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Remembering Dieppe

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dieppejack-atthetable.jpgSo I'm sitting at Mr. Jack McFarland's table, and he's showing me the newspaper clippings, the photographs, and the rocks he's collected from the beach at Dieppe. They are touchstones, as much to remind him, as to show me, what happened to him that fateful morning. At 92, he'll tell you his memory isn't what it used to be. He would be the first to tell you that. Part of what happened that morning, as hundreds of his colleagues were cut down all around him, he hasn't been able to remember clearly for seventy years. Other parts are like yesterday. As he shows me the small stones, stones that made it darn near impossible to scramble up the beach, he touches them and says, "some of our guys were hit by pieces of stone, thrown up by the bullets."
dieppejack-bwphoto.jpgHe remembers how his arm was hit by a German Bomber's machine gun, saying, "it's funny what goes through your mind you know, I thought they'd blown my arm off, and I tried to pull it out of my jacket," as if he's telling me about pulling out a pack of gum. He has no idea how he managed to jump from the assault craft and return to the beach. He remembers the assault craft sank, and he would have died. The "what ifs" are always with him.
dieppejack-friends.jpgOver and over in my mind I keep thinking how lucky I've been, how lucky my brothers and sisters have been, to not be touched by a World War. Can we really have any understanding of what its like to live through a massacre? 907 Canadians lost their lives in a few short hours. Jack came home. His arm healed, and he went on to a fine career as a police officer. But he's also spent the last seventy years looking at old photographs, and rocks from that beach, in his mind rolling over and over the "what ifs."

dieppejack-monument.jpgAnd he made sure his buddies from the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry will not be forgotten.197 of them were among the dead that morning. Jack fought for years to get funding for a memorial. Now it stands  near the walkway, along the beach on Lake Ontario, just a few minutes from downtown Hamilton. If you are ever in the vicinity, please give it a visit. Jack would like that. It's the least we can do.
promo190-thememoryproject.jpgAlso, check out The Memory Project for more stories from the Canadians who survived Dieppe that morning.