Situated on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, its beautiful fishing boats and reefs stand proudly above the lush green waters that sit in the Italian city of Ordona, where dream vacations are photographed with modern HD digital cameras. This was in stark contrast to the black and white images of the shattered village 77 years ago, when the elite German paratroopers set up booby traps and bombs, while Canadian forces fought to occupy the smashed buildings and dilapidated roads.
A cemetery in the city today has the bodies of 1,375 eternally sleeping Canadian sons engraved with their names under plain white headstone markers.
Corporal Arthur Swanson is an unnamed name at this resting place over 8,750 km around the world from the soil of Prince Rupert.
In the mud and rain of early December 1943 the 1st Canadian Infantry and 1st Canadian Armored Force engaged in the most brutal battle of the Italian campaign. Mainly new-faced Canadian opposition, including the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and the Seaforth Highlanders, broke through the schedule when German soldiers, hardened during the war years, were relentless in defending bombed buildings. From street to street, house to house, room to room, Canadians showed the way to success by finally defending the city three days after Christmas.
This battle became known as Bloody December by troops due to serious injuries and heavy casualties.
Corporal Arthur Swanson was a Medis soldier and mechanical engineer, working on tanks and artillery during the war. He grew up in Alberta and was listed as young as possible, said his daughter Brenda Stace-Smith North view.
After completing basic training, Swanson was sent abroad to England to complete further training. When the call for war finally came to his regiment they were sent to unknown places. In July 1943, he received his M.S. Climbed into the battery, which led the young troops to their first battle encounter.
When Brenda was young her dad said she would sometimes talk about Ordona. She remembers being invited to the living room by her father one day. He was excited and pointed to a TV clip showing a photo of soldiers sitting on the rocks in front of the church that was bombed on Christmas Day.
“You can see all these men sitting on the floor around this long table and having a Christmas party. My dad was sitting at that table in Ordona.”
Brenda said the men were told to gather and eat in shifts.
“They ate fried pork, mashed potatoes, nuts, gravy and apple sauce. They sang Christmas carols and returned home about their families, ”he said.
Many Medes warriors were brought together because Cree spoke a language that could not be understood by the Germans.
“It was like language coded for them,” Brenda said.
One of the most memorable highlights Arthur shared with his children was the time he attended an Allied Troop Pep rally, where British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery spoke with troops before being sent on a Mediterranean campaign.
After Bloody December in Ordona the soldiers served to post in Holland, France, Belgium and Germany, and Arthur served everywhere until the end of the war.
Corporal Swanson became a decorated soldier during his service to Canada. He wore the 1939-45 star, the Italian star, the French star, the German star, the Defense Medal and the Canadian Volunteer Medal above his heart with pride in his uniform with the class.
Arthur gave shoulder to shoulder with the soldiers on an equal footing, and when the Medis soldiers returned home they were no longer equal. Tribal and Medes warriors were forgotten. They are not allowed the same benefits or supports as other players.
After returning to Canada after the end of the war, Arthur met his wife, Lily, who had two children and emigrated to Prince Rupert in 1949, where their family grew to ten children in total.
Arthur made a living for himself and Lily on the North Coast. He became a longshoreman and was born in BC. He fished the coast for salmon and the Aliskan seas for halibut, once fishing in Newfoundland for herring. Arthur and Lily emigrated to Port Edward, where he became a marine engineer. He continued to serve until his retirement, contributing to his community all the time, but never received the same benefits and recognition for his combat efforts as the other veterans who returned.
“Arthur was a kind and respectful man, and he adored his family,” Brenda said. “He was not recognized as a senior when the clothes were finished. They did not recognize Medis as a soldier at the time.”
“When they came back they were promised education and training and they didn’t get anything out of it,” he said.
Some would call this treatment, this oblivion, this inequality a stain on the Canadian flag.
In November 2000, the Government of Canada erected a plaque at the Piazza Plebiscito in Ordona to recognize Bloody December as Canada’s national historical event, “symbolizing the Canadian military ‘s efforts in the Italian campaign during World War II.”
However, 72 years after the end of World War II, until 2017, with the signing of the Canada-Medis Nation Agreement, it was agreed by the Government of Canada that it was a priority that Medis soldiers would need the required address.
“The Medis Veterans Legacy Program recognizes the mistakes that World War II veterans experienced when they returned to Canada. Many of our Medis veterans were formally discriminated against by veteran affairs Canada. They do not receive the same support, resources or privileges that non-Medis comrades enjoy, ”says the Medis Veterans website.
“The importance of apologizing to Canada was expressed by all our veterans as the highest recovery. On September 10, 2019, Canada formally apologized for the negligent and unjust conduct during our service to our soldiers at WWII.”
Lawrence Macaulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State for National Defense, issued an apology, which can be found on the Internet.
“We regret that our country has taken three-quarters of a century to address the concerns of the Medes veterans who joined Canada’s call for arms to enter World War II. Played a key role. ”
Arthur was not in the body on October 30, 2020. As a small family group sat at a small evening dressed table around her widow Lily Swanson, the colorful autumn leaves in the background fell from the trees. The meeting was reduced because of Arthur’s contribution to his country and his vital military service.
Outside the home of the Acropolis Manor Seniors in Prince Rupert in the chilly air, a cellphone sat in front of Lily. From this cell phone, she received a long-deserved ‘thank you for service’ and posthumous apology on behalf of her husband from the Government of Canada. 75 years and 8750 km from a small town set in the Adriatic Sea.
“My father is recognized today as a senior 75 years ago. An official apology was sent from the minister for never approving it. It’s an emotionally long process, “said Brenda. “I’m grateful that they finally recognized the Medis veterans.”
Corporal Arthur Swanson once told his children, “There are bad things in war that a man should never see or forget.”
We must not forget.
KJ Miller | Journalist
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