In Rememberance….Postcards from the Past


I’ve taken on a labour of love as of late.  I discovered that I was in possession of several old photographs, some more than a hundred years old of various family members…many of whom sadly I don’t know.  I began scanning them into the computer and then running them through the program Adobe Lightroom to restore them to some degree and this has proved to be very successful!

I also want to be able to put together a package for family members as well.

Then came the curiosity of trying to discover who it was that was in some of these photos.  I accessed a few of the genealogy sites and had some success.  However these site are not always easy to navigate.

Yesterday I attempted to discover some information regarding my Grandfather Pilling’s time in World War l and my father’s time in World War ll.

I have documentation as to one of the regiments my father was in any yet when I entered the information then checked that I was only interested in Canadian records, the result was 97,000 possibilities, many of them from the U.S.

The same issues with my grandfather, though I don’t know what regiment he was in, I do know he was stationed in France during 1916 and 1917.  What I wanted to do yesterday was to put together a commemoration of sorts for both my father and grandfather respectively in remembrance for November 11, 2014.

0. PILLING, Arthur, Army Uniform

Grandfather Arthur Pilling, circa 1916 stationed in France.

I came across four postcards that are now close to 100 years in age.  They were sent by my grandfather to his parents during the war.  Beautifully embroidered with intricate needlepoint with the fabric then glued to card stock that is incredibly strong.

1.

Postcard No. 1: The intricate detail is just amazing

 

2.

Back of card: CHRISTMAS 1917

 

3.

Postcard No. 2: The detail again is remarkable.

4

Back of Card: 16th September 1916 Dear Parents, Just a line to let you know I am quite well. Hope you are alright. I just got a letter this week, will reply tomorrow. I have halfday holiday today. How do you like this? Best love from your son, Arthur

5.

Postcard No. 3: This one is just gorgeous and the detail incredible.

6.

Back of card: 1917 Dear Mother and Dad, I am sending you these cards wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Years. From your loving son, Arthur

7.

Postcard No. 4: Again I am amazed at the detail of these items.

8.

Back of card: CHRISTMAS 1916 From Arthur to Ma and Pa From France

 

My father was a young man when World War II broke out.  In 1942 he would have been just 17 years of age.  He joined the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers.  From my research this was a volunteer program that was set up to have men familiar with their respective areas patrol them in the event that our shores were invaded by the enemy.

I cannot imagine the fear and paranoia that must have been rampant at this time.

My father also served eight months active duty in the army overseas.

The PCMR disbanded September 30, 1945 at the end of World War II.  Below are the discharge papers of my father who was also a Ranger Captain.

 

9.

10.

My grandfather was part of a team of men who opened up the first Royal Canadian Legion up in Gibsons Landing, BC.  These were social clubs that were established for Vetrans.  I believe that they were instrumental for the those coming back from the horrors of war to have a place where their experiences were understood.

11.

My grandfather Arthur Pilling is in the first row, second from the right.

I can’t say the exact date of this photo, though I will go out on a limb and suggest that it was in the 1920’s.  Then in the 1940’s land was donated and larger Royal Canadian Legion was built.

12.

Site of the second RCL. My father Arthur John Pilling can be seen sandwiched between the two drummers. My uncle with the rosey cheeks and winning smile is just to the right of the drummers centered in front of the boys that are kneeling down. My grandmother and grandfather are pictured in the back row to the far right.

I wonder sometimes what both men were like prior to going to war.  I wonder sometimes had they not ventured into warfare how their lives may have differed.  Below is a photo of my father at about eight years of age with my grandfather up in Gibsons, BC.

PILLING, Arthur Sr. & Jr., 1939_

In remembrance to all those who have served and paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we know today, may we never forget.

 

 

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Rites of Passage


I woke this morning with these thoughts running through my head and bathed in the now familiar sweat (a.k.a. a hot flash).  Our rites of passage as we move through this life. Each moment and event culminating to build a story that will relay the living of it.  Depending on who you ask, it may be viewed differently to others than the person writing the pages of it.

I have had a fabulous weekend thus far.  It is a long weekend here in Canada as yesterday we paid homage to those who have died in war in defense of our country and to those who have served and continue to do so and survived.  I always wonder what my father was like before the war.  I wonder if the horrors that he witnessed forever changed him.  Is this the reason he was so abusive toward his family?  That died with him.

He never spoke of his time in the war.  The only time really that he did speak of it was when he was completely inebriated and so far into his cups that he couldn’t see straight.  Then sometimes the utterances, while they may have sounded non-sensical in their delivery, came out something like this.

“Fuck Dave I don’t mind telling you I’m looking forward to a home cooked meal and a warm body.”

“Yeah, I am with ya on that one Jackie boy.  I am with ya on that.”  He would then make the sound of gunfire.

“Fuck I hate this, fuck I hate this.  You okay Dave?”

Nothing.

“Dave? Holy fuck…”

“You stupid bastard!  Why the hell didn’t you get down?  Look at you?  What woman is gonna want you with your head blown off.  You stupid bastard.”

At times he would then cry.

When first I heard this drunken monologue, I was about 13 years old.  It gave me some insight into this man.  The following day he was working on the car and I was watching him.  I decided to ask him about this.

“Hey dad, last night you were talking about a guy named Dave from the war.  Did you see him get killed?” I asked this in a rather tentative and nervous manner.  He looked at me and his eyes hardened immediately.

“Shut the fuck up about it.” he instructed.

“But I just thought….”

“SHUT THE FUCK UP AND GET THE FUCK OUT!”

There would be no discussion on this.  If he was sober, it was not an area that could or should be mentioned.  I did find at times though I could have brief conversations on these matters while he was in a drunken stupor, but then you walked a fine line with that one too.  You never really wanted to awaken the beast in that state as things could get ugly.

And has life continued to unfold in its somewhat strange fashion at times, during Remembrance Day I would always ask myself the question, ‘What was he like before the war?’

In my father’s youth I believe that war was romanticized to some degree.   I think those young men and women who left to defend all that we hold dear might well have been a little idealistic at first.  I don’t know.  I am only speculating at this point.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like to kill someone for the first time.

But in war this is what happens.

Yesterday I was down at Sunset Beach with my daughter during the moment of silence.  I gazed across the water with the familiar questions now playing through my head once more.  Always the questions about this stranger who was my father.  I never really got to know the man.  That was never open to us. Just every once in a while we caught a glimpse inside.

When I had my daughter, I promised to do all the things for her that were not afforded to me in my youth.  So as the moment passed and I offered a salute to all those who have passed in wartime, my daughter and I set out on a hike.  The day was overcast and it rained in the end, but we went on a good 6 KM hike through Stanley Park then found a restaurant and had breakfast.

My daughter knows me very well, and as she has grown from child to woman, we have developed a very deep bond.  There is also a friendship that both of us hold in the highest regards.

It’s sad that my father was not able to open himself to love and that he could not find it in his heart to accept forgiveness.  But he gave me the gift of life and for that I will always be grateful.  I hope that in death he has found some measure of peace and all that haunted him during his lifetime has been laid to rest.

The legacy I want to leave when I pass from this world can be summed up simply.  I want to leave a mark of gentle kindness, hope and love.  If I can do this, then I will have lived my life to the highest expectations that I can think of.

I pray that there will come a time when wars are no longer necessary.  And on that note I will close this commentary.  Enjoy your day everyone.

Peace out.