4 items of interest at this time of year!

excerpts from an article by Ottawa Citizen Columnist Dave Brown.

'I told him to keep praying'

From the D-Day landings to UN peacekeeping, Paul Mayer is someone you want on your side

Dave Brown The Ottawa Citizen Friday 04, 2004

 One thing about war, says D-Day veteran and much decorated Canadian career soldier Paul Mayer, is that it teaches one to appreciate being alive. "You learn to live every hour as if it's your last." He inserts a rueful chuckle and adds: "Then when you get to my age, you appreciate every minute because it just might be your last"

At 87, the man sitting at his desk in his Rideau Terrace home has been shrunken by age. His body may be failing, but his memory and his fierce spirit are intact. There are many pictures of himself on the walls, finding space among framed testimonials to his courage and accomplishments. In all, he's in uniform. Each exudes a clear message, regardless of his age at the time the camera clicked: If there's a fight, you want this man on your side.

In a glass case filled with awards and mementos sits his row of medals in miniature. If they were full size, I opine, there isn't a chest big enough to hold them. "I gave them away. I couldn't wear them. They pulled down the side of my jacket."

. . . . . . . . . . The only son of an English officer in a family that could trace its military service back, unbroken, to the 17th century, there was never a doubt he would serve. . . . . . . . . . .

He went to Kirkland Lake in 1938 to join the Algonquin Regiment (Motto: Ne-Kah-Ne-Tah. We lead, others follow) because he had an inside tip it would be among the first to be called up. On D-Day, he had been seconded to the British Army because he was a demolitions expert, and went ashore in the first wave at Sword Beach. . . . . . . . . . He rejoined the Algonquins and went back into battle in Normandy. He thinks he may have been the first Allied officer to cross the Seine after the bloody battle of the Falaise Gap. Thinking about it causes that faraway look: "We had to cross about 400 yards of open field. Soft soil. That cost us a lot." He was at the battle for the Leopold Canal as the Allies moved into Holland, and while in Holland: "I shared a room with a 105mm shell. It killed some of my friends but again, I was lucky."

The chuckle again. "I woke up in hospital and everything was white. Somebody at the foot of the bed was talking in a language I couldn't understand. I thought I was dead. Then I realized I wasn't and said to the guy by my bed: What the hell is going on? He said he was a priest with the Polish Armoured Brigade and he had been praying for my recovery. I told him to keep praying. Hard."

His war didn't end in 1945. He stayed in the army and served in Korea in 1953-54 and on the Canadian observer team in Vietnam in 1961-62. He wore the blue beret of a UN peacekeeper on many missions. . . . . . . . . .When he packed away his uniform, he took on a second career with the World Bank. His gift for languages took him around the world and he figures he has during his lifetime spent time in 49 countries. During his travels he met Canada's former ambassador to Poland, Pamela McDougall. They married in 1987.

A final question: What makes men like Col. Mayer tick? He answered by pulling out his wallet and taking out a folded sheet of paper with four typed paragraphs. "A message from my father. He gave it to me when I joined the army. I have never been without it."

The last lines: "Remember that what you do, what you stand for and what you are ready to fall for, is in the long run, the only thing that really matters."


The complete article is available at http://www.canada.com/ottawa/ottawacitizen/index.html (on left drop down menu "In the Citizen", click on "Columnists", click on Dave Brown "I told him to keep praying")


Col Paul A Mayer MBE, GM, CD, served as the first Chief Instructor of the Canadian Guards Regimental Depot and as Senior Major of the 1st Bn. Col Mayer's Decorations and Medals ("I gave them away") were donated to the Canadian Guards Museum, Base Petawawa.

Excerpts from a message from Fred Sampson, (WO 2, 2nd Bn), an article about Bill Marshall, (Capt, 2nd Bn) and a letter from Steve Brodsky.

 "I shall be departing for Paris, and then to Normandy, to participate in the 60th anniversary of D Day, where I landed a glider on the 6th of June 1944, carrying a Jeep & trailer, the Signals Officer, Sgt and three Signallers, and the Padre of the Royal Ulster Rifles. Will be going with Ted Barris, who interviewed me just over a year ago, re the above, for his book recently published called "JUNO" the Canadians on D Day. I'm the only "Limey" in the book. My brother in law Lt.Col William D Little, MC, CD is also in it. Cheers, Fred Sampson"


 excerpts from article "Facing German guns, soldier knew he had to kill" By Joe Friesen, The Globe & Mail

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - Page A3

Sixty years ago this week, 17-year-old Bill Marshall of Ontario witnessed death for the first time when he landed on Juno Beach in the second wave of troops and saw two bodies in Canadian uniforms floating in the water.

On the eve of the Normandy invasion, preparing to board a landing craft bound for France, a fellow soldier approached Bill Marshall with a question. "Should we kill?" the soldier asked.

At 17, Mr. Marshall was probably the youngest person in his platoon. But he had a ready answer: Faced with German guns, he told the older man, they could either kill or be killed.

On June 5, 1944, Mr. Marshall boarded LCI 250 bound for Juno Beach. Close to 200 men, each bolstered by a gift of 25 cigarettes from the Canadian government, packed the landing craft, the bow painted with a shark's mouth.

Mother Nature provided the tides and cloud cover that D-Day planners had hoped for, but she couldn't calm the seas. Everyone on LCI 250 was sick, either from the rolling water or from fear. Toward dawn, some soldiers had to be lashed to the ship to stop them tumbling overboard.

"They were so sick they couldn't do anything. Really green," Mr. Marshall said.

The 9th Brigade, to which Mr. Marshall's company belonged, was part of the second wave of the Canadian 3rd Division's landings at Juno Beach. The 9th Brigade met little resistance as it landed. But the advance halted once it cleared the beach and marched into the coastal village of Bernières-sur-Mer. "It was just one massive traffic jam."

"We got hit with an ME-109 [German aircraft] that came in and strafed us. And at the same time as that happened one of our Fort Garry Horse tanks opened up on us . . .

Mr. Marshall escaped unscathed on a day when 340 Canadians died and 574 were wounded.

Three weeks before the 60th anniversary of the invasion, sitting in his living room in Lindsay, Ont., 77-year-old Bill Marshall winces slightly as he scans a company photo taken before the invasion. Drawing his finger across the rows of faces, some solemn, some smiling, he picks out friends killed that day. By his count, the Highland Light Infantry lost 293 of its 793 men, killed or wounded, in the battle for Buron.

The complete article is available at http://www.globeandmail.com

click on "National" and in "Search Site box", type "Facing German guns" (without quote marks)


..from Steve Brodsky..

Thanks for that note from Fred Sampson . I knew he wore pilot wings, and I remember his Burma Star. But this was a real surprise! Our minds are on D-Day a lot this year, and by coincidence just yesterday I'd written to the local paper about my brother Mike. Here's what I sent. It may be of interest. Cheers. Steve


Editor, Times-Colonist

 Dear Sir:

  As you know, numerous memorial events are planned throughout the free world as a tribute to the veterans who landed on D-Day and fought in the Normandy campaign. We hear from and about quite a few, but most of those who are still left make up a large "silent majority." In this age when everyone in uniform is called a "hero," I suggest honouring in print a real one. He's my brother Michael (Mike) Brodsky, MM,CD, of Victoria.
  Mike landed on Juno Beach at Bernier-sur-mer on D-Day, 6 June, 1945. A Reconnaissance Sergeant in 16 Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers, he was attached to the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, 7 Brigade, 3rd Division. In the days of hard fighting that followed, he earned the Military Medal, awarded for gallantry in combat. It was presented to him personally by King George VI. The citation reads in part, "[S]ince the opening of the campaign in France, [he has] on numerous occasions, shown initiative and courage beyond the bounds of duty to obtain information of vital importance . . . in the face of the enemy. His coolness, leadership, and skill while under fire . . . has proved a source of inspiration to all ranks."

  Mike is now approaching his 85th birthday. Blind since the mid-'70's, he is a familiar figure walking in town with his guide dog. Few people know that he is a decorated D-Day veteran, and if they do, they don't hear it from him. His medals were stolen from him a few years ago, and he said nothing. Even I, his younger brother, found out only a year or two later when I inquired about them (since replaced). I'm very proud of Mike. He's a modest hero. A real one. Through the years, he's also been involved in countless volunteer initiatives in Victoria. Among them, he volunteers for the Read Society, and is praised by the many sighted students he has helped to become literate. That's the courage that earned him that MM.

  Sincerely, Stephen Brodsky

thanks to Jas for these items being passed along. (photo credits above from The Armed Forces of Canada 1867-1967 by Lt Col D J Goodspeed)

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