Harry Preston served in the Canadian army during World War Two. He grew up in western Canada, in and around Winnipeg, where Harry and his family experienced the realities of the Depression. Harry kept himself busy though, and with friends, he got involved in the militia and the Sea Cadets, where he was able to do training that would help him in the war to come. Harry joined the Winnipeg Rifles with the coming of the war, but when the opportunity to specialize in artillery came, Harry took it. He was trained as an anti-aircraft gunner, a process that intensified upon arrival in England. Harry was often stationed in vulnerable areas as England was repeatedly bombed in the 1942-44 period; he defended radar stations, airfields, and coastal zones. While in England, Harry – like so many young Canadian soldiers – met an Englishwoman and fell in love, later marrying this Land Army worker and bringing her to Canada. First, Harry endured the European campaign. He was sent to France after D-Day, and now a member of a self-propelled gun crew, he and his team provided support to the advancing Canadian infantry as they moved through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and into Germany itself. With VE Day, Harry returned to England and once his wife was cleared for passage to Canada, they made the trip together, settling and building a life for themselves in the postwar period.
Oral History Project July 5th, 2018
Richard Field served in Canada’s 2nd Division during World War Two. He grew up in Toronto during the Depression years, where he was able to finish school and join the prewar militia and sea cadets, two organizations that would teach him many valuable lessons in the upcoming war years. When Richard moved into the regular army, he chose the artillery, where he learned all the facets of life in a 25-pounder crew. His training began in Canada, and after an uneventful troopship passage across the Atlantic, it continued in England. Shortly after D-Day, Richard’s crew was sent to Normandy and quickly into Belgium and the Netherlands, and Germany itself. As an artillery crewman, Richard provided support to the front line infantry troops, and he remembered intense battles in the Reichswald Forest and other sites along the route.
We met Richard at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in June 2018, where he was interviewed by a delegation of Crestwood students and Mr. Masters.
Oral History Project June 27th, 2018
Earl Gardner is a proud member of the Canadian Forces in the postwar era. He joined its ranks in the days of the Cold War, and he recalls the tensions of the Cuban Missile Crisis in particular, as well as the rebuilding that followed Hurricane Hazel in Toronto. Earl’s career covered many aspects of the Forces; he served in intelligence, spent time in the provost corps as an MP, and he spent time training American soldiers during the Vietnam era, and he was an important part of the Canadian Forces’ public outreach program, particularly during the 50th Anniversary of D-Day in 1994. Earl was brought to our attention by the Jewish War Veterans of Canada, and he happens to be the brother of Crestwood grandfather Norm Gardner, whose story can also be found in this project.
Earl was interviewed in his home by Mr. masters in March 2018.
Oral History Project April 27th, 2018
Harry Sanders sailed the oceans of the world during the Second World War. Born in the small seaside community of South Shields, in Great Britain, he answered a Marconi company ad on the topic of wireless operators, and soon his training was underway, as he left school and South Shields behind him. Soon named a junior radio officer, his adventures began, as he would move from one ship to the next in subsequent years, joining one convoy after the next. Harry crossed the Atlantic on many occasions, seeing ports of call everywhere in the world. Along the way he and the men and women of the merchant marine sustained the war effort, bringing crucial supplies to Britain in her hour of need. And Harry did pay the price: one of his ships was torpedoed on the south Atlantic, where Harry was lucky to survive, clinging to a raft and following the current ashore to Sierra Leone. Shipped back to England, it was on to the next adventure, which included an assignment to an Allied troop ship, ferrying the men to Omaha Beach once D-Day was underway. In the final days of the war, he brought supplies to the men fighting the Battle of the Bulge, and to the Dutch survivors of the “Hunger Winter”.
Harry came to our attention as the result of an article in the Toronto Star, and Tillsonburg Mayor Stephen Molnar helped put Mr. Masters in touch, and Mr. Masters visited Harry in his home in early January 2018.
Oral History Project February 2nd, 2018
Larry Bunston was born in Saskatoon, but early in his life his father made the decision to take the family to Ontario, hopefully to make a better life for his family. Larry grew up in different parts of Ontario, notably Oshawa and Brantford, where he and his four brothers played sports and kept on their parents’ good side. With the coming of the war, all four brothers enlisted, and Larry and another brother made it overseas. Larry went into the army, and after training at Camp Borden, he made his way down east, where a troop ship awaited him in Halifax. In England he was trained as a despatch rider, with motorcycle and truck driving lessons in his future. He crossed over to France shortly after D-Day, where he found himself in many precarious positions as he fulfilled his driving duties. Several times he was in search of broken down vehicles and almost fell into German hands. Wounded near the end of the war, Larry was sent back to England and his future wife, and later they made their way together back to Canada, falling into the rhythm of Canada’s postwar boom.
Oral History Project January 26th, 2018
Norm Short served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. Born in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland, the young Norm moved to Quebec along with his family when they settled in Shawinigan Falls. When the war came, Norm joined up in Montreal, as part of the Essex Scottish Regiment. he completed his basic training and waited until his 19th birthday, when he was sent overseas. In England he was trained as a motorcycle dispatch rider. After D-Day, Norm headed across the Channel on D+5, and he was called to duty as the Battle of Caen was raging. Norm took part in the terrible Battle of Carpiquet, a costly Canadian victory before the Falaise Gap and the collapse of the German army in France. Norm and his fellow soldiers moved across northern Europe, liberating towns and civilians and enjoying the fruits of their labours. With VE Day, Norm headed back to England, and then Canada, settling into the postwar rhythm of life in Toronto.
We met Norm in the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in December 2017, when he was interviewed by a delegation of Crestwood students over the December Break.
Oral History Project January 7th, 2018
Jack Boeki’s World War Two story is a unique one. Born in Rotterdam in 1925, Jack grew up with fond memories of the city and its people, and of his family and childhood. All of it was shattered in May 1940, when the German blitzkrieg turned west towards the Netherlands, and Jack’s city came under assault. The family lost everything in the bombing and was forced to start all over, amid mounting restrictions on Jews which saw Jack go into hiding. The family he was staying with soon after warned him that it had become too dangerous and Jack took off to avoid capture. From there, Jack obtained a fake identity and began his series of remarkable escapes, repeatedly eluding the grasp of the Nazis. Jack left the Netherlands and escaped to France, where the underground put him in contact with agents of the American OSS, the original version of the CIA. They arranged to get Jack to Britain, where his talents were recognized, and Jack was dispatched to the United States for military training. In March 1944, as the liberation of occupied Europe drew near, Jack’s unit was ordered to England. Now an agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC), he had received special training to uncover war criminals and would soon put his skills to use on his most important missions yet. On June 8, just two days after the initial D-Day landings, Jack’s team of agents landed on Utah Beach in Normandy, France.
Oral History Project December 18th, 2017
John Hall was born in the Canadian West in the early 1920s. He grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, though he said he was lucky to have been sheltered from the toughest times. With his brother he made his way to western Ontario, riding the rails and working the ports of Lake Superior. While his brother stayed and worked the mines, John finished school and joined the armed forces in Toronto, eventually landing in the First Hussars. After training he boarded the Queen Elizabeth troopship and headed to Britain, where he spent time in Aldershot, completing his tank crew training. John became a radio operator and main gun loader and a member of a Sherman tank crew. John went ashore in France a few weeks after D-Day and the liberation of Caen, and he saw his early action in Falaise and the ensuing Battle of Normandy. From there he moved through Belgium and the Netherlands, where he has fond memories of the civilians greeting the troops. When the war concluded, John returned to Canada and built a life for himself.
We met John at the Sunnybrook Veterans Wing in July 2017, when he was interviewed by Crestwood students Arielle Meyer and Samara Black.
Oral History Project August 9th, 2017
Mary Jarvis grew up in Ontario in the prewar era, in the Markham area just north of Toronto. She grew up in a conservative, church-going family, in what was then a largely rural community, and Mary recalls chafing just a bit against those restrictions; like her friends, she would have loved to enjoy the movies and dances that were making their appearance. With the war, Mary enlisted, recalling it to be a duty and an expectation – and a way to escape those familial restrictions. She chose the CWACs, and her training took her to Ottawa, where she learned to become a driver. After time on the home front, she was sent off to England to play her role ferrying troops and equipment to the Channel ports. Mary remembers driving the roads in the dead of night, and the talks she had with the wounded soldiers in her charge. She also remembers fulfilling the rebellious streak that led her into the army, and the loss that was part of life – her fiance died on D-Day. Soon back in Canada, she fell into the rhythm of civilian life, marrying and raising a family, and finding her way in postwar Canada
Oral History Project May 29th, 2017
Jack Lewis was born in Montreal in 1925, the youngest in a family where both parents were war veterans. His father was a doctor, and his mother was a nurse, and they’d met in the battlefield hospital near Boulogne. They spent much of the Great War in that one location, and Jack remembers that in his war, he passed through that area in about an hour. Growing up in Montreal, Jack was insulated from the tough economic times of the 1930s, and he remembers a vibrant city where he and his friends enjoyed all that life offered. With the coming of the war, Jack’s ambition was to enter the air force, but his eyesight denied him this opportunity, and he ended up in the army. He was selected for an artillery unit, and circumstance saw his unit, part of Canada’s 3rd Division, selected for Operation Overlord, or D-Day. Jack recalls the preliminary bombardment, and the tragedy of a downed Spitfire, before going ashore in his LST in the third wave. Juno was taken by then, so he and his unit provided support to the infantry ahead of them, moving past Caen and Falaise, and then into Belgium and the Netherlands. It was there that Jack’s war ended; he spent some time in the army of occupation before heading back to Canada, where he settled into the rhythm of postwar life.
Jack was interviewed for this project in his home in March 2017, by his daughter Suzie and Scott Masters.
Oral History Project March 31st, 2017
Tom Bradley is an American veteran of the Second World War, having served with the 29th Infantry Division in Europe. Tom hails from New Jersey, where he grew up during the Great Depression. When the war came, he was in school in Massachusetts, expecting to go on to college. But the government had other ideas, and he was sent off for basic training and then overseas to Europe, one of four brothers from the Bradley family who would do the same. Tom went ashore at Omaha Beach in the weeks after D-Day and along with the 29th he set out across France, and into Belgium and Germany. Tom served in the Ammunition Corps, keeping the front line soldiers supplied with needed materiel.
Scott Masters interviewed him at his home in Falmouth, Maine in July 2016.
Oral History Project July 12th, 2016
Yitzchak Kalev was born in Jerusalem, Palestine. He has lived there for all his life. During WW2 he served in the Royal Navy on a minesweeper. He remembers seeing the German paratroopers land in Crete and the bombers on D-Day. He also fought in the IDF for many years in the War for Independence. He now lives in Jerusalem Israel and has a wife, son, and grandchildren. Yitzchak was interviewed for this project by his great-nephew Indigo Goldfarb-Lewis, who visited him in Jerusalem in December 2015.
Oral History Project March 29th, 2016
Oral History Project March 24th, 2016
The Crestwood Oral History Project is in the midst of its busy season! The CHCs are completing their oral history interviews – all 80+ of them. In the last week, we have had 2 in class visitors, and done one in home visit. Students from Mr. Masters’ class went to visit Kelman Cohen in his home last week; Mr. Cohen is a Canadian army veteran who went overseas as a replacement soldier in 1944. He told Hartley Gelkopf (whose father is Kelman’s doctor), Harlan Rich, Willa Easton and Rory Peckham some unbelievable stories, first about growing up in prewar Toronto, and then about the experiences he survived in the Netherlands. The next day Israel Glassman – another patient of Dr. Gelkopf – came to Crestwood to share his stories with a large group of Grade 10s. Mr. Glassman served in the navy during WW2, doing trans-Atlantic convoy runs and D-Day support missions in the English Channel. Both men were able to add to the students’ understanding of the war, and to give them an emotional connection to events that shaped Canada 70 years ago. This week Pinchas Gutter came to Crestwood; Pinchas is a survivor of the Holocaust from Poland. He is a renowned speaker who has lectured extensively around the world, and he was chosen by the Shoah Foundation for the holographic initiative – please click here for his appearance on the Today show. Crestwood students were lucky to meet Pinchas in person and to hear how he survived. Stay tuned for an update on our visit to Baycrest!
Phil Harmon is an American veteran of the Second World War from Maine, where he presently lives in the town of Hollis. Originally from the Cape Elizabeth area, Phil grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, though his family was fortunate to be spared many of its most negative impacts. By 1939, as events in Europe and Asia spiralled into war, Phil was attending Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where he ran cross country. But as the U.S. entered the war, Phil received his draft notice and reported for duty in 1943. Training took him to Missouri, and he was shipped to Marseilles, France, not long after D-Day. His unit made its way north, preparing to enter the Battle of the Bulge. And it was during that battle where Phil was wounded, soon after reaching the front lines. He spent several months in the hospital recovering from a chest wound, and by the time he was returned to his unit, most of the fighting was over. He spent several months in Europe during which time he met his sister in Paris; then he was shipped home, where he was happy to leave his soldier’s life behind him.
Phil was interviewed for this project by Scott Masters in December 2015.
Oral History Project January 3rd, 2016
LCdr LeFresne enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces as a MARS (Maritime Surface-Subsurface) Officer in June 1997. After 4 Years at the Royal Military College (RMC), he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Military and Strategic Studies and was posted to Victoria, BC to complete bridge officer training. Upon completion of this training, LCdr LeFresne was posted to HMCS Charlottetown in Halifax, NS to proceed with Officer of the Watch (OOW) certification. During his tour with Charlottetown, he attained the Naval Officer Professional Qualification and sailed in numerous fisheries patrols and task group exercises. A highlight of this two and half year period was Charlottetown’s participation in the 60th Anniversary of D-Day celebrations held off the shores of France.
Upon completion of his tour with Charlottetown, LCdr LeFresne was assigned to the Canadian Forces Naval Operations School to complete training as an Under Water Warfare Officer, which is the position he served in HMCS Fredericton. Service in Fredericton also saw east coast sea time in multiple fisheries patrols and task group exercises as well as assistance to the RCMP in one of the largest drug interceptions in Canadian history. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Commander in April 2012.
LCdr LeFresne remained in Victoria, BC and oversaw the development of technical and readiness trials for frigates completing the Halifax Class Modernization (HCM) program. During this period he was heavily involved in the planning and preparation of Royal Canadian Navy’s participation in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014, the world’s largest maritime exercise.
LCdr LeFresne is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Defence Studies as part of the Joint Command and Staff Program at the Canadian Forces College. He lives in Toronto with his wife and 3 children.
LCdr LeFresne came to visit us at Crestwood, courtesy of the CFC, in March 2015, when he was interviewed by a host of students from different grades. Mindy Zhou and Doris Qiao took the lead in completing this project.
Oral History Project May 13th, 2015
Oral History Project April 20th, 2015
Alan Forster was born in Toronto, growing up in the city’s east end during the Great Depression. From a military family, he joined up as soon as he was able, heading off to training and then to England. Shortly after the D-Day invasion, Alan headed to France, to begin his “baptism under fire”. They were in the thick of it, right away, fighting through Normandy and into Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany itself. Alan’s memories of those times are clear, and his stories are ideal for Canadians looking to find insights in the minds of young Canadian men in the 1940s.
We met Alan in his room at the Sunnybrook Veterans Wing, where he was interviewed for this project in April 2015. Crestwood students visited again in January 2018, this time filming Alan in HD!
Oral History Project March 31st, 2015
June Rudd was born in Northumberland, England and raised in Manchester in 1924. June shares her story of wartime life in England, including evacuations, air raid shelters and rationing. Like many young British women, June contributed directly to the war effort by serving as a WREN, or member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, beginning in 1943. June’s service focused mainly on coding messages for Naval communication. Her coding work would assist with the planning of Operation Overlord. In the months after D-Day, June would follow the Allies through liberated Europe.
June’s story sheds light on the integral role played by the WRENS in World War 2. She spoke with Grade 9 student Natalie Mercer in 2014.
Oral History Project June 10th, 2014
Frank Mendham was born in Toronto in 1924; like many his age he grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, dealing with the realities of day-to-day life. When the war came, Frank went into the cavalry, like his father before him. By the time of the Second World War, tanks had replaced horses. Frank spent time in England before heading over to France on D-Day; from Normandy, he and his regiment made their way through France and the Netherlands, into Germany.
We visited Frank at the Sunnybrook veterans’ Wing on February 27, 2014, where he was interviewed by Crestwood students Ahmed Izzeldin, Simon Yuan, and Jacob Gurdzy.
Oral History Project April 16th, 2014
John Hishon and his mother lived in the Yonge & Bloor area of Toronto, where his Mom worked extremely hard to make a living during the Great Depression.. When the war broke out, John trained on the Canadian Exhibition grounds, where at first they did not have any equipment and were laughed at. He eventually was shipped to England, where he saw firsthand the Battle of Britain. His squadron was wiped out at Dieppe, but John was lucky to escape this tragic event because he was injured at the time. He was sent to France after D-Day and was involved in the attack on Caen on the fourth of July, 1944. He advanced with the Canadian army in northwestern Europe, through belgium and Netherlands, through to VE Day. We met Mr. Hishon at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in November 2013, where he was interviewed by Steven Feng and Hunter Kell.
Oral History Project January 3rd, 2014
Bill Talbot grew up against the backdrop of 1930s Toronto. When his father, a World War One veteran, passed away, Bill dropped out of school to help his mother make ends meet. When the war came along, Bill enlisted, eventually finding his way into the First Canadian Parachute Regiment. Training took place in both the U.S. and Canada, and Bill was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, in addition to other camps. He made his way overseas and began to prepare for the inevitability of D-Day. Bill was among the first Canadians into France, on the night of June 5-6. His Battle of Normandy lashed for about one month, when a sniper’s bullet ended the war for him.
Bill came to us with Jack Reid; both men were interviewed in October 2013, with Bill sitting down with Liam Mayer, Nick Mennell, Antony Cook and Zach Brown.
Oral History Project November 12th, 2013
Charles Leggatt served in the British army during WW2. Charles visited us at Crestwood several times, and on our final visit with him we visited him in his home. Charles was a magnificent storyteller, and he shared with Crestwood students his numerous wartime exploits: the Home Guard, his memories of his brother Kenneth, the Battle of Britain, training with the Signal Corps, D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, fighting in Holland and Germany, and the liberation of Belsen.
Oral History Project February 20th, 2013
Martin Maxwell was born in 1924, in the city of Vienna. He grew up amidst difficult circumstances in the 1930s, when Hitler come to power. On December 31, 1938, Martin and his brother left Austria to go to Great Britain on the Kindertransport. Martin was adopted by a family there. In 1942, he joined the military. Because of his European roots, he was considered an Enemy Alien, and was only allowed to join the Pioneer Corps. On June 5-6, 1944, Martin and his squad participated in the D-day landings. His job was to pilot a glider behind enemy lines and take 3 enemy bridges. Martin was later captured during Operation Market Garden and was sent to a POW camp in Hanover. On May 1st 1945, Martin and the rest of his fellow prisoners were liberated by a British tank battalion, which marked the end of the war for Martin Maxwell.
Martin was interviewed at his business by Crestwood students Brandon Liebman and Adam Wilson. Since he has participated in this project several times, and in 2012 he was interviewed at Crestwood by Justin Memar, Nick Mennel, Lucas Brum, and Justin Yeung. In 2016 he visited with Mr. Hawkins, along with Julian Spaziani, Victoria Xu, Spencer Arshinoff and Anthony Radford-Grant.
Oral History Project January 11th, 2013
Bernard’s family originally came from Poland, but Bernard grew up in France not far from the Luxembourg border. When his father became concerned about the state of affairs in Germany, the family moved to southern France, in what would become the Vichy zone. When the family learned that the Gestapo was looking for Bernard’s father, they separated and went into hiding. Taken into a Catholic school, a young Bernard took on the identity Jacques Cardinal and became a messenger for the Resistance, a job he maintained through his early teens and most of the war. When that Resistance cell was discovered, he went back into hiding and re-emerged as Jacques Maurin. At this time Bernard was recruited by the Maquis, the armed branch of the French Resistance. He participated in several missions as the Allies began the D-Day landings to the north. After France was liberated, Bernard was fortunate to be re-united with his family members, all of whom had survived the war and the Jewish deportations out of Vichy. They made their way to the United States in 1949.
I met Bernard Mussmand, through my father George Masters. I was able to interview him at his home in Portland, Maine in December 2008.
Lorne Winer first visited Crestwood in February 2012, at the age of 95. He sat down with Canadian History 10 students Maxime Bernier and Nathan George, and told them about his life both before and after the war. Lorne grew up in Toronto, where he remembered life in the Ward during the depths of Depression. He enlisted shortly after the war broke out; after training and an overseas journey that he characterized as utterly miserable, he ended up in England, where he prepared for the D-Day landings. Once the regiment crossed the Channel, Lorne fought his way through Normandy, and into Belgium and the Netherlands, where he had fond memories of the Dutch people. In May 2015, Lorne was featured in a Toronto Star article on the Oral History Project Breakfast, and Mr. Masters did a follow-up interview with him, which is featured here, along with footage from class presentations that were delivered in January 2016 and February 2017, shortly after Lorne had turned 99. Lorne brought many personal insights and stories to this interview, and we thank Historica Dominion for their part in bringing him to Crestwood.
Born into a military family, Charles Scot-Brown said there was never a doubt about his enlistment. After growing up during the Depression, Charles joined the army and was trained as an infantryman. He was sent overseas to England and went across the Channel on June 6, 1944, as part of the second wave of Allied landings on D-Day. He and his men had been trained to take a radar station, and Charles completed this mission successfully, going on to further distinction in the Battle of Normandy. Eventually a wound took him out of commission, but only briefly as he returned to the field in an airborne regiment during Operation Market Garden. When the battle faltered, Charles was fortunate to escape to the Allied lines, avoiding becoming a POW. Charles is dedicated to the educational efforts of Historica Dominion and the Royal Canadian Military Institute, and we thank them for their part in bringing him to Crestwood.
Charles visited Crestwood twice in February 2012, where he was interviewed for this project by students in the Grade 10 history class. We were honoured to visit him at the RCMI in October 2017, when he was interviewed by Arielle Meyer, Justin Soberman, Armin Selzner, Ammar Prabhakar, and Spencer Whitnall.
John Reynolds served in the Canadian Forces during WW2. He had tried to join the Air Force in 1940 but was considered too young, so a year later he tried to join the Navy but was unable to go because his work was considered essential. When they actually let him join the forces, he joined the Army, specifically the signals, which dealt with electronics and communication. After training and going overseas, John ended up in Italy, with the other “D-Day Dodgers”. He saw action in Ortona and Montecassino. All the while, he was supported on the home front by his friend and eventual wife Margaret, who is also heard here.
They were interviewed in their home by Crestwood students Julian Wilson, Dana Davidson, Maria Garcia, and Jonah Prussky. As John suffered a stroke and has some speech impairment, we have included a transcript in the photo section at the bottom of the page.
John Kilpatrick joined at the age of 18 and became an officer at 20. He operated between Newfoundland and Londonderry, the North Sea, the Bay of Biscay, and D-Day. His family believed that joining the war was a duty of being a Canadian citizen and they strongly supported his enlistment. John served honourably and then returned to Canada to begin his postwar life.
He was interviewed in his room at Sunnybrook by Amanda Lee, Max Ahn, and Laurel Freedman in November 2010.
Murray Jacobs grew up in prewar Toronto, where he saw some of the city’s growing pains in the 1930s. That included the infamous Christie Pitts Riots of the 1930s, in which he was involved and was forced to confront the reality of local anti-Semitism. He enlisted in World War Two, where he would serve in the engineering battalions. He was sent overseas and eventually went ashore at Juno Beach in the week after D-Day. His regiment fought through Normandy, the Netherland, and into Germany. Murray has since visted the Netherlands, where he is a proud member of Canada’s army of liberation. Today he continues to involve himself in the Royal Canadian Legion and the Memory Project. He was interviewed for this project by Matt D’Ambrosio and Brian Schwartz.