Canadian WWI veteran dies at 106
Harper urges Canadians not to forget Percy Dwight Wilson and his comrades
Percy Dwight Wilson, who was Canada's second-last surviving veteran of the First World War, died in Toronto on Wednesday at the age of 106.
Wilson was just 15 when he lied about his age and headed overseas with a Toronto batteryin 1916, despite his parents' objections. When he arrived in England, his age was discoveredand hewas sent back to Canada without ever having fought.
His son, Paul Wilson, said his father knew the risks involved but was desperate to serve his country.
"I think maybe in 1914, when the war broke out, some of the young boys signing up thought it would be a lark," Paul Wilson said. "By 1916, there had been thousands upon thousands of them just killed. They had some horrendous battles."
WhenWilsongot back to Canada, the teenager re-enlisted, but was discharged again because of his age. The secondtime, he was let go before he even left for Europe.
At the start of the Second World War, Wilson again tried to re-enlist but was told he was too old.
The Prime Minister's Office announced Wilson's passing Wednesday afternoon in a statement offering condolences tohis family.
"All Canadians, no matter where they live, should not forget him, and the others of his generation, who gave so much for their country,"Prime Minister Stephen Harpersaid.
"The sacrifices made and remarkable bravery displayed by Mr. Wilson and his comrades is a lesson for us all."
Born Feb. 26, 1901, in the southwestern Ontario town of Vienna, Wilson was one of more than 600,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders who joined the military to fight in what was then known as the "war to end all wars." Newfoundland and Labrador did not join Confederation until 1949.
About 66,000 Canadians died in the four-year conflict.
Wilson went overseas with the 69th Battery of Toronto, after doing basic training in Petawawa, Ont. A year before his deployment, he served as abuglerwiththe 9th Mississauga Horse militia.
First Nov. 11 with no WWI veteran at hospital
After the First World War, Wilson met his wife, singerEleanor Dean, while studying music at Toronto's Royal Conservatory. The couple and their children eventually moved to Stratford, Ont.
Wilsonworked for Bell Canada for 47 years, and also sang semi-professionally. After his wife died in 1993,he spent the last years of his life in the veterans wing of Toronto's Sunnybrook hospital, where he often sang to staff and other residents.
Staff member Suzanne Plowman said Wilson will be missed.
"I knew as soon as we saw the flag go down [at the residence] that something had happened," she said. "This [Nov. 11] will be the first Remembrance Day we have without a World War I veteran here."
His death leaves John Babcock, who lives in Spokane, Wash., as the last surviving Canadian to have served in the 1914-18 war.
In recent months, the families of First World War veterans have expressed hesitation about having a state funeral for the last soldier to die. Veterans Affairs is now considering holding a ceremony commemorating all First World War veterans collectively when Babcock dies.
With files from the Canadian Press