Dieppe survivor Chapman counts his blessings

Almost 70 years later, the infamous Dieppe battle still resonates with survivor Jack Chapman of Stettler.

(Reprinted from Nov. 9, 2011)

Almost 70 years later, the infamous Dieppe battle still resonates with survivor Jack Chapman of Stettler.

“That was 69 years ago that we had the raid on Dieppe,” Chapman, 91, said of the Aug. 19 anniversary.

“It only took five hours to take the lives of 900 young Canadian boys, and 1,800 more were taken German prisoners.

“There’s two of us left in this area — Roy Lincoln is in the nursing home, and I’m still actively ranching seven miles south of town. I’ve lived there all my life, except for the war years.”

Chapman, an active member of the Royal Canadian Legion for the past 60 years, remains an enduring face of a fading generation of Second World War veterans who served Canada.

As he does each year, he plans to attend the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Performing Arts Centre in Stettler this Friday morning.

“I should be definitely thankful for my good health, after spending three years as a Prisoner of War,” he said. “I’m very appreciative that I’ve been able to have good health and continue looking after 100-head of cattle.

“My health will dictate that, but I have every intention of continuing (to tend the farm).

“I have a very good (ally) in my wife, Madeleine.”

Chapman came home to his Stettler-area farm in 1945 and has lived there ever since.

Each year, the Dieppe anniversary triggers memories for Chapman.

“I’m reminded of the many young men that lost their lives that were close friends,” he said. “Lots of them weren’t from the (Stettler) district, but there’s lots of them that were — there was 41 of us got on the train in Stettler the morning we went to Calgary.”

As painful as most of his wartime memories are, Chapman is thankful that he’s able to remember.

“Your thoughts take you back,” he said. “I guess that’s one blessing that you have — that you can remember the things that happened.

“I didn’t have effects on my brain from being a Prisoner of War — I was lucky I didn’t have that — but I still have shells in me that were received at Dieppe at the raids. I’ve got lots of wounds.”

Some of the wounds might be less graphic, but emotional scars still run deep.

“It’s sad to see your friends gradually leave, but that’s the process of life, I guess,” Chapman reasoned. “I kept closely associated with the ones that were in the district. We were friends then, and we’re still friends, or were until their passing.”