Thursday, November 10, 2011


This is a snapshot of a project you can find here. Each poppy represents a Canadian from Toronto who died in World War Two. Tiny tree lined enclaves painted red. On Markham Street in the Annex two brothers at 745, one killed in 1942 in the air force. Two years later the second dying in Belgium with the poor bloody infantry. A few doors down towards Bloor another airman. Up towards Dupont two from a single address. Different names, half brothers perhaps? A rooming house? One gone down with his ship in early '45, the war winding down, Germany in ruins. The other killed liberating France with the Toronto Scottish.

A few streets away at 248 and 250 Albany, another airman and his neighbour, a rifleman, killed on June 6th, 1944.

If I go to eastern Toronto I find a home across the street from my own. Friends of ours once lived there. Long before they did so did a young man named Malcolm Bell, son of Malcolm and Elsie, shot down over Germany on November 3rd, 1943. I look at Roseheath, the street one west of my own. During the summer they close the street down and have a party, a band plays and the children play games and neighbours congregate for food and drinks. On Halloween we walked the length of the street, packed with trick o treaters, crazy colours and costumes, laughter and shouting children.

At the top of the street John O Halloran lived at 111. He was 28 years old when he died in Italy on May 30th 1944. Perhaps he left a wife and children? Perhaps he knew Norman Hunter from a few doors down at #83. They were in different units but how could they not have known each other, being neighbours. They are neighbours still, buried in the same cemetary at Cassino, Hunter falling nine days after O'Halloran.

Across the street at 84 lived Robert Sheckleton. He died along with seventeen shipmates when the corvette Levis was torpedoed in 1941 off of Greenland.

At 58 they received the news that Richard Carney, a 24 year old pilot, was killed on August 16th of 1943. Just three doors down at 52 just over a year later they learned that Raymond Boddy, a boy of 19, was killed in Belgium on September 15th.

And down a little further at #34, just about where the street ends, where we head west as we walk the kids to school, the ravine where we used to take the old dog to sniff and wander just behind the houses, lived young William Venton, who died in France on July 26th 1944.

Walk this street now, the neat duplexes and odd detached brick home, built in the mid twenties for the Irish and Scottish men who worked in the factories and brickyards and railcars just south of the neighbourhood. The pretty little yards and gardens. The street shadowed by the tall old trees. The young families that have flooded the neighbourhood.

It was a long time ago. One wonders about those years. Did the men whose sons had died in Europe gather at a pub on the Danforth, drinking and smoking, trying to obliterate the horror. Did the women bring meals to attempt to comfort their neighbours, weeping, heartbroken? What nightmares haunted their neighbours whose boys still lived somewhere over there?

What unbelievable sorrow must have clenched this quiet street all of those long years ago.


Darren said...

"What unbelievable sorrow must have clenched this quiet street all of those long years ago. "

I feel we abuse and take for granted what thoes men did for us, the nation, and the world.
I wonder if those men would turn over in their grave nowadays.

hunter1909 said...

My last WW2 relative(RAF, Battle of Britain) who died about 7 years ago went out saying the wrong side won the war.

The rulers of today have no respect for freedom, as witnessed by the recent hijacking of western civilization by ex 60's radicals(far left) + commercial(far right) interests.

Black Dog said...

Darren - yeah its pretty sad that these guys sacrificed everything and so much of society today is based on greed and selfishness. Its very sad.

Hunter - that's harsh and its too bad that he felt that way.

Bar Qu said...

I have always idolized the guys (and gals) who went from Canada to fight our battles. Even during the dark days of the late 80s and 90s when they essentially were spat upon by politicians and public alike. I am glad these servicemen are getting their due for laying their life on the line all the time.

And it is a grand thing that we get to celebrate the heroes who gave their lives or their sanity for our security. God bless them.

Unknown said...

My Dad, God bless him, was in the RCAF from the early '50's to the 70's and we travelled Canada and Europe with him while he defended us against the Soviet Union. I have always been grateful to him for that and sure glad that I was never drafted to fight in Vietnam....Brian aka Nanaimo Oil