Sunday, November 13, 2011

Remembering Major Martin

I tried to post on Remembrance Day but other stuff intervened. But no matter. I'll say it now.

This is a picture of my father, Alexander Martin. It was taken somewhere in England, between 1940-5. He fought with the Calgary Highlanders through Europe during World War II.

As is chronicled in Battalion of Heroes, by historian David Bercuson, my father saw a lot of heavy action with the Highlanders:

"As Ellis's men poked out of the woods about 300 metres south of the Hoogerheide crossroads, the 12th Platoon, leading the company, came under heavy fire from a strong German machine gun position located atop a slight rise in the middle of a field. The entire company was forced to halt as platoon leader Lieutenant Alexander Keller worked out a plan with the tank troop commander to have the tanks shoot his men on to the position. The tanks deployed, then opened fire, forcing the German machine gunners to take cover. Keller then stood up, said a terse, "follow me," and began to walk straight towards the German guns. After "a short and startled pause," his platoon followed. As they approached the position, the tanks ceased firing. The Highlanders scrambled atop the mound taking sixteen prisoners and capturing eight MG42 machine guns and a number of submachine guns and rifles. Keller was awarded a Military Cross for this act to add to a Military Medal he had already received for bravery at Dieppe." (p. 161-2)

Other parts of the book describe my father in such frightening situations, I have trouble reading them. The story of what he and his platoon went through fighting on the front, taking the town of Wyler, in Germany, makes me feel ill with fear. Just words on a page can do that. Imagine actually being there?

Anyway, my father ended the war as a Major. He died in 1978, when I was 17. He never, ever talked to me (or anyone, as far as I know) about what happened to him during the war. It does seem a long time ago, now. I can't remember what his voice sounded like.

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