Sunday, May 22, 2011

My War Hero

Dad would have celebrated his 92nd birthday, today, if he were alive.

I am the son of a World War II Veteran and I am extremely proud of my father.  I also get very angry when I see other folks taking for granted the freedoms we enjoy in our country, freedoms we have because of the efforts of our forefathers. Woebetied the youngster who figits during the singing of O Canada - they will feel my wrath.

The following is an exerpt from the eulogy I delivered at his funeral in 2008:
Dad came to a strong faith at about the age of sixteen, and like every other facet of his life, he embraced this faith fervently and did the rest of his life. This faith made a decision very difficult a few years later. World War II called George to defend his country. His religious beliefs must have raged mightily with his patriotic feelings. I’m certain, torn in his spirit, he headed overseas. While there were emotional scars, Dad bore physical effects of the war since those awful days. The constant bombardment of artillery robbed him forever of a large portion of his hearing.

Dad was a member of the 19th Field Regiment Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery, which supported the 3rd division. Dad was a bombadeer 105 mm gunner operating guns on landing craft tanks. He was there on the banks of Normandy on D. Typical of Dad’s self deprication was his reply “ I was no hero, but I wasn’t as scared as I thought I might be.”

His discharge paper after the war ended.


article written by John Macfie, in memory of Dad
A D-Day story with a Difference

The ranks of D-Day veterans are thinning rapidly, and three weeks ago today another from that select band of warriors was laid to rest in Fairholme Cemetery, near Dunchurch. I seldom do obituaries, but as Royal Canadian Legion members paid their respects at the graveside, it struck me that the case of George Hosick, lifelong local citizen, was sufficiently special to warrant a column on this 64th anniversary of one of the great moments in history, June 6, 1944. 

   I’ll come to the special part after reprising George’s D-Day experience, condensed from an interview I taped at his home 24 years ago.

   George, one of several children of farmer and lumberman John Hosick and his wife, Minnie , was born near Dunchurch on May 22, 1919.  In the summer of 1942, he answered his conscription call, was assigned as a gunner to the 19th Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery and soon found himself in England. On D-Day, he crossed to Normandy with the greatest invasion fleet ever mounted. Now promoted to the rank of lance-bombardier, George was part of a crew of six manning a 105 mm cannon mounted on the chassis of a Sherman tank. 

 “We went over from Portsmouth in an LCT [tank landing craft]. Before we landed, they had us seasick, really seasick, because those things go floppity-flop. That takes a lot out of you; you are that sick that anything would be half welcome.

  “We [the several guns] fired a barrage out of our landing craft before we went in, pretty near 500 rounds.  Softening it up. We had an observation officer who went in with the infantry, and he sends back the orders, gives you the degrees left or right, or whatever it is. Then the sergeant tells you to load and fire. I was firing; there was a lever you pulled.  I forgot all about [seasickness] when I got firing. Once the infantry got a toehold, they dropped the ramp and we drove off. We were supporting the infantry, but we didn’t give them much support because a tank was knocked out ahead of us and we had no way of getting around it. We had our gun on land, just barely on land, but no way of getting around. We stayed as long as we could, but then [the Germans] were mortaring, and if we’d stayed with the tank we’d have been mortared right there, so the sergeant said, ‘Let’s get out!’ Then we doubled up on the guns [that did get off]. We got in a little piece off the beach the first night”

  Soon, a replacement gun arrived, and George embarked on an 11-month campaign through Northwest Europe, duelling at times with the deadly German 88-millimetre cannon. In those months, one of his crewmates was killed beside him, and a second went crazy, a victim of battle fatigue, and had to be hustled out. On hearing this, I asked George, a slight and humble individual who could hardly impress anyone as a gung-ho warrior, just how terrified of battle he was.

   “I’m sure no hero,” he allowed, “but I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be.” 

   George Hosick’s personal D-Day story differs little from thousands of others, except in one respect: he had a good reason and ample opportunity to avoid the whole ordeal, but chose not to. George was one of those individuals who, at a defining moment in life, are lightning-struck with religion. For him, it happened at age 16, and his faith burned ever more fiercely to the day he died. George’s church, the Plymouth Brethren, is resolutely pacifist, and its adherents often opted out of war service by declaring themselves conscientious objectors. Beyond that point, a second escape window beckoned. He could have joined thousands of other conscripts who declined to sign up for service outside Canada, joining instead the home defence force widely known, among overseas troops, as “Zombies.” But again George stuck to the path leading into battle. 

   Being drafted into the military in wartime can be unsettling enough, but imagine how George must have wrestled with his conscience (yes, and searched his soul) before signing up for active service in the Second World War. The conflict now known as history’s first, and so far last, genuinely good war; the war of all wars that needed to be fought and won. 

   There’s something else worth noting about George Hosick. While helping to liberate Europe, he accumulated enough bragging rights to last any returned soldier a lifetime, yet he never used them. He came home to marry Dorothy Patterson of Sunny Slope, settled down on the Patterson farm, and by dint of hard work on and off the farm, raised a family. And hardly ever did he mention war. His son tells me that, but for a copy of the audiotape I gave him, that phase of his father’s life story would be a blank slate.    

Dad's medals which he kept hidden away in a drawer.  I had them mounted and display them proudly in my home.

And that is all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener

1 comment:

  1. Wow, quite a story. I never knew that about your dad.


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