Canada's History

Family ties


Around Remembranc­e Day last year I was chatting with my friend Divya, who immigrated to Canada a few years ago from India. I mentioned that I was planning on attending the Remembranc­e Day ceremonies, which I do every year in honour of my grandfathe­r who fought as a gunner in the First World War.

“You’re lucky,” Divya said. “You have stories you can tell your kids about your ancestors in Canada. I don’t have any stories like that.”

The thought had never occurred to me, but I realized that she was right. The experience­s of my grandfathe­r — who used to tell a funny story about diving into a trench to escape mortar fire, only to discover that other troops had been using it as a latrine — connect me in a small yet intimate way to the larger events of our country’s history.

In this issue, as we mark the hundredth anniversar­y of the Royal Canadian Air Force, two writers share stories that began with a family connection. In “Men against the Desert,” Dawn Martens recounts RCAF pilot Bob Spence’s incredible month-long trek to freedom after his plane was shot down over Libya in 1942. Martens heard about the adventure from her mother, Dawn Cline, who was friends with Spence and exchanged letters with him during his overseas service; those letters became a primary source for the story.

Joel Ralph’s article “The Darkest Nights” also stems from a personal connection. Ralph’s great-uncle Joe Halloran was a bomb aimer during the Second World War. Ralph uses his great-uncle Joe’s experience­s as an entry point into the Battle of Berlin, a five-month-long bombing operation that sought to knock the German capital and its industrial facilities out of the war.

Elsewhere in this issue, Monique Benoit delves into the mystery of an antique plaque of the Virgin Mary, and Timothy Andrews Sayle explains the seventy-five-year history of the NATO military alliance. At the end of his article is a link to our podcast episode about the origins of NATO. I hope you’ll give it a listen.

Speaking with Divya made me curious to find out more about my grandfathe­r’s war service. I discovered that he had fought with the 3rd Canadian Division and that, due to a shortage of artillery, the 3rd (Lahore) Division of the Indian Corps was, for a time, attached to the Canadian Division. Though we don’t learn about it in school, the British Empire created many links between Canada and India. Who knows? By digging into her family history, my friend Divya might yet discover an ancestral connection to her adopted country.

 ?? ?? The Halloran siblings in 1945, left to right, Jack Halloran, Martin Halloran, Mary Heffernan, Patrick Halloran, and Joe Halloran.
The Halloran siblings in 1945, left to right, Jack Halloran, Martin Halloran, Mary Heffernan, Patrick Halloran, and Joe Halloran.
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