There is nothing like a Dame

RCAF vet Charley Fox leaning on one of his beloved Spitfires; but a day in 2006 nearly topped that.

A student pilot nearly killed him in a training accident in November 1942. While still an instructor in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, during the Second World War here in Canada, he’d survived a head-on collision with another aircraft near Bagotville, Quebec. And overseas during combat operations flying Spitfires, RCAF airman Charley Fox also survived 234 combat sorties as a fighter pilot. And yet, it was a June evening in 2006, that Charley told me just about topped them all.

“Meeting Dame Vera Lynn,” Fox said, “was a highlight in my life.”

Of fathers and sons

Jeff and Tony pass the walls of the Menin Gate in Ypres, where the "missing" Commonwealth soldiers of the Great War are remembered every night.

About three days into the tour, I saw the two of them walking and talking. Tony and Jeff Peck were pausing to look up at a wall of inscriptions. There in front of them the names of some 54,896 Commonwealth soldiers, for whom there are no known remains, lay chiselled in the stone. They are the so-called “missing” from the Great War. A couple of days later, father Tony watched son Jeff participate in the famous Last Post Ceremony under the same barrel-vaulted archway known as the Menin Gate.

“They shall grow not old, as we who are left grow old,” Jeff recited to the hundreds watching in silence. “Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”