately, 'in'," he commented drily) a corvette.

Wikipedia says this about the corvettes used in WWII:

"The first modern corvettes were the Flower class (Royal Navy corvettes were named after flowers, and ships in Royal Canadian Navy service took the name of smaller Canadian cities and towns). Their chief duty was to protect convoys in the North Atlantic and on the routes from the UK to Murmansk carrying supplies to the Soviet Union.

The Flower-class corvette was originally designed for offshore patrol work, and was not ideal as an anti-submarine escort; they were really too short for open ocean work, too lightly armed for anti-aircraft defence, and little faster than the merchantmen they escorted, a particular problem given the faster German U-boat designs then emerging. They were very seaworthy and maneuverable, but living conditions for ocean voyages were appalling."

Sandy served in the Army as the secretary to Chief Medical Officer Lieutenant Colonel Henry. She remembers being driven from the barracks to the offices in an army truck -- they would have to ride in the back of the truck, standing up, hanging on for dear life. "The barracks weren't too bad," Kathleen reflected. "When I was a young girl I would read British boarding school books and I always wished I could have gone to a school like that. Then when I went into the Army and was in the barracks, in a way it was a lot like what I had pictured my boarding school would be!"

When I asked her to give me her name, she said, "It's Kathleen. Put that down. Although no one would know who that was; everyone calls me Sandy. Do you want to know why?" And of course I did.

It seems that the Army has a way of stripping you down to nothing but your last name. Kathleen was called "Sandever" all the time. Finally, she said to the girls working with her, and to her Colonel, "IF you have to call me by my last name, could you at least call me Sandy?" And Sandy it was, and has been ever since. But sometimes she misses Kathleen ...

I was talking with Lois about Kathleen and she called her mother, who used to work with Kathleen some years ago at Prairie. Dorothy had this to add: there was no faster shorthand than Sandy's. She became secretary to the founder of Prairie, L.E. Maxwell, who would preach his Sunday sermon to her first thing on Sunday morning. She would take it all down, then type it all up at lightning speed, and give it to him in time for him to go to the pulpit and preach it to the congregation! It is because of Sandy's unique talents that Prairie has the wonderful collection of Mr. Maxwell's sermons it does.

What an honour to have these three brave veterans grace the TH today! Thanks to them and thousands like them, we are still able to sing:

"...with glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free,
From far and wide, O Canada,

We stand on guard for thee ..."

The last, little-known verse of our National anthem is this:
"Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our Dominion in thy loving care;
Help us to find, O God, in thee
A lasting, rich reward,
As waiting for the better Day,
We ever stand on guard.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee."

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