November 15th, 2018

Tribute to those who served


By Submitted Article on November 9, 2018.

Yesterday our recreation department – Veronica and Heather – made a lovely tribute for Remembrance Day, and it inspired me to pay tribute to my late, ex-husband, Clark Herbert Wilson.

I met Clark in Worthing, Sussex, England when I was 15 and he was 22. He was a Canadian soldier, from Midland, Ont., a farm boy. I was working in a book store; he was stationed in Worthing until D-Day. We married when I was 17, and nine months later our first child, David, was born. The war had ended then and Clark was back in Canada; I couldn’t go because I was too far along in the pregnancy.

Clark landed on Juno Beach, in Caen, France, on D-Day. He was a Private First Class, Trooper Clark H. Wilson, gunner radio operator, in the Tank Corps.

After D-Day, I never heard from Clark for two or three months, and didn’t know whether he was alive or dead. The fighting was so fierce there was no time to write to loved ones. His letter said the landing on Juno Beach was horrific. Many brave foot soldiers were just mowed down as they set foot on the beach – the enemy was waiting.

Clark’s tank got through, and they took the beach, and then Caen and continued through France, Holland, Belgium and finally to Germany. During that long journey, Clark had three tanks shot out from under him, and in each case, the driver and co-driver were killed; these were his friends! He was in the gun turret, and escaped with shrapnel wounds to his body.

Just last night, my son Mark told me things about his dad’s wartime experiences I had never heard before, as his dad never discussed the war with my daughters and me. After a long, hard-fought battle of weeks, in the same clothes, unable to bathe and eating when they could, during a short respite in the fighting, they were near a small lake, and so they pulled the tank over, stripped off their stinking clothes and washed off the smell of war. While they were enjoying the clean water, a Messerschmidt flew over and started strafing them with machine-gun fire. Clark ran to his tank, got in the turret, and was able to get a direct hit and shot the plane down; the young pilot was killed. Clark took his watch from his still-warm wrist and my son Mark still has it today. That young man was someone’s son and he was fighting for his country, too.

Clark was awarded several medals for all the different theatres of operation he went through, as were all of our brave war heroes. Sadly Clark, and I’m sure many thousands of our heroes, battled their demons after the war ended. After 37 years of marriage, and seven children, our marriage ended. Clark remarried, but I never did.

When I saw the lovely Remembrance tribute the girls made, I decided I needed to pay tribute to Clark, along with all the other unsung heroes of the Second World War. During the last 18 months of the war, I joined the Women’s Land Army to do my bit for my country. I don’t like violence, so that was where I could serve in some way. It was hard work, and I worked alongside prisoners of war from Germany and Italy. The Italian men loved to sing, and it made the say go fast.

Clark died in his 80th year when I was 74. I am 91 now, and God has blessed me with many years of happiness – seven children, 12 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. My great-granddaughter, Mia, lives in Grande Prairie, and is trying out for Miss Teen Northern Alberta. One of my great-grandsons, also 15, plays for the Junior Knights hockey team. I am so proud of all my lovely family. I’m sure Clark would have been proud of them all.

I have written this to honour him, and all the brave men who fought for their country, and to remember those who paid the ultimate price for it with their lives. Glod bless them all.

Cynthia Wilson

Lethbridge

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