John-Ward Leighton

MY FATHER’S WARS

Charles Leighton: John’s Dad – 1914
Charles Leighton – June 1914
I usually have a poem to mark this sad day of REMEMBRANCE, but the day although illustrated by one of the greatest poems ever written, is not about poetry. We hardly know the grief that lead to “In Flanders Field” but it has touched us all.

My father was a boy soldier with the 1/16 Royal Scots and fought at Gallipoli and other battles in Greece at Salonika and into Bulgaria, he was wounded several times before being evacuated after coming down with malaria. He was shipped to Ireland to recuperate just in time for the Easter Rebellion and spent the next two years chasing the IRA around Ireland. The German breakthrough in the spring of 1918 saw him transferred to the Western front for the final days of the War.

Dad stayed on after the war enlisting in the Grenadier Guards and serving in the Middle East in Turkey until rotated back to the UK and palace duty. When the British Army was downsized in 1924 Dad was one of the unlucky ones deemed redundant and he was released. He served for a short time in the Yorkshire Police and then went back into the pits that he had originally joined the Army to escape.

Dad participated in the “General” strike of 1926-27 and when the government tried to starve the miners out and denied them coal to heat their homes my Dad organized a raid on the coal yards stealing a coal company truck loading it with coal and delivering it to the miners’ homes. The truck was returned to the coal company yard but my Dad was arrested and charged with theft.

Due to his war service and having been a constable in the police my Dad was released on the basis of immigrating to Canada. He arrived in Halifax in late 1927 and wandered to the west working as farm labour and as a miner until the crash when he became one of those wandering hobos riding the rods back and forth across the country looking for work and living rough.

His luck turned good in 1933 when through the Guards Association he learned there was an opening in the, what was then called, Permanent Force and he joined the PPCLI “A” Company at Fort Osborne Barracks in Winnipeg. He met my Mom two years later and they married in July of 1935.

I came along in May of 1936 and brother Bob followed in December of 1938. Then the war broke out in the fall of 1939 and my Dad received his commission in December as an officer in the rapidly expanding Armed Forces of Canada. Dad spent the war going from base to base in Canada training young officers and by the time I was nine at the war’s end we had been back and forth across the country several times.

Dad suffered career ending injuries in a jeep accident in March of 1945 just before my sister Charlotte was born. He left the Army with the confirmed rank of Major. Dad recovered although the doctors thought he was a goner. We moved to the west coast in 1946 from Portage la Prairie and settled in Harrison Hot Springs where Dad worked as a book keeper and first aid man in some of the gypo logging operations on the lake north of the village. We were flooded out in the Fraser Valley floods of 1948 and moved to Vancouver in 1949.

My Dad died in 1970 one month short of his seventieth birthday. He was cremated after a military funeral provided by his Canadian Legion Branch 142 “Alma.” Dad was twice president of the branch and is still sorely missed by us all.

Today I will be thinking of all those fine men and women who served and the sacrifices they made of life and limb. I will think of the price they paid so we could have this sweet life and during the two minutes silence will be saying in my heart, “Thank you.”

Author’s Note: My father’s name was Charles Leighton and he was born at home, #6 Booth Street Audley, Stoke on Trent on the 29th June 1900, the second child of John and Elizabeth Leighton.