We will remember them

Local veterans from all branches of military service overcame adversity

By Ian McKechnie

"At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them," wrote British poet Laurence Binyon. In this feature, the Advocate profiles six local veterans whom we honour on Remembrance Day. File photo.
Lt. Nursing Sister Dovie Matilda Mann. Image courtesy Ross Memorial Hospital archives.
Lt. John McQuarrie. Image courtesy McKechnie family.
Col. Thomas H. Eberlee. Image courtesy Kawartha Lakes Public Library.
From left to right: Able Seaman Gordon Gibbins, Gunner Thomas Cook, and Douglas Louch (Royal Canadian Navy/Royal Canadian Air Force). All images courtesy Br. 67, Royal Canadian Legion.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

So reads what is perhaps the most famous line from British poet Laurence Binyon’s For The Fallen, which first appeared in The Times in 1914, and is heard annually at Remembrance Day ceremonies.

It is a powerful reminder that not everyone who was called up for active service in the world’s great wars came home. Most were in the prime of life, some barely out of high school, when they were cut down on faraway battlefields. Decades have passed. We will remember them.

Others did indeed return home, albeit with the scars – both visible and invisible – of conflict. After being discharged, they pursued a variety of careers. Some talked openly about their experiences; for others, the memory of war was something best left unspoken. And we will remember them, too.

Those that survived the ravages of war are called veterans, and the Advocate will profile a handful of them every November – starting this year. As the last print news media in Kawartha Lakes, we believe it is our duty to remember and honour these men and women in this fashion.

Their stories will come from all over Kawartha Lakes; the conflicts in which they served range from the South African War of 1899-1902 to the First World War of 1914-1918, from the Second World War of 1939-1945 to the Korean conflict of 1950-1953 – and beyond. They will be drawn from all branches of military service.

Well into the 1970s and 1980s, it was still possible to see elderly veterans of the First World War (sometimes called “The Great War for Civilization”) marching in Remembrance Day parades. A youthful sense of adventure frequently motivated them to sign up; so too did loyalty to King and Country when an increasingly aggressive German Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was thought, threatened the western world. Over 66,000 Canadians died in that bloody conflict.

Still among us though dwindling in number every year are veterans of the Second World War. Once again, powerful countries jockeying for primacy on the world stage brought about worldwide warfare; the atrocities being committed by the German Reich added a sinister layer to the chaos unfolding across Europe. And once again, people from our community laid down their lives in the service of others. They number among the 45,400 Canadians who died between 1939 and 1945.

Over the last 80 years, Canadians have served in many theatres of war. Apart from the Korean War, there have been multiple peacekeeping missions to all corners of the globe, ongoing warfare in parts of eastern Europe, and, for more than a decade, the war in Afghanistan. On top of this, of course, Canadian service personnel have battled wildfires, floods, and a pandemic.

Whether immortalized on a headstone in a local cemetery or still active in local Legions, our veterans have some remarkable stories to tell.

Here then, are six individuals from across our municipality who answered the call to serve.

Lt. Nursing Sister Dovie Matilda Mann, Canadian Army Medical Corps

Born in Apsley in 1887, Dovie Matilda Mann was one of some 40 women from across Kawartha Lakes who served as nursing sisters during the First World War. Known to friends and family as Tilly, Mann came to Lindsay as a preteen and apparently had her sights set on becoming a nurse. After graduating from Ross Memorial Hospital’s nursing program, she worked as a hospital matron in Pembroke for about a year before heading overseas, where she served in England and France. Tuberculosis brought Tilly back to Canada in 1917, and she died from pneumonia in 1928, aged 41.

Lt. John McQuarrie, 109th Battalion of Victoria & Haliburton Counties

Argyle-born John McQuarrie came into the world in 1894 and was working as a bank clerk in Toronto by 1916, when the 109th Battalion of Victoria and Haliburton Counties came calling. He was taken on strength that spring, and reached Europe with the rank of lieutenant. Injuries brought about by shelling and shell gas poisoning in 1917 left McQuarrie in fragile shape; he was struck off strength in 1919 and would go on to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway and de Havilland aircraft, before becoming a clerk at Massey-Harris. He retired around 1952 and died in 1963, aged 69.

Col. Thomas H. Eberlee, 45th Field Battery

Born in 1900, Thomas H. Eberlee was older than the average enlistee when he was called up for service with the 45th Field Battery in 1941. Having served as principal at Lindsay Collegiate Institute since 1938, it was natural for Eberlee to be assigned to the Canadian Army’s Educational Branch. In this capacity, he was sent to Italy and became director of education for Canadian military personnel stationed in the Mediterranean area. Eberlee was promoted to Colonel in 1945 and returned to his principal’s desk at L.C.I. in 1946. He moved on from L.C.I in 1961 and died in 1994.

Able Seaman Gordon Gibbins, Royal Canadian Navy

Gordon Gibbins was not quite 18 years old when he joined the Royal Canadian Navy in 1941. Born in 1923, he went on to serve as an anti-submarine sonar operator on the HMCS Sans Peur, the HMCS Kootenay, and the HMCS Trentonian. The latter vessel had spent only two years at sea when it was torpedoed by a German submarine near Falmouth, England, on Feb. 22, 1945. Six lives were lost; among those who survived the sinking was Able Seaman Gordon Gibbins. He remained active in the Lindsay Legion well into his sunset years and died in 2018, aged 95.

Gunner Thomas Cook, Canadian Army

The late Thomas Cook was one of over 25,000 Canadians who served in the Korean War. Born in 1932, Cook was two months past his 20th birthday when he joined the Canadian Army on Sept. 14, 1952. He served in both Canada and Korea during this conflict and was among those who fired the final smoke shells before a truce came into effect in 1953. Cook was honourably discharged in the autumn of 1954 and went on to join the Toronto Scottish Regiment reserve unit. He later retired to Kirkfield, Ontario, and died in 2021, aged 88.

Douglas Louch, Royal Canadian Navy/Royal Canadian Air Force

Lindsay’s Douglas Louch had a career in the Canadian Armed Forces that lasted for close to 30 years. Born in 1931, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy at 18 as a communications operator and saw service in the Korean War aboard the HMCS Iroquois. While sailing off the coast of North Korea, Louch’s vessel was faced with enemy fire that killed three and wounded another 10. In 1954, Louch joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, serving as a radio operator. He spent another two decades in the CAF before retiring in 1975. Louch passed away in 2023, aged 91.

The Advocate is indebted to Branch 67 of The Royal Canadian Legion for their assistance with this feature.

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