WW II veteran meets nephew of man he says saved his life

A veteran of the Second World War met the nephew of the man who took his place on the front lines just days before the end of the war — possibly saving his life.

Walter Strang died days before the war ended, after taking Ernest Montsion's place on front lines

Ernest Montsion, 96, from San Clara, Man. (right) met Walter Strang's nephew, Lionel Strang, in Winnipeg on Saturday. (Gille Montsion)

A veteran of the Second World War met the nephew of the man who took his place on the front lines in Europe, a switch that possibly saved his life.

Ernest Montsion, 96, believes he is likely alive today because of the sacrifice Walter Strang made just days before the end of the war.

Strang died in Hoevelaken, Netherlands at age 36 after his commanding officer changed the order in which he and Montsion were to run into battle, putting Strang in Montsion's place.

Strang was killed on April 19, 1945, just days before German troops surrendered.

On Friday, Strang's nephew, Lionel Strang, travelled to Winnipeg from Florida to meet one of the last men who remembers his uncle from their time in the army.

"I wanted to shake the hand of somebody that was with my uncle Walter before he passed away in World War II," he said.

"Turns out Ernie's a great guy."

"We had quite a chat together," said Montsion. "I appreciated his visit."

Montsion was about 10 years younger than Strang. While the two knew each other, he said they didn't share much of a social life.

Strang was married, and Montsion, in his mid-20s, was single.

"I was thinking about girls but he wasn't," said Montsion on Sunday. "So we didn't chum around together."

Montsion still gets a "queasy" feeling when he thinks how close he came to death in the Second World War.

"It made me wonder if things could have been different maybe. I don't know," he said. "If things would have been different, would he still be alive?"

Strang's nephew said his the trip to Winnipeg was important — if only to catch a glimpse into his uncle's history.

Before his death in 1945, Strang was credited with saving several lives. The town still honours his service every year.

with files from Tessa Vanderhart and Wendy Parker