TAYLOR: The undying courage of Canada’s prisoners of war 

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But when they are told, it is something we should never forget. 

All of Canada’s combat veterans suffered — and suffer today — as a result of their selfless service to our country.

It goes with the job.

But it was a different kind of suffering for Canadians who became POWs. 

After a lifetime of living in a free and democratic society, their values suddenly meant nothing. 

Their freedoms were taken from them as they came under the control of an enemy who cared nothing for them or their very existence.

Captain and Padre John Weir Foote, 38, chose that fate during the disastrous Dieppe raid of 1942.

Carrying dozens of wounded comrades to safety, he repeatedly refused to be evacuated.

Then, in a remarkable act of selflessness, he allowed himself to be captured by the Nazis, along with his fellow members of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, so he could minister to their needs as POWs.

He was freed in 1945 and awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery. 

Then there was Wally Floody. Born in Chatham, Ont., he became a flight lieutenant and Spitfire pilot with 401 Squadron. 

He was shot down on Oct. 27, 1941 over France and sent to Stalag Luft III.

Calling on his Canadian mining skills, he was put in charge of tunnelling in preparation for “The Great Escape” which was immortalized in the Hollywood film of the same name.

The Nazis discovered his escape efforts in March 1944, and along with 19 members of his tunnelling team, he was shipped to another camp in Belaria where he remained until the end of the Second World War.

Just a few days after his relocation, 76 men escaped as a result of his work. Only three made it freedom. Fifty of those recaptured were murdered by Nazi machine gunners. 

In recognition of his courage, King George made him a Member of the Order of the British Empire. 

Ed Carter-Edwards was one of 26 Canadian airmen condemned to incarceration in Buchenwald — a Nazi death camp — from June 1944 until April 1945. 

Two of their number died and, for the rest of their lives, the survivors would carry memories of the beatings, executions, disease, and starvation that became part of everyday existence.

In Carter-Edwards’ words: “We thought, what is this? Where are we going? Why are we here? And as you got closer to the camp and started to enter … and saw these human skeletons walking around — old men, young men, boys, just skin and bone, we thought, ‘What are we getting into?’” 

In the two world wars alone, more than 12,000 Canadians suffered the terrors of being POWs.

As the bells ring out from Parliament Hill and across the country to mark Remembrance Day on Thursday, we have a duty to pause and remember them and all their comrades in arms.

Those who came home from war, those who did not, and those who were wounded — both physically and mentally —  who all cared more for our safety and freedoms than they did for their own.

Let us make one small pause for them, for all those who never hesitated in serving their country.

It means so much and costs so little.

One, silent prayer and the wearing of a blood-red poppy, brings us closer to all those who have served.

We must remember them. 

— Col. Gilbert Taylor, (HCol. retired) is the immediate past president of the Royal Canadian Military Institute and Ontario Branch of the Last Post Fund


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