Andersons of Craigmyle remembered
The sacrifices of families in wartime are immense as young men are shipped away without a certain future. Families waited at home for small things, any indication that their sons, daughters, brothers husbands are okay. Good news came in a hand-penned letter. Bad news would come in short, cold telegrams.
For the Anderson family of Craigmyle, there were three telegrams in World War II. Short, sterile messages to William and Dagnie of the loss of their three sons; twins William (Billy) and James ( Jimmy), and their older boy Lloyd.
Wi l l i a m Boyd Anderson, born in Scotland in 1883 came to Craigmyle 1914. In 1915, he married Dagnie Sechur from Denmark, who was visiting her aunt, when they met.
In 1917, Lloyd was born, and three years later came Billy and Jimmy. All three were schooled in Craigmyle and excelled in hockey and baseball.
Shortly after war broke out in Europe, twins Billy and Jimmy joined the RCAF and did their basic training at the new Penhold Base as well as Edmonton and Manitoba. Both enlisted as pilots. Billy received his wings at River Manitoba, and his rank was Flying Officer. Jimmy earned his wings at Mossbank, Saskatchewan, and earned the rank of Flight Sergeant.
Lloyd was 25 when he enlisted in the RCAF as a pilot. He trained at bases in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. He was grounded after a training accident and then was sent to Trenton, Ontario, where he became an air gunner. All three saw active duty. Jimmy was attached to the RAF #158 Squadron and he was fatally injured in a crash landing in England after a mission over Germany on October 17, 1942. The pilot attempted a three-engine landing at East Major. He is buried in Fulford Cemetery in Yorkshire, England.
Billy was posted at the Costal Command with the #407 Squadron. Little is know about his final mission. The Anderson family learned that he and his crew were on an anti-submarine patrol over the Bay of Biscay, and upon returning, the Hudson aircraft sent out an SOS, about 40 miles off the English coast in January of 1943. Rescue planes found no trace of their crippled planes and nothing has ever been recovered.
Ray Hummel of Drumheller knew the stories of the family well, as his mother married the Anderson boys’ uncle. He says that it took quite some time for Billy’s mother to accept he would not be coming home.
“My mother said she (Mrs. Anderson) used to set the table every night because she still had hopes because he wasn’t discovered,” he said. “This went on for some time.”
He said that taking walks with the family dog along the railroad tracks in the evening was therapeutic for the grieving family.
Lloyd went overseas in the spring of 1943. Hummel shared a family treasure with The Mail. This is a letter from Lloyd dated, February 18, of 1944. It was written to Betty Read, (now Rew), a friend of the community. He wrote about being able to meet up with Betty’s brother Jack Derry, and they spent a couple days together. He also talked about the Canadian soldiers playing hockey on Monday evening, however, he had not yet been able to join them. He yearned for home.
“The old town must be dead, but oh boy, I would like to be in it right now,” he wrote.
This may have been the last letter he wrote, because on March 3, 1944, just over a month after this letter was penned, he lost his life in a raid over Nuremberg, Germany. He was listed as missing until after the war when the family learned the plane went down over Belgium and he was buried. His body was moved and buried at the War Cemetery in Rheinberg, Germany.
Mrs. Anderson was named the Silver Cross Mother in 1959 and travelled by train to Ottawa for the November 11 services where she laid a wreath at the National War Memorial.
The family was honoured in the mid 1950’s when the Grade1-8 school at the Penhold Air Base was named the Andersons of Craigmyle School.
The school lasted until the mid-1990’s when the air base closed, and upon the urging of his mother, Hummel phoned the commander of Penhold. He went and packed up a number of artifacts, including some pictures, which he mounted and donated to Craigmyle and they are posted in the community hall. He also had a plaque mounted in granite, which was placed with the grave of the boys’ parents at Craigmyle.