Veterans remember deceased comrades

Tuesday, Jun 05, 2012 06:00 am | Julie Bertrand
Julie Bertrand/Olds Albertan
Julie Bertrand/Olds Albertan
Second World War veteran and Dieppe survivor Raymond Gilbert participated in the tank's dedication ceremony.
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More than 30 veterans and their relatives came together at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #105 Olds this Saturday for the King’s Own Calgary Regiment Association 67th annual reunion.

The association held its reunion in Calgary and Red Deer, before moving to Olds 10 years ago.

“There were groups that were recruited from this area during the war,” said Darrel Sundholm, president of King’s Own Calgary Regiment Association.

“For about 19 years, the ‘A’ Squadron, the reserve of the King’s Own Calgary Regiment, was based here.”

The veterans’ ages varied, from Second World War veterans to Afghanistan veterans.

While the reunion is a way for the regiment veterans to keep in touch, its purpose is to also remember deceased veterans.

“It’s all about saluting the veterans and this is what this organization does, salute and support veterans,” said Sundholm.

Sundholm himself spent eight years in the regiment, before leaving army life.

“I was in the King’s Own Calgary Regiment from the start of 1988 until January 1996,” he said.

“Before that, I was with the South Alberta Light Horse.”

Second World War veteran Raymond Gilbert did a presentation about his experience at Dieppe and in the Nazi prisoner-of-war camp Stalag 8-B.

While certain Second World War veterans would rather not talk about their war experiences, Gilbert does the opposite, even volunteering his time at the Military Museums of Calgary.

“What’s happening is all of our guys are deceased, to speak of the prisoners of war I have been with in Germany. I have to be their spokesman,” he said.

“I remember a lot of things about it and I am able to talk about it. I am not afraid what I mean, what I felt, and things I have gone through.”

Gilbert joined the army in February 1941 after his militia unit was mobilized. He was only 19 years old.

“I came up to Calgary in the 1930s, when things were tough. We had all kinds of things going on, just to make a living. We did OK,” said Gilbert.

“Out of six boys in the family, I was fourth in line from the top. When the war came along, five of us went into service. All came back.”

He trained at Camp Borden in Ontario, before being sent to England the following July.

He participated in the Dieppe Raid on August 19, 1942, where the German Army captured him.

“We rode in the Churchill tanks across the Channel from England, to Dieppe. The ferry runs the same way today,” said Gilbert.

Like many other Allied soldiers, he was sent to Stalag 8-B, a German work labour camp for prisoners of war that is situated in what is now Poland.

“I felt I had to survive. That was the main thing. I wore war chains for 13 months. I had manacles on each wrist while in there,” said Gilbert.

“Then, they sent us out to work after that on work parties. You had to do your job or else, you know.”

Gilbert survived the camp, and had to be hospitalized after the war. He says that throughout his ordeal, he never was afraid.

“We were only 18 or 19 years old. At the start, we thought it was a big adventure,” he said.

“When it came right down to the nitty-gritty though, you knew where you were.”

These days, Gilbert, who is a spry 90-year-old retiree, keeps busy by singing with two bands. Like many other veterans, he has gone to Europe to revisit Dieppe.

“I have been back to Dieppe many times. The last time was the 65th anniversary of Dieppe. My wife went with me,” he said.

While he doesn’t think he will be able to make it to this year’s 70th celebration, Gilbert hopes to go back to Dieppe at least one more time.


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