Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Canada 150 Vignette –  057 of 150
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

The Home Front - Brant County Remembrance
The County of Brant’s (Ontario) Album of Honor

The County of Brant’s (Ontario) Album of Honor is a wonderful example of the respect and thankfulness that the casualties and returning veterans of World War II received from loved ones at home. The County of Brant and its largest population centre, the city of Brantford, contributed 6000 of its 57000 citizens to Canada’s armed forces in World War II - roughly one in ten - close to the average for the whole country. This county’s remembrance project  was one of many projects similar to that in just about every other city, town and county in Canada. Books, plaques and statues  were the most popular way of honouring those who were active in our armed forces.
 

In researching the subject of our Canada 150 Vignette number 55, LACW Rosalie Woodland, her name came up in Brant County's Album of Honour. This fine work has been uploaded to the intenet by the Brantford  Public Library. It is an impressive work with 224 pages devoted to the County's veterans and casulaties. Approximately 3500 of the surviving vets are included with their names, ranks and photographs. Another 1500 or so are listed with name and rank only. Unfortunately, the internet copy of the Album of Honour does not include the 55 page section listing casualties. However, many of those names can be found in the section sponsored by local businesses and institutions wanting to show honour to their employees who joined up. 


  


We present to you the cover, a few of the veteran’s photo pages, a business entry and the album’s moving introduction as written by Ms. Helen Sanders, editor of the album. We also show a photograph of Brantford's impressive Cenotaph. 

Those wishing to see the complete work as presented can go to the Brantford Public Library at http://brantford.library.on.ca/files/pdfs/localhistory/albumhonour.pdf .
  

 Introduction

During the Second Great War some 6,000 of Brant County's population of upwards of 57,000 enlisted in the armed forces. Six thousand men and women — a formidable force in themselves — donned the King's uniform and followed their assigned paths of duty. A relative few were destined to go no farther than Ontario training centres. Others were posted to more remote places in Canada — to eastern Debert or to far western Nanaimo. More embarked on the great troop transports and were carried to the preparatory fields of Great Britain, before proceeding to the battlegrounds of distant Africa, Sicily, Italy and Europe. Still others, particularly those who wore the blue of the Royal Canadian Navy, sailed the high seas half across the world. They fought and many of them died, following their hazardous courses through the ice-ridden ocean that tops our land, or over the grim Atlantic, or into the waters of the tropics. And while the majority of the men in the grey-blue of the Royal Canadian Air Force trained in Canada and Britain and went on missions in the skies over Europe, not a few found themselves in countries until then no more than exotic names in their geography books.

And so it was that even the youngest school child here grew familiar with names such as Burma, Rangoon, Singapore, Hong Kong, Reykjavik, the Po, Monte Cassino, Normandy, Bergen op Zoom, Nijmegen, Hochwald, and the rest — wherever their fathers or brothers or other relatives and friends were serving. Indeed, the places Brant County men and women reached in waging the good fight were so varied and at such distant points that, if a list were compiled, it would resemble a Baedeker guide-book.

A glance at the photographs in this Album of Honor will show that it was the youth of our County, the young in heart and years and physical fitness, between the ages of 18 and 50, who made up this great force. They went from the classrooms, the factories, the farms, the offices and the shops. They were our young professional men — doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, chemists. They were our store clerks, mechanics, carpenters, bookkeepers, reporters, photographers and schoolboys. Some were still students. Still others, having left school during depression years, had not been fortunate enough to secure permanent positions. Some were leaving behind their first jobs, their new marriages, their infant children. But all possessed a singleness of purpose. Once they lost their civilian tags in the common denominator of a uniform, their aim was the same — "to finish the job". It would be superfluous to say that the photographs and names in this Album of Honor represent the best of our youth. A glance at the pictures shows that. But we who remained at home can appreciate, remember and honor the valor they displayed after they were transplanted from our community.

We shall remember our Navy and our dauntless sailors who served on waters infested by enemy submarines and surface craft of war, all carrying their deadly freight. There was such little fanfare accompanying the Navy's job — sometimes all the more deadly because of the monotony and the necessarily cramped quarters — that we give those who went down to the sea in ships a special place in our hearts and our limitless gratitude.

We shall remember our forces who fought at Dieppe and the essential service they rendered. We shall remember that hot July 10, 1943, when the invasion of Sicily began, precursor to the battles in Italy from Reggio to the Po. We shall remember the lonely heart-breaking years our men spent training in England preparatory to June 6, 1944, and all the grim days that followed invasion of Normandy. We shall remember Beny-sur-Mer, where so many were laid to rest in consequence of the bloody struggle that preceded Caen and Falaise. It was our youth who fought through Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and into the depths of the enemy country until the foe surrendered, and it is hoped that this Album of Honor will serve to keep alive the recollection of their glorious deeds.

And finally, there are those who were numbered with the Royal Canadian Air Force, a mighty factor both in the averting of defeat and in the winning of victory. We shall remember, as a glowing and radiant light that shone in the dark pre-invasion days, the bravery of our airmen who flew above the enemy's flak-filled skies. Then it seemed almost suicidal to be among those gallant crews who blazed the trail to the final and mighty battles that were to end the war.

Let us also not forget the sturdy ground-crew personnel, who besides devotion to duty were possessed of the knowledge and skill to "keep them flying".

We have still one more group to which to pay tribute in our remembrance: the nursing sisters, whose skilful and sympathetic ministrations were so indispensable, the Wrens, the Cwacs, the R.C.A.F. W.D.'s, who shouldered the heavy, unglamorous and routine tasks that men might be spared for sterner duties. They did the humdrum willingly and well, and their recompense came with the successful conclusion of the war.

In this Album of Honor we have a special section devoted to our war dead, who were not here to break ranks when the peacetime "dismiss" came. It seems fitting to print what one, destined to join their immortal company, wrote on the eve of D-Day. It sums up what must have been in many hearts that night, and its high courage, like a banner that will long flutter in our minds, reminds us that:

"We who remain can never call them back
This side of memory to pay our debt.
It is our urgent duty not to lack
The qualities they gave, nor to forget."

This, then, is the excerpt: ". . . .

"I find myself staring into space wondering what I can write about, what I can say to you at home. Much will have happened by the time you receive this. The radio and newspapers will burst forth with news of all the latest events . . . But the radio or the newspapers can not convey to you the thoughts I have at this time. . . . "

"You and I have heard of many chaps who, under circumstances such as this, write touching letters to be forwarded to their loved ones — 'just in case'. I must admit that I thought of it myself, but decided against it. "

"As you know, I am a very practical person. I am also a bit of a fatalist, feeling sure that what is to be will be, that whatever happens it always happens for some good reason, although we may not realize it "

"Great things are in store for me — for us. I will speak only of myself, but what applies to me applies also to thousands like me. I am a part, however small, of a great force which, in the months to come, will bring the war in Europe to a victorious conclusion. "

"It will be hard. Yes, I realize that, and am ready... You may wonder if I am afraid. I have wondered about that myself, and have decided that if I do feel any fear it must be over-run by other emotions, such as 
curiosity, the will to fight and win, and many others which I am finding awfully hard to put into words. "

"Of this I am sure: I am not afraid of Death. I believe sincerely in a Hereafter, and I have no regrets for the life I have led on this earth. I have had more than my share of joy and happiness. . . . "

"Now I am wondering what your thoughts are after having read my letter thus far. Have I been too outspoken? I don't think so, for I have only spoken OUR thoughts. "


It's like this: We have a job to do. We'll do that job, and we'll look after ourselves while doing it. I know it won't be easy for you folk back Home, but we do ask you to keep smiling and not to worry. Just carry on as usual, for us. 'Monty' himself says we can beat Germany in six months. Think of that! Just six months — if all goes well. Of the Canucks. 'Monty' is quoted as having said that 'the only thing the Canadians will stop for is to read their mail.' He can say that again!"

". . . . And now there doesn't seem to be much left for me to say. Once again I ask you — all of you — not to worry too much, to keep the Home fires burning, and, with all us lads over here, look forward and hope and pray for that glorious day when we'll all be together once again..."

It was written June 3, 1944, by L/Sgt.' Walter Roy Dowden, fourth son of Mr. and Mrs. Walter J. Dowden, 5 Dover Avenue, who was killed in action six days later.

We shall not forget them nor those who fought and labored at their side. The publication of this Album of Honor reflects the conviction and the faith that the Freedom so dearly bought by so many lives and so much effort will be treasured and nurtured in the hearts of all for whom it has been preserved.


HELEN SANDERS  

The Brantford Ontario Cenotaph