Simple actions. Astonishing results.

Leslie M. Miller, lieutenant in the Canadian Corps.

The padre stepped up to the lectern this past Sunday morning in Shedden, Ont. The audience at the community centre for the Remembrance service settled into silence. The clergyman unfolded his papers, that I thought would contain a prayer, a piece of scripture or perhaps the words of a hymn. But, no, he looked out at the assembly of cadets, veterans and the public in the audience and introduced his Nov. 11 thoughts this way.

“From simple actions, come astonishing results,” he said.

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.”

Soldiers of secrecy

On her first return visit to Bletchley Park, former teleprinter operator Theo Hopkinson searches for her past.
On her first return visit to Bletchley Park, former wartime teleprinter operator Theo Hopkinson searches for her past.

She strode toward the building with a protective rampart in front of it. As I watched her, I sensed she needed to find something, maybe something tangible from long ago. Once inside this rather plain building, labelled simply Block B, her pace slowed. Inside, she passed glass exhibit cases and along walls laden with images and captions from the past. Then, she spotted it.

“There. That’s not exactly the same thing, but it’s like the one I worked on,” said Theo Hopkinson, now nearly 90.

I asked what she was looking for.

“A teleprinter,” she said. “We used them to key in messages.”

Love in War

Winston Churchill had to be encouraged by his relatives to propose to Clementine Hozier.
Winston had to be encouraged to propose to Clementine …

The two almost did not meet. The couple nearly didn’t marry and become one of the most famous couples in 20th century Britain. But thanks to the intervention of Winston Churchill’s cousin, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, a visitor to Churchill’s family home – Blenheim Palace in England – Clementine Hozier did meet Winston in August 1908. They took a walk in the garden, dashed for cover during a rain shower and he finally proposed.

“I took two important decisions (at Blenheim),” the great wartime leader of Britain wrote later, “to be born and to marry.”

Canadian Enigma connection

IMITATION_GAME_POSTERSeventy years ago, Europeans sensed the end of the Second World War was near. VE Day arrived May 8, 1945. A generation later, historians and moviemakers are still discovering how Victory in Europe was achieved. At Bletchley Park, an estate just two hours from London, England, details of the Allied intelligence victory continue to emerge. Last year, the movie The Imitation Game depicted the secret world of Enigma, Alan Turing and war work at Bletchley.

In the March 2015 edition of Zoomer magazine, read Ted Barris’s account of the Canadian angle on the code-breakers who hastened victory.

Supporting those behind the troops

Pte. Demetrios Deplaros
Pte. Demetrios Deplaros

Last Saturday night, during a fundraising event at the McLaughlin Armoury, in Oshawa, Ont., I met the mother of Demetrios Diplaros. Her son, a 24-year-old private in the third battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, was killed on Dec. 5, 2008, when the armoured vehicle in which he was travelling hit an improvised explosive device near Kandahar, Afghanistan. Mrs. Diplaros and I spoke for a few minutes during the event, but mostly I just looked sympathetically into her still hurting face. As our conversation wound up, she thanked me for listening.

“I don’t know what I would have done without the support of friends and the military family,” she said, as she held on to me for dear life.

Impatient to get on with life

J.M. Barrie wrote
Reading from J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan"

I received a photograph online from my son-in-law this week. It shows his wife – our daughter Whitney – holding two very precious creations. One is a copy of the play/book “Peter Pan.” The second is her recently delivered son – Coen George Ross-Barris. The picture shows Whitney reading from the J.M. Barrie book in a hospital.

“All children, except one, grow up,” author Barrie writes in Peter Pan.