For Smithers woman Amanda Bateson, Remembrance Day has always been a poignant reminder of her grandfather’s bravery.
For as long as she can remember Douglas Bateson, who served in the Second World War, marched in the local parade while his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren looked on.
“All the family would gather every November in Smithers … and just kind of share in remembering and supporting him in what he went through too,” she said.
Sadly, this year’s service will evoke even deeper emotions for Amanda after Douglas, who celebrated his 95th birthday in August, passed away in September.
“Remembrance Day will definitely be a little sadder, that’s for sure,” she said.
“I wish we had more time with him just to learn more about his time and record more of these stories that he told us so we can share with the next generation too.
“I think it’s important to remember what people have been through and keep the memory alive as well.”
Amanda said for a long time her grandfather was reluctant to talk about his time in the war, saying “those were terrible times” that he felt nobody should have to go through.
But later in life, he opened up to her about some of his experiences with the Canadian Armed Forces, where he served as a gunner and motor transporter from 1942 to 1946.
Douglas, who was born in Glentana near Smithers in 1920, grew up as one of six siblings on his family’s farm in the Bulkley Valley.
He and his older brother Bruce joined the armed forces in 1942, when Amanda said there was an expectation and honour for young men to serve their country.
Douglas told Amanda he signed up to see more of the world and have new experiences, saying there “just wasn’t enough life for us on the farm.”
In August that year he embarked in a “tin can ship” to the United Kingdom, after receiving extensive training as a gunner in Canada.
The army also took advantage of his experience riding, racing and repairing motorcycles, allowing him to drive high ranking officials all over England as a motor transporter.
One of his passengers was former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who Douglas remembered would always have a cigar hanging out of his mouth.
In 1944, he was part of the second wave of Allied troops to land in Normandy, where he survived one of the war’s bloodiest battles despite being injured by bullets.
Amanda said he smiled when he recalled the excitement and relief he felt when he saw his brother after the war.
She said he also had fond memories of the ways he was able to help people who had suffered in the war.
“One of the things he always said he enjoyed was the humanitarian work he did overseas after the war,” said Amanda.
“With a guide to assist him he transported supplies and food to towns in Holland who had suffered greatly.”
Douglas’s medals and decorations included a 1939-45 Star, a France-Germany Star, Defence medal and a Canadian Volunteer Service medal and clasp.
He was officially discharged in January 1946 and returned to Smithers, where he married Alma Peterson in 1950.
Amanda wishes she had more time to learn about her grandfather’s experiences in the war but she is grateful for the stories she was able to record in her conversations with him.
Her daughter was also able to speak to Douglas about the war for her social studies projects.
Amanda plans to write both of her grandparents’ life stories in a book so they can be remembered, shared and passed down.
“He played a huge role in sacrificing really his life, his young adulthood into making the world a better place for all of us,” she said.
“I do think it’s important for us to remember what he did and what many of the soldiers did to make the world a better place for the generations to come after him.”