Alberta man makes it his mission to record veterans' stories

A central Alberta man is making it his mission to gather Canadian veterans' stories from World War II and Korea before they disappear forever.

World War II and Korean vets dying, leaving history untold, says website creator

Allan Cameron created the Veteran Voices of Canada as an oral history of Canada's military past. (CBC)

A central Alberta man is making it his mission to gather Canadian veterans' stories from World War II and Korea before they disappear forever.

"If we miss this documentation — their personal stories — it's gone forever," said Allan Cameron, who lives in Sylvan Lake.

Cameron created a website called Veterans Voices of Canada and has video recorded more than 700 interviews with veterans since 2006. He has a list of another 75 waiting to go.

"This is Canadian military history that we're talking about here," he said. "The average age of a World War II veteran now is 90 years old.

However each interview requires hours of set up, documenting and editing. Time and money always seem in short supply.

Cameron's interest in Canada's military history got him started, but his interview subjects kept him going.

"It was like I was talking to an 18-year-old boy again," he said recalling his first interview with a veteran. "He was ducking bullets as I was talking to him. That's what told me, 'Yes I definitely have to do this.'"

Uncle inspired Cameron to keep going

But it was his uncle, Perley Cameron, a D-Day veteran, that inspired him to keep going.

"He was one of the veterans who never spoke about what he did during the war," Cameron said. "He was one of the guys who would start to talk and after a minute got too emotional. It was only up until a couple of years before he passed away that he started to talk about it.

"He told me what I was doing was important. That's basically the reason why I'm doing what I'm doing."

Ironically Cameron never got to interview his uncle which instilled in him a sense of urgency.

"A month after we looked at doing the interview he passed away," he said. "So right there it's, 'We got to do this now. I've got to get it done.'"

Veterans are part of history

Korean War veteran Andrew Moffat was interviewed by Allan Cameron. (CBC)

Korean War veteran Andrew Mofatt has shared his story with Cameron and encourages others do the same.

"Every veteran should be interviewed because every veteran is a part ... of this country's history and we're losing it every day.

"When a veteran dies that's a chunk of Canada gone."

Websites of oral history can help keep Canadians  from "falling into the abyss of ignorance," Moffat said.

"My children have no conception of the world I grew up in," he said. "My grandchildren have no conception not only of the world I grew up in, but the one their own parents did.

"It's amazing the rate of change. Now in a year we do what used to take two or three centuries. If we don't document these things no one will even comprehend the past for this country."

Canadian Spitfire ace Don Laubman calls Cameron's efforts invaluable.

"This is an actual live recording of history. We want people to learn how bad war is, the evidence is right in these cassettes."

Some of Cameron's interviews are being used in schools, regimental museums and libraries but his dream is to make his work available in a public museum.

"I think it's most important that we hear it straight from them as opposed to reading it in books or second, third-hand stories," Cameron said.

"They gave us our freedom and I think more people have to understand exactly what they did."

With files from CBC's Gareth Hampshire