MARCH­ING ON MOTHER’S DAY

Bob Grant re­calls con­fi­dence of fel­low re­cruits march­ing off to war

The Western Star - - FRONT PAGE - BY GARY KEAN gary.kean@thewest­ern­star.com Twit­ter: WS_GaryKean

On Mother’s Day in 1940, Cor­ner Brook was vir­tu­ally shut down.

There weren’t ex­actly a lot of busi­nesses back then, but nearly ev­ery man, woman and child dropped what they were do­ing to go bid farewell to a group of lo­cal men who were vol­un­teer­ing to go to war.

A train car­ry­ing would-be sol­diers had made its way from cen­tral New­found­land to pick up the con­tin­gent of fresh re­cruits from Cor­ner Brook.

Bob Grant was among the 105 young men who gath­ered at the old bad­minton hall on West Street be­fore march­ing down to­wards Main Street and over to the train sta­tion in Hum­ber­mouth.

The night be­fore they de­parted, he and about 50 oth­ers who had been work­ing at the Bowa­ters pa­per mill in Cor­ner Brook, but who had de­cided to leave their work for the war front, en­joyed a fancy meal at the ex­pense of their em­ployer.

Grant would not come back home un­til 1946, hav­ing spent most of those years in be­tween fight­ing with the 166 New­found­land Field Reg­i­ment in North Africa and Italy un­til the war ended in 1945.

It was only this past week that Grant saw the film footage taken on May 12, 1940 — the day he and the oth­ers marched off to war from the com­fort of safe Cor­ner Brook.

While he is not seen in any of the footage, Grant rec­og­nized sev­eral of the faces in the video. He is one of the few men who marched that day who are still liv­ing.

He re­mem­bers well the great con­fi­dence he and his com­rades had as they proudly strode off to the wait­ing train and bid their en­thu­si­as­tic farewells to the huge crowd wav­ing good-bye back at them.

“When we left Cor­ner Brook, we fig­ured we would be gone for one year and the war would be over as soon as we got over there,” said Grant, who turns 100 next June.

The re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion never hit home un­til they were in Eu­rope with the Ger­man army ad­vanc­ing in their di­rec­tion. Even their weapons were not used to the the­atre of war.

“We had guns that were never fired,” he re­called. “They were made in 1917, but they were never fired, and we had a rough, rough time get­ting ready to get into ac­tion.”

Of course, the day he left Cor­ner Brook was Mother’s Day. Grant said, with his mother hav­ing had three broth­ers who went over­seas be­fore him and his fa­ther and two of his fa­ther’s broth­ers also hav­ing gone, see­ing an­other young man in the fam­ily leav­ing was noth­ing new.

“She just told me to look af­ter my­self and to stay away from the girls over there,” he said.

Grant would lose his un­cle, Doug Grant, in the war. He was killed in France in 1943 while Grant was serv­ing in North Africa.

“When the of­fi­cer came to the door, my mother just asked, ‘Which one was it?’” said Grant.

GARY KEAN/THE WEST­ERN STAR

Sec­ond World War vet­eran Bob Grant of Cor­ner Brook, who will be 100 years old next June, was among the re­cruits who made the his­toric march through down­town Cor­ner Brook to a train in Hum­ber­mouth that was wait­ing to take them off to war on Mother’s Day in 1940.

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