Letters remind us of pain of war

Allen Olimer
Allen Olimer

I have just received a great gift from a man related to the Olimer side of our family by marriage.

Thanks to Clark Hooten, I have precious letters my uncle Allen Olimer sent home from the front lines during World War II.

He was killed in August, 1944.

There is also a letter from Allen’s sister-in-law Violet, writing to let her family members know of his death. It is truly heartbreaking.

In reading the letters, I wonder if we have really learned anything about the horror of war?

The rhetoric from politicians and other world leaders leaves little doubt that the two world wars are fading from collective memory and the generations that fought in these wars can no longer convey the pain.

We must remind our leaders, every chance we get, that going to war is not an option.

From my great-aunt Vi to relatives in Bracebridge Ont.: “We just had some terrible news. Allen was killed in action Aug. 8. Further information when they have it. It is almost too much to bear. I would have phoned only I did not want to upset mother. Well there is not anything to say or do. Love Violet.”

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Canadians remembered for freeing Dover

Canada has a special place in the hearts of residents of Dover, England.

It’s been 70 years since the shelling of Dover ended during World War II – thanks to Canadians.

On Sept. 30, 1944, the Toronto Star headline read: Dover’s 4-Year Ordeal Ended by Canadians.

Canadian army commander, Lieut.-Gen. Crerar was sent a note of thanks by the people of Dover after the capture of Cap Gris Nez meant the German shelling of the town had ended.

Other towns along the shore joined in the celebrations and thanks.

“In Folkestown, townspeople danced in the streets and also attended a thanksgiving service in the centuries-old parish church,” a newspaper article states.

And earlier this month, on Sept. 14, the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin Dover held a commemoration and thanksgiving service on the 70th anniversary of the capturing of the guns.

Here’s a program from this year’s service at Dover, courtesy of a blog reader, which I’m so pleased to be able to show you.

dover

 

The operation at Cap Gris Nez near Calais was costly.

Lieut-Corp. John Elton Fuller, of Brantford, was killed when his Highland Light Infantry of Canada unit stormed the area.

He helped to silence the big guns that fired on Dover for years.

His body was laid to rest in a military cemetery at St. Englebert.

For more about Fuller, you can visit the Virtual War Memorial  online. Here is the link:

http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/2214136?John%20Elton%20Fuller

There are plaques which commemorate the Canadian efforts, including one that has armoured plating from one of the German long-range guns used at Calais.

“The 84 rounds recorded formed part of the 2226 shells fired from these batteries at the harbour and town of Dover during the period 1940 to 1944. The gun was captured by Canadian forces in 1944, and it was they who presented the plating,” it reads.

Of course we all remember the war song, The White Cliffs of Dover, and townspeople hid in caves there during the shelling.

Can you imagine the joy of residents there when they realized the shells would no longer fly and they could freely go about their day?

From the same blog reader, comes a copy of a transcript from the diary of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King from Oct. 1-2, 1944.

It reads: “I went for a walk after waiting to get the morning news at 9. It told of the capture of Calais… Something that filled my heart with joy. It should beget a lasting gratitude of Canada in English hearts and homes for generations to come. I took the little dogs for a walk to the far gate – a beautiful morning, cold & fresh – invigorating.”

Such an important part of Canadian history, yet how many know the story of the Canadians and the capture of the guns?