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My Father Has Been To Hell – No Need To Forgive, No Need To Forget

Gunnery Private James Edward Ward entered hell on July 6, 1944, almost 30 days after D-Day as part of the third-largest invasion liberation army of WWII. With him was the other members of the 4th Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery.

Unfortunately, he would be visited by the dark angels of hell a few more times until his death on January 19, 1989, whereupon his death left for heaven by way of purgatory.

There were 3 artillery batteries in the 4th Field Regiment, the 4th, 14th, and 26th Battery. Gunner Private Ward and many of his friends who volunteered from his hometown of Sarnia and the surrounding area were members of 26th Battery. From July 1944 until June 1945 he lived through the hell in major battles in the liberation of Normandy France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. It is there that over 43,000 fellow Canadian soldiers died. They faced head-on the most elite of the German SS forces and the dreaded Panza Divisions.

I am grateful to the over 450,000 Canadian soldiers who suffered, served, and sacrificed in the liberation of Europe.

I am especially proud of the Canadian-led liberation of Holland including the freeing of the infamous Westerbrook Concentration Collection Camp. It was there that over 100,000 Jewish men, women, and children including Anne Frank were deported in boxcars for extermination.

My father Eddie Ward like so many others seldom spoke of his wartime hell. When we would ask him about his wartime service he would say things like, that his contribution was that he led all the retreats.

Recently I finished 3 books written by one of his officers Captain George  G.  Blackburn. Captain Blackburn was a Forward Operating Officer (FOO) for the entire liberation battle of Europe. This was noteworthy because the majority of others holding this position did not survive the war. It was through his books that I was to understand the extent of hell that my father witnessed and went through. The monster and dark angels continued to haunt him for the rest of his life.

The impact of this hell on earth visits would trigger his human weakness and he would commit unspeakable sins. These sins would remain hidden until into his 70’s. Over 30 years later I have forgiven him and continue to pray for the advancement of his soul.

I’m not your son, you’re not my father

We’re just two grown men saying goodbye

No need to forgive, no need to forget

I know your mistakes and you know mine

And while you’re sleeping I’ll try to make you proud

So, daddy, won’t you just close your eyes?

Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn

To chase the monsters away…

–Captain James Blunt to (Retired)

Rest in heavenly peace dad.

Chris Ward
Chris Wardhttps://www.empathynorth.com/
Chris is the Client Success Officer and co-founder of Empathy North. Chris brings nearly 40-years of enterprise client experience to the table. He is a master of process, design thinking, and empathetic business communication. Chris is deeply committed to relationship selling and creating value in every interaction. His business leadership success has included his own purpose-driven approach and commitment to leveraging technology in the genuine service of people.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Thank-you so much for your thoughtful comments and your addition of your own experiance at Westersbrook . My use of hell and sin was more a allegorical then any religious contexts. Just to be clear the “sins” of father occurred after returning home. And unlike Anne Frank, many stories of the victims of the holicust remains un-written.

  2. Chris — “Thank you” seems an inappropriate phrase to use here, but I believe we must always be reminded that wars are fought by people – with “human weaknesses” – most of whose names have been lost to the public. They are just statistics especially the ones who remain lost on the battlefields to this day.

    I struggle with the word “sin” with respect to your father; soldiers who are repeatedly put in harms way: “hell,” as you wrote. I never served, and don’t know how I would behave under the conditions your father was forced to live and fight under. I’m so sorry that he lived with those memories.

    And speaking of names, I visited a small Holocaust museum in Amsterdam a few years ago. I found out that Anne Frank was on one of the very last trains to leave Amsterdam for the Westerbrook transit camp. One of 1019 deportees on September 3rd, 1944. I am reluctant to write this as I was strongly chastised by a guide leading a tour of “Amsterdam During WWII” when I informed her that I was going to tour the Frank’s annex. A wagging finger and halting voice informed me that Anne was just one of more than 100,000 Dutch citizens who were murdered, some 25,000 of them children. Our guide, Jewish, was a Holocaust survivor, living in plain view with a Catholic family, posing as one of their own children. The fear of being discovered never left her: another kind of hell.

    Thank you, Chris, for sharing your story.

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