At the end of the ‘dirty 1930s’, as it was referred to in war terminology, 48 young men from Stettler and the neighbouring county decided to join the King’s Own Calgary Regiment, and became a part of the 14th Calgary Tankers.
Jack Chapman, father of Jim Chapman, was one of the 48.
Jim Chapman recalls growing up in a house of war stories and memories.
“Remembrance Day in our house was always a busy time, growing up,” said Chapman. “From the time I was young enough to recall, dad went to schools for a least a week before Nov. 11, talking about the horrors of war, the death march, prisoner of war camps and being liberated.”
According to Rosalind LaRose, Alberta and Northwestern Territories District 4 Commander of the Royal Canadian Legion, Carter Hall in Stettler was the drawing point for a month to allow the men to sign up for their country, and they were offered $1.30 per day.
First they went off to Calgary and then Winnipeg, and from there to Camp Borden, before embarking off in England.
“Training on the Isle of Wight, they learnt the maneuvers for the Port of Dieppe, but at daybreak on Aug. 19, 1942 things turned out differently and life changed for these men,” said LaRose. “Scheduled to arrive around 5 a.m. before daybreak, they didn’t arrive until 7.30 a.m., with the Germans awaiting them, and blood bath ensued along the shoreline and on the beach.”
LaRose recalls stories from her dad, Albert Chick.
“The day entailed hauling the dead and wounded to the shore, some of their own,” said LaRose. “My father never talked about what happened exactly but often said, ‘the red water and beaches from all the blood, and the stench of burnt flesh would make you sick but you had to keep going, at the Germans’ order.”
The men from Stettler and the surrounding county formed the B squadron.
Among them, Robert Andersen, Archie Anderson, Jack Chapman, Albert Chick, John Cox, Tom Cunningham, Charlie Heck, Emil Dannewald, Jack Dunlop, Stan Edwards, Ray Gilbert, George Hailes, A (Shorty) Heffer, Lawrence Herzog, Jim Horne, Jim Ganshirt, W (Bill) Isbister, Albert Johnson, Lloyd Johnstone, Roy Lincoln, W (Bill) Olive, Harry Patrick, Vern Richardson, Clive Staples, Harold Stanfield, W (Bill) Stewart, Elmer Taylor, Lloyd Twa, A Roy Watson, Bill Wigley to name a few, were taken prisoners by the Germans.
When local families heard of the Dieppe Raid, they did not know it was their men.
According to LaRose, people from Stettler had no idea what had happened to all the young men from the area.
“They had just vanished, and weeks went by with no news, they were missing, and assumed assumed dead,” said LaRose.
Recalling from the memories that her dad had left her, LaRose said, “They were marched 15 miles that night, loaded into box cars in early morning, and remained there for four days with no food or water and human waste several inches deep, while some were dying.”
According to LaRose, it was the bond that the locals formed amongst themselves that kept them going.
“The bond of love that was created between the young men from our area made them blood brothers,” said LaRose. “They went through three and a half years of pure hell, and if they hadn’t supported each other and hadn’t bonded together, they would never have returned home.”
Jim Chapman recalls his dad’s worst fear.
“My dad’s worst fear was as the World War veterans died that the world would quit remembering, and I am glad that hasn’t happened so far,” said Chapman. “Dad always said there is no victory in war.”