Friday, November 11, 2011

Why I Wear A Poppy

I'm in a writing night class this semester, and the topic got around to Remembrance Day this past week.  One of the twentys-something remarked that he didn't feel any real connection to the occasion.  First of all I found that really sad, that for all the efforts of our veterans, and the enjoyment of the freedoms we take for granted, none of it has any real impact on some people.  But secondly, I realize, the majority of young folks have no close family connection to any veterans, the closest in most cases might be a great grandparent or a cousin thrice removed - someone too far removed to feel innately proud of the connection.  

My father was a World War II veteran.  He rarely ever talked about his experiences.  I've often heard it said that most who saw real combat, did not expound much on their experiences.  It was a part of their life that happened, and they just wanted to put it behind them and move forward.

The following is an article written by a local historian and childhood neighbour of Dad's.  John Macfie interviewed Dad and then wrote from the material he had collected.  I am deeply indebted to Macfie for this, as I would not know of Dad's wartime experiences otherwise.

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 Honourable Discharge Paper
Dad's medals

And that my friends is why I wear a poppy.

The Daily Quest

This is a new daily feature on The Musical Gardener blog. Below is a question, or puzzle that will change day by day. Do not use the comment section of the blog for your answer.

Answer to Yesterday's Puzzle: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Today's Puzzle:
One Word Anagrams

An anagram is a word that you can scramble its letters and form another common word.  How many of these can you morph into another word?  ie decimate -> medicate

a) meteor -> _ _ _ _ _ _
b) canoe -> _ _ _ _ _
c) observe -> _ _ _ _ _ _ _
d) admirer -> _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Please respond with your answer to the email below. I apologize but you will have to type my email address in manually (I'm attempting to avoid spammers).
Don't forget my Musical Gardener Contest
And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.


  1. How wonderful that you have that article to better understand your father's experiences. This past Wednesday, my post was about some LST vets. (same as your LCT) You might find it interesting.

    Take care.

  2. Wear your poppy with great pride. It is a great article and a wonderful post.

  3. I think those in my generation and this young one are more removed from the real threat of war. We may know Vietnam vets, but in WWI and II everybody knews vets. It was so huge! But especially the young now: They see so many movies and special effects, they don't have a peg really to hang war on and so not only don't appreciate the sacrifice, but don't feel the horror that war is. Even with the Iraq war, those killed stopped being names as the numbers mounted and became stats--stats surrounded with controversy and Bush-hating. Sadly, folks will not remember unless the memory has hit closer to home.

    I am proud of the man your dad was.

  4. Too many soldiers have gone to war.

    Great story. I am glad George was one of the lucky ones to make it back and live a full life.

  5. Excellent post. Many did not share their experiences. I now have an 89 year old friend who tells of some things...the first person who has ever shared his war experiences with me. I appreciate it.

  6. A wonderful tribute to your dad.

    I'm sorry to say I know little about my dad's service in the Pacific theater. He's gone now 4 years and I've learned only a little from Mom because likely she doesn't know much either. Mum, definitely was the word for that generation.

  7. how wonderful that he talked to someone..and that someone shared it. I know so many don't want to talk about it..and there are not many of them left.
    Your Dad was very handsome..I have always liked a man in uniform:)


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