Remembering war-time billet
In 1943, when I was seven years old, an RCAF recruit by the name of Paul Mavaut was billeted with my parents in Brandon, Man. He was learning to fly Lancaster bombers. I remember him. He was, for a few months, the centre of laughter and life in our house.
Yesterday, Nov. 1, my wife was cleaning out drawers and found a letter from Paul Mavuat to my parents, postmarked London, England, and dated June 13, 1944.
In it, Paul was full of life, true to character. He was enjoying a short leave, although leaves weren’t as much fun as they used to be “because so many of my old pals are prisoners of war, or gone permanently.”
Recently he had had “a grand view of some of the action during the landings,” but he was “unable to linger, because Lancaster bombers were such a sizeable target.”
He hoped that after a “few more trips” he would be granted
a leave to visit family in Canada. And now he was off for lunch with a Spitfire pilot who was “most interesting to talk to.”
My mother added an end note to the letter: Paul Mavaut was killed in action on this last tour of duty.
I owe you Paul Mavaut. I owe you and the many others who fought beside you for allowing me to live a reasonably fruitful life, in a reasonably peaceful country. I deeply regret that I cannot stand beside you, and shake your hand, and, however inadequate, say thank you for your sacrifice.