WW II Memories from Art Gibney

Art offered these memories to share with all of you:

Two episodes that happened to me had a profound affect on my life.

I am now 86 years old, but in 1942, I was a farm boy of seven. My first cousin, Frank Gibney, was a sergeant fighting in Europe and was home on furlough. He took me in to Newmarket and we walked down the main street, his swagger stick in his left hand and his right hand holding mine. That day, I was the proudest boy in all of Ontario. Although Frank has now passed on, that memory will always remain with me.

Many years later, Marilyn and I travelled to France and made a visit to Normandy for two reasons.

First, I wanted to sense what it must have been like for those German soldiers staring out at the armada steaming toward them. Second, to pay our respects to a family we knew.

While working at Canada Packers, I befriended John Westlake, the youngest brother of six living in the junction of west Toronto. The three oldest joined the service and were in the invasion.

This was at the time with the American move “Saving Private Ryan” was shown in theatres. For those unfamiliar with the movie, it was about three brothers who were killed on D-Day. There was a fourth brother fighting elsewhere and the army decided they must find him and send him home.

The Westlake brothers died, two of them on the beach, and the other inland five days later. All were interred at the BENY-SUR-MER cemetery in Normandy.

It was a beautiful fall day (when Marilyn and I were in Normandy). We found the graves, two brothers side by side, the other a few rows forward. Tears flowed freely as we read inscriptions on the stones. In the American (U.S.) cemetery, only name, rank and serial number were allowed, but on a Canadian stone, the family was allowed a brief message.

On leaving , a stone at the front caught our attention. The soldier was from Guelph, only eighteen years old, with a message from Mother , Father, and baby sister, and it read as follows: If we could only see your smiling face one more time.

I defy anyone to leave that hallowed place with a dry eye.

Most of those boys were no older than our grandsons, just teenagers, buried in a far off land.

They gave their all that we could have freedom.


Art & Marilyn G.

One Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this story. Means a lot…have read it several times. We visited a war cemetery in France a few years ago with my Dad when he was almost 90. Four of his air crew are
    buried there (3 survived). It was a very moving experience. So many very young boys who gave their all. We will remember…always. ❤

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