"Two young Canucks first leave in London, in Trafalgar Square 1941." Photo courtesy of Barney J. Danson (left), in memory of Freddy Harris (left), June 6, 1944 (D-Day).
Telegram to the next of kin of Barney J. Danson informing them of his recovery. This telegram followed two others that advised the family that Lieut. Danson was "seriously ill" from injuries, and then "dangerously ill". Sept. 1944.
4 Corporals of the Queens’ Own Rifles. L-R: Earl Stoll, killed in action (DOW), Sept ’44; Gerry Rayner, killed in action, July ’44; Lieut. Freddie Harris, killed in action D-Day, June 6, 1944; Sgt. Barney Danson, wounded in action Aug. ’44.
Barney J. Danson, Honourary Lieutenant Colonel of the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, 1988.
Corporal Barney J. Danson, Camp Borden, 1940.
"He always referred to our old friends who were killed as “Forever Young”. Because you always thought of them as young. You thought of them as you knew them."
My name's Barney Danson. I served in the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada from the time they mobilized in 1940. Actually, I was in there before '40, in the militia even before the war.
I sort of went up through the ranks, became a corporal and a sergeant, ultimately a lieutenant - and even a captain at one time, but I had to give that rank up to... to get back to my regiment. I was away for the regiment instructing at a battle school in British Columbia and I wanted to get back so I wouldn't miss D-Day. Unfortunately, I did miss D-Day - or maybe fortunately. I was still on my way back to the regiment, in Canada, when D-Day occurred and I learned that my best friend, Freddy Harris, had been killed at the landing.
They did pretty intensive training 'til July of 1941 and we were shipped overseas to Aldershot, the old garrison town that played such an important part for Canadians in World War I. Didn't stay there too long. They moved us out into the countryside and we moved around from camp to camp. We lived in mud and in Nissen huts, which are cold and drafty. Then had our first introduction to the new concept of battle training then. Before that we were using all First World War tactics and the things that were so far out of date. This changed the operation for infantry particularly and fortunately so. We started to come into the 20th century.
Then I was sent back on a course to Canada to become qualified as an officer. Just before then I managed to marry an absolutely fantastic English girl, which was really something. That's a little story in itself.
Anyway, I went back June of '44 and got back to England and quickly joined the regiment. And, all too quickly, got myself wounded. I was hit by a piece of shrapnel and I went blind in my left eye, but I survived. When I got back to my regiment, it was rather interesting because I was given my old platoon back and that was very unusual, but I was happy because I still... although most of the fellows had been killed or wounded by then, there were still enough that I was feeling at home. And the next platoon to me was commanded by Earl Stoll, one of my three closest friends. We were gonna win the war all by ourselves because Freddy had been killed on D-Day and our other friend, Jerry Raynor had been killed near Caen and we were pretty sad guys about this because we were terribly close, as you tend to become in the army. Closer than brothers, in many ways. We were just kids. I was twenty-two at the time. And I was wounded and evacuated to England, eventually, after going through several British hospitals around Bayeux, and in hospital in England for some months, and then home to Canada.
Unfortunately, Earl Stoll, who was the last of my friends still alive, took over... we got together when I was wounded. He came over to me and we... I guess we cried a bit. But he was going to go on and finish the war, but a month later he was dead too. So that has an impact on you which is pretty profound. And, frankly, as you get older you think of those people a lot more. We had a friend, Charlie Martin, a sergeant-major and most decorated man in the regiment and a wonderful fellow. He always referred to our old friends who were killed as "Forever Young", because you always thought of them as young. You thought of them as you knew them. And when we go back to the cemeteries in France, Belgium and Holland, we think of them and tell stories about them just as they were. The beautiful, young Canadians that, you know... we don't know what their potential would have been, but lost their lives all too young.
There's another tragedy and these ones weren't so young. The men - and it was all men in those days - who had young families and they had wives who they had left at home. For them it was a much greater tragedy, in my view.