Remembering A Fallen Soldier
In war, not all casualties occur on the battlefield
Sadly, serving one’s country in times of war often leads to the ultimate sacrifice... which can manifest itself in any number of ways.
During World War II, May and Eber Schooley of Humberstone Township ( now the Niagara Region) had all five of their sons in uniform and scattered throughout the world, leaving them and their two young daughters, Meta and Ruth, to anxiously wait out the war in their rural country home.
Don, the third of their seven children, was born on the family homestead, February 8, 1917. He enlisted in May of 1942, with one brother already in service; his other three brothers would shortly follow.
Don was with the Perth Regiment when he died in Italy on November 1, 1944. All casualties of war are tragic, but perhaps those whose lives are lost senselessly are especially heart- wrenching. Donald was standing outside the home where he and his fellow platoon members were billeted in Italy, when he was killed. A weapons inspection was scheduled and he and several comrades were chatting as they waited for it to commence. Inside the house, two soldiers were hurriedly trying to clean a Bren gun (a type of light machine gun) when the weapon accidently discharged. The bullet ripped through the door and hit Don in the back of the head as he stood chatting on the steps with his comrades. The inquiry found the two men who’d been cleaning the weapon ( a sergeant and a private) guilty of negligence for failing to unload the gun before attempting to clean it. A moment of carelessness by two young men led to one life needlessly lost, and two young men left with the painful memory of causing the death of a comrade.
Don’s sister, Meta, recalls the day early in the spring of 1942 when she and her mother came into the farmhouse to find Don shaving at the kitchen sink. His mother asked if he was going out and he answered that he was off to enlist. When she suggested he wait until he was called up he replied, “Well, Mother, maybe if enough of us single fellows go, the married men won’t have to.”
Don rests in the Cesena War Cemetery in the province of Forli, Italy.
His brother William was severely wounded and although not expected to live, did survive. His other brothers, Norman, Raymond and Merle all returned unscathed. ■