Veteran Stories:
George Arthur Welsh

Army

  • George Arthur Welsh, shortly after enlisting with the Royal Flying Corps, in Lindsay, 1917. Collection courtesy of Mr. Welsh's grandson, Mark Welsh.

    George Arthur Welsh, shortly after enlisting with the Royal Flying Corps, in Lindsay, 1917. Collection courtesy of Mr. Welsh's grandson, Mark Welsh.
  • George Welsh in a Sopwith Camel in 1919.

    George Welsh in a Sopwith Camel in 1919.
  • George Welsh (fourth from right) with fellow Canadians on their way home after the end of World War I.

    George Welsh (fourth from right) with fellow Canadians on their way home after the end of World War I.
  • At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, George Arthur Welsh re-enlisted and served with the 45th Field Battery and 14th (Midland/Cobourg) Field Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery.

    At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, George Arthur Welsh re-enlisted and served with the 45th Field Battery and 14th (Midland/Cobourg) Field Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery.
  • George Arthur Welsh sitting in the shade in Italy, writing a letter home. 1943.

    George Arthur Welsh sitting in the shade in Italy, writing a letter home. 1943.
  • George Arthur Welsh receiving the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) from Field Marshal Montgomery, commander of the 8th Army in Italy. 1943.

    George Arthur Welsh receiving the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) from Field Marshal Montgomery, commander of the 8th Army in Italy. 1943.
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Transcript

George Arthur Welsh was born on July 28th, 1896 in the small farming community of Sunderland, Ontario. The son of the local Postmaster and Grist Mill owner, Art Welsh was a gifted athlete who excelled at baseball and hockey as a youngster. Educated at Sunderland Public School and Lindsay Collegiate, Art qualified as a Physical Education teacher from the University of Toronto in 1917. World War I was to alter those plans dramatically. In May 1917, Art enlisted with the Royal Flying Corps as an aviator cadet, a rank described by him as "lower than a private." Cadet Welsh became a member of the RFC Cadet Course #8, one of twenty-six to graduate from a strenuous physical training course on July 12, 1917. These graduates were then sent to one of four training centres. Art went to Camp Mohawk in Deseronto, Ontario where he experienced his first taste of flight in a JN-4 training aircraft. Art completed his RFC instructional program at Camp Borden where courses included Aeronautics, Armaments, Arial Photography and Wireless Communications. Art made his last training flight on October 4, 1917 before being summoned to Toronto for pilot graduation. Cadet Welsh was now a Second Lieutenant and one of seventy-six pilots slated to depart Halifax for England aboard the "Canada" on October 29, 1917.

Second Lt Welsh was dispatched to 67 Training Squadron in Shawbury where each of the Canadians gained experience in the various aircraft from the Avro to Sopwith Pups and Camels. His training then continued at such stations as Shotwick and Ayr before ultimately reporting in June 1918 to #210 Squadron, an ex-naval unit.

From June to October 1918, Art flew as many as four missions a day. These missions included offensive patrols, reconnaissance, bomber escorts, ground troop support, and bombing runs on enemy railway lines, ammunition dumps and troop convoys. Squadron 210 flew out of Aerodromes as St. Marie Cappel, Teteghem, Eringhem and Boussieres, all in northeast France. When the First World War ended, Art was repatriated to Canada but not before receiving the Belgium Croix de Guerre and being credited with five "victories" (two aircraft "destroyed", 3 "out of control.")\nGreeted as something of a homecoming hero by the people of Sunderland, Ontario, Art Welsh took over his father's duties as Postmaster, mill owner and farmer and continued in this capacity until the outbreak of World War II.

When war was declared in 1939, Art immediately re-enlisted, but even in peacetime he had not become complacent. In 1934, Art joined the Victoria and Haliburton Regiment. And when this Regiment disbanded in 1936, Art transferred to the 45th Field Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery, in Lindsay and went on to complete several Militia Staff Courses prior to the outbreak of war. He served as Battery Captain until January 1940 when he was transferred to the 14th (Midland/Cobourg) Field Battery, RCA, as Officer Commanding with the rank of Major.

In the summer of 1940 the 14th reported to Camp Petawawa and joined three other Batteries to form the 4th Field Regiment, RCA. Major Welsh was given command of an Anti-Tank Battery. The use of the anti-tank gun was new to this war, and in the years ahead the six- and seventeen- pound guns would play a valuable and unique roll in the Canadian Army. Three months later, after intensive drills and marching, the Regiment shipped out from Halifax arriving in England on September 5, 1940.

From September 1940 to June 1943 Art Welsh crisscrossed the British Isles training first for the defense of Britain in the event of a German invasion, and subsequently for the great Allied invasion of Sicily. Now apart of the 90th Anti-Tank Battery, Art Welsh sailed for the Mediterranean in June 1943.

With the invasion of Sicily in the early morning hours of July 10, 1943, the Canadian Army for the first time in WWII had become engaged in large-scale operations against the enemy. Operation "Husky" saw the Canadian 1st Division become part of the British 8th Army under the leadership of General Bernard Montgomery. Art Welsh and his 90th landed on "sugar' beach with the members of the 2nd Brigade: the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, and the Loyal Edmonton Regiment.

For fourteen months, from his landing in Sicily until he was severely wounded near Rimini, Italy, Art and his men served with decorated distinction. Art was twice awarded the Distinguished Service Order: once for action at Leonforte in Sicily, where Commander Brigadier Christopher Vokes bestowed the nickname of "tiger" upon Art, a tribute to his ferocious fighting spirit; and once again for his "display of resourcefulness and great courage under fire" at Ortona, Italy.

Art was wounded on September 20, 1943 in a mortar attack, and although this ended his frontline participation, it did not end his involvement in the war effort. He became a staunch supporter of the Victory Loan Campaign, and an outspoken participant in the controversial recruitment issue. This latter interest would lead Art into a distinguished twenty year career in public service, first as an Ontario provincial government cabinet minister, and second as the Sheriff of Ontario County.

Art Welsh would remain in the military until the end of hostilities, serving as Commander of the training wing at Camp Shilo, Manitoba, retiring from the army with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Art Welsh died of a heart attack on February 16, 1965.

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