Remembering my uncle

Allen Olimer
Allen Olimer


I always think of my great uncle Allen Olimer at this time of year.

A self-made man running his own store in Northern Ontario, Allen decided at 35 to serve his country.

He felt he could serve best as a cook and became a member of the 10th Armoured Regiment.

On Aug.  8, 1944 Allen was killed when the Americans mistakenly bombed their allies. It was a horrific day in which many lives were lost.

Below is the photo taken after the bombing on that day, courtesy of Fort Garry Horse Museum and Archives.

Thank you for your sacrifice Allen and to the many men and women who died for freedom. We remember all those who have died this day.


I will be thinking about Sir Edward Morrison this Remembrance Day

Sir Edward WB Morrison was born in London in 1867 and served his country during a career as a journalist, writer and military member.

He was knighted for his services on the battlefield.

Definitely an unsung hero because few people know of this man.

My story below is about his connection to In Flanders Fields. If not for his loyalty, this poem published 100 years ago this year, might not have been written.

Thanks to a blog reader who first brought his story to my attention.

Private Stewart died for his country at 19 in Normandy


This framed photo and certificate from Canada’s Minister of National Defence recognizing Private Stanley George Stewart’s sacrifice caught my eye in Wortley yesterday.

It is in the window at the Westland Gallery.

I decided to find out more about this young lad, who died at 19 in July, 1944.

Canada’s Virtual War Memorial says he was the son of Sydney and Matilda Stewart of Paris, Ont. He served with the Highland Light Infantry of Canada, R.C.I.C. He is buried in France.

I also came across a website that listed his name, Fallen Heroes of Normandy: A Photographic Remembrance.

The website notes a headstone photo from his grave will be added in 2017. It says there is no photo of Stanley. I am going to send them this  photo as it is the same one on the Virtual War Memorial site.

Here is more information about the Fallen Heroes of Normandy  project:

“This project was formally established and launched in 2009 by military historian Carl Shilleto and his wife Irena Zientek. This online archive and website is the result of over ten years of preliminary research work. During this period, time has been spent collating information about the fallen and photographing the Commonwealth, American, Polish, French and German war cemeteries, communal cemeteries, churchyards and isolated graves in Normandy, France.

During his 20 year career as a writer, researcher and battlefield guide, Carl has accompanied and assisted hundreds of families and veterans around the battlefields of Normandy, so that they may pay their respects to their fallen relatives or comrades.

Particularly moved by the faded newspaper clippings and photographs these people often carried in memory to their loved ones or dear friends, Carl considered the possibility that in the next few years, the identity of the people in these images could fade from living memory. If that were to happen, it would be a great loss that would deny future generations the emotive experience of remembering the fallen in visual form.”

This site is worth checking out.

Here’s the link:

Please pause to remember all of our fallen today.

I’ll be thinking about my uncle, Trooper Allen Olimer, who also died in France in 1944. He is seen above.


WW II cook gives ultimate sacrifice

Leading up to Remembrance Day, I talked to my son about my uncle Allen Olimer who died in France during the Second World War.

My son somehow thought his sacrifice was less because he had been a cook for his regiment, Fort Garry Horse. This made me very sad and I explained to him that his sacrifice was equal to every other person who gave their life in the service of his or her country.

He had a skill and he volunteered to put himself in harm’s way in order to use it in service to his country. For this, our family and a country is grateful.

I contacted Gord Crossley of the Fort Garry Horse Museum and Archives for more information about the cooks who served.

This is what he said:

Cooks would go through the same basic training as every other soldier, then would go for specialist cook training. Some would also be trained in water purification and testing. They had to be trained in food preparation for everything from a dozen to 800 men at a time. Each Armoured Squadron (3 Squadrons to a Regiment) had 19 tanks and a number of trucks carrying supplies such as fuel ammunition and baggage. One of the trucks carried mobile kitchen equipment and a trailer.

When in battle, tank crews generally lived off ‘compo’ rations, which were mostly canned goods issued in boxes of food sufficient for 14 men for a day. These were split up amongst the crews and they ate when they could. When in a rear area, the regimental cooks came into play. The senior sergeant was qualified to inspect meat and could purchase it if available or it was supplied frozen from Service Corps supply depots, well in the rear.

The cooks would make fresh bread and cook meals with a mix of compo and fresh food that could be found. Much trading went on with local farmers, with the main currency being cigarettes, which were issued free to the soldiers.

The cooks and other support trucks moved behind the main fighting troops, generally stopping in tree lines or villages but could also be dispersed in the open if the threat of air attack was low. They would often move at night. The formation of all the supply and support vehicles is called the “B Echelon”.

When my uncle was in service on the day he died,  8 August 1944, the B Echelon vehicles of the FGH and other Canadian and Polish units were arrayed in the open south of Caen, near the modern village of Ifs.

A planned bombing raid on Caen went wrong when the colour of the flares to be dropped by the pathfinder aircraft turned out to be the same colour that day as the flares to be fired by our troops to identify themselves as friendly to overflying allied aircraft. Due to this unfortunate coincidence, our bombers dropped their load on the Canadian troops below.

The troops sent up more flares to warn the bombers off, but that just brought on more bombs. Frantic radio communications made it to divisional headquarters, then to England, then from Army HQ to the air force, where the message was passed for the bombers to stop dropping on that area. There was no direct radio contact at the time from the ground troops to the aircraft.

Unfortunately many troops were killed as they were in unarmoured vehicles, parked in the open. Many vehicles had full loads of fuel and ammunition for the tanks, and their explosions and fires contributed to the damage. 125 Canadians and Poles were killed and 131 were wounded.

Above is a photo taken after the bombing, supplied by Gord Crossley. Thanks kindly to him for the photo and information.

We will not forget.

Famous poem provides imagery for generations not familiar with war

Thanks to a reader who contributed a page for this blog from the Dec. 8, 1915 edition of Punch, which was a weekly British magazine. On the bottom right, you can see John McCrae’s famous poem, In Flanders Field.

We had to memorize it in school. Did you?

One of my children came home this week and told us they were discussing it in class. I was happy to hear of it. I doubt they will be asked to memorize it though.

I picked up a kids’ book at LPL called In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae for my own children to look at. It’s by Linda Granfield and illustrated by Janet Wilson.

The book says McCrae, a medical officer, expected to die. He said attending to all the wounded and dying on the battlefield was “Hell all the time.”

He witnessed the death of his friend, Lieut. Alexis Helmer, and shortly after wrote the moving poem.

A reader says the poem “went viral” – hand-to-hand, home to battlefield, and the media using its lines regularly.

McCrae managed to take his emotions and turn them into a poignant poem to salute his fallen comrades.

For those of us who have never witnessed war or even the countryside where the battles were waged, this poem fills our mind with pictures.

I hope you’ll take the chance to read it again as We Remember.

I’ve copied it below.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields