WAR AND REMEMBRANCE
Veterans of WWI and WWII were brave, not privileged.
To commemorate the November 11, 1918 Armistice Day, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau flew to France and paid a visit to Vimy Ridge. There Canadian troops for the first time fought under their own command, and as the monument explains: “The Canadian Corps on the 9th of April, 1917, with four divisions in line on a front of four miles, attacked and captured this ridge.” My grandfather, Lorne Henry Billingsley, was there that day, and he did not return home until after the Armistice. Let me tell you about him.
He was born on October 25, 1895, in Bracebridge, Ontario, the second of ten children. So it wasn’t much of a privileged existence for young Lorne Henry. In 1914, when World War I broke out, he could have claimed it was a European conflict and nothing to do with him. He opted for a different route.
On September 25, 1914, leaving family and friends behind, he sailed with the first Canadian contingent for Europe. There he served with the Third and Fourth Field Ambulance and saw action at Armentieres, Ypres, Vimy Ridge, Arras, Amiens and Mons, all scenes of major battles. Lorne Henry Billingsley was one of the first victims of German mustard gas attack, which left him with lung damage.
Back in Canada he drove a streetcar in Regina, and when doctors recommended outside work, he took up farming in that province. The World War I veteran was only 51 when he passed away on October 12, 1946. By then World War II was over, and from his family of eight children, two sons played a role in that conflict. One was my father, Kenneth Billingsley.
He too could have played it safe by claiming that a European conflict had nothing to do with him. Instead, at only 17, he lied about his age to join up. When this was discovered, the army would not let him serve, but he didn’t retreat back into civilian life or party it up in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver.