Published In The Great North Arrow, November 2021: We'll Meet Again

- jim Young

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when,

But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.” - Ross Parker & Hughie Charles

As a young lad I was always warned to not make a lot of noise when visiting my grandfather because he had PTSD. Of course it was called “shell shock” back then.

My grandfather, William S. Young, from Craigvale that is now part of the town of Innisfil, tried to enlist in the Royal Flying Corps in 1916 to serve in the “Great War” which would later become known as “World War I”.

But he was only 17 at the time and required his father’s permission which was denied, either because of his age or because he was needed on the farm.

Over 2 decades later however, at the age of 40 and with a wife and 3 children, my grandfather joined the Royal Canadian Engineers, 8th Field Company to serve in World War II. After transferring to the 1st Field Squadron, he was eventually sent to Croydon in England, an area that was heavily bombed during World War II due to its close proximity to London.

My grandfather never shared any stories of his time overseas, at least not with me directly, and regrettably, I never thought to ask.

I do know my grandfather was a “sapper” and as such was responsible for designing and rebuilding bridges that the Germans blew up during their many bombing raids on England. He was also required to go into buildings that had been bombed to check and see if they were structurally sound. It was a dangerous job, not only due to the possibility of a building collapsing on him, but sometimes there would be unexploded bombs left behind in the buildings.

I came across a letter my grandfather wrote to my father just before Christmas in 1942. George was just 17 at the time and charged with being “the man of the house”. I found this letter very interesting as it provides some insight on what it must have been like for my Grandfather to be separated from his family. He had been in the army for two years by this time and overseas for one.

Sunday, December 13th, 1942.

Dear Son,

Received your nice letter the other day and also yesterday I had a box from home and among other things in it was the lovely present from the family. It is really, very nice and just what I needed so thanks a lot to you all. I have eaten all the macaroons - that is we have, as I shared up with some of them. How good they were. Also I have eaten some of the chocolates. The temptation is just too much for me. I haven’t opened any of the canned goods yet. You see when we go on leave we lose our beds and have to take whatever is vacant when we return. The one I had to take wasn’t very well situated so today I moved to another one. In fact it is the same one I had when we moved into the huts and is in a corner and gives me more room and a little more privacy so one of these nights we will have a bedtime lunch. Mother said she sent two boxes about the same time so maybe the other one will be along one of these days.

Thanks for fixing the well. You seemed to have an idea it would need cleaning out or something. Well George I can quite understand that but guess we can soon look after that when I get back.

I haven’t seen Frank for some time but wrote him yesterday and will try to see him before Christmas. You see it may be hard to travel on the trains around the holiday anyhow for Canadians.

Outside of our leaves we don’t have a great deal of time to go places and how fast our leaves do go. I intended going over to Bath for a couple of days but didn’t make it. Maybe I will on my next 48 which won’t be for some time yet.

I intended doing a washing also to write a lot of letters this week end but don’t seem to have got very much done. Maybe the army does make one lazy.

We went to see Eagle Squadron in Edinburgh. I guess it was very good but still it was only a picture and I don’t imagine much like the real thing. I would sooner listen to Keith. He sure thinks the Spitfires are the real thing and I do hope they always bring him home safe and sound.

Well George I must close for this time. Now take care of yourself and look after the rest as I know you are and maybe next year around this time we will be able to go and get a Christmas tree and maybe fix up the train around it.

Love and all the best

From your Dad.

P.S. I will enjoy the tea bags and tell mother that was a swell pipe she sent.

My grandfather did NOT make it home the following year as he had hoped nor did he make it home for the following Christmas, nor the Christmas after that. Happily he was home in time to get a Christmas tree and “fix up the train around it” in 1945 after five long years of separation from his family.

I still have that electric train that serves as a reminder that the hardships I sometimes encounter most often pale in comparison to the hardships my parents and grandparents have endured.

- 30 -


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