My grandfather William Verdun McIlveen fought in World War Two. He was part of a tank team and was mentioned in dispatches, was award a medal and delivered a baby in a ditch beside the road. He was also never the same.
I found this news article that mentions him and his commendation, which made me feel truly proud of him, but also sad about the “some half-dozen shot down” and curious about the 50+ people who surrendered at that site. We have simplified World War Two into such an easy narrative – there were good guys and bad guys. We were the good guys. The good guys won. But those half-dozen men who died in that piece of bush in France were not The Bad Guys. They were men, some may have been just boys, who were fighting for their country because that’s what was expected and demanded of them. They probably didn’t hate Jewish people, they probably weren’t all ardent Nazis, they were Germans who fought because their country was at war.
Remembrance Day we celebrate the freedom that was fought for on our behalf, but every battle comes down to individuals making decisions. To advance or retreat. To fight or run. To shoot or hide. The vast global factors that have caused the war meant little to them before they had to leave their lives and loved ones behind. And in the grand scheme it is hard to quantify any one individual’s affect on those global trends.
I’m glad my grandfather was brave and loyal. He saved the lives of other Canadians that day. Three of his four children were born after the war ended. But he and others suffered greatly because of that war and every war before and since.
Read the original article here: Hamilton Spectator WW2 article