Thursday, November 11, 2010


Insignia of WWII Royal Canadian Air Force

Edward Richard Unruh, my dad fought to preserve us from outside oppression.This was particularly unusual given the family, heritage and town from which he came. His parents were immigrants from the Mennonite colonies of Crimea, Ukraine near the turn of the century. He was born in 1915 and in 1941 he was going to war to defend the freedoms upon which his birth country was founded and governed. Hepburn, Saskatchewan was largely settled by Low German speaking Mennonites who established a town of shops that provided all necessities and some amenities. Most families were farmers and most citizens attended church. Dad was slow on connecting with faith in the supreme being and perhaps that was one of the factors that resulted in his decisions to break with the pacifist conviction of his family and peers to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. While the town would support the war effort through prayer and labour, he would fight, albeit as an Air Force maintenance mechanic. He was a new generation Canadian and proud of his homeland.

My wife Christine and I spent two months in France in 2009 and our travels moved us to Normandy just before the D-Day anniversary. We stopped in Arromanches where we booked in at Room #6 in the Mountbatten Hotel. We walked the beach and toured the Musee that celebrated the accomplishments of June 6, 1944. This was the beach town to which the remarkable floating concrete piers and barges were floated by night across the English Channel from Britain and anchored well off from shore to create a docking area for great ships loaded with tanks and war equipment with which to mount the victorious assault against the Nazi German Army. Remains of some of the barges lie still visible in the crashing surf.

 On a rainy and foggy day we went to Juno Beach and the Canadian Museum that honoured the Canadian contribution. Veterans years earlier realized there was no monument to honour the Canadian War Effort so they began the recruitment of funds. The City of Courseulles Sur mere donated a former camp site for the museum location. The museum was highly informative about immigration, about WW1, about the 1929 stock market crash and economic depression and then the confusion about Germany and Hitler's intentions until it was necessary to declare war against him. From six thousand soldiers to one million by war's end, most were volunteers like my father. Forty-five thousand Canadian soldiers died. Museum guides were mostly young Canadians on duty for four months. At the Canadian Museum we met one guide, a 21 year old McGill student whose grandfather perished while storming this beach, and while he may have said it many times to visitors, he told us, " I would not be here had it not been for his sacrifice." I was very proud to be Canadian that day.

When the war ended, my father came home in 1945.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent tribute to those who worked for peace. I remind you that when your dad returned in 1945 you were 18 months old and he saw you for the first time.I guess a small cost then those who gave their lives. There is no greater love then that a man give his life for another!