A blacksmith’s son from Millbank, Ontario – also known as Grandpa Norm
The past few years, I have tried to complete my own Week of Remembrance by sharing something from my family’s rich military history. Despite receiving three WW2 personnel files for family members, this is only my second share this year. I have some catching up to do.
Both my grandpa’s served during WW2: Grandpa Norm in the RCAF and my Gpa Mike in the RCA and then RCASC (Army). Uncle Buck Blair served in the Army and had a rather decorated career (super cool stuff on this forthcoming!) and my Gpa Mike’s three brothers all served: Bill in the Army, Jack in the RCAF and Jimmy in the Navy. Every year I reflect upon how unbelievably lucky our family is, both sides, that all of these young men came home. And like so many — I call this generation the Greatest Generation! — they all went on to live full lives that rarely included talking about their war experiences. In addition to our family history, my cousin, Andrew, already has a distinguished career with the RCAF. I have come to the conclusion that there appears to be something in our blood…
I know many of you reading this are wishing to yourselves that you knew more about this part of our family’s history. I am in the boat with you, thinking and wishing for the same thing.
I really started my digging into my family’s affair with the military in 2001 — I must admit that I am late in getting to learn more about the Baier-Blair military branches. My dad and uncle have both heard a few anecdotes from Grandpa Norm and I remember him telling me a story once that included having trouble peeing on demand during the medical exam! The details are foggy, so I will get back to you on that one! I will collect the anecdotes we have so far and will try to press Grandpa for more. In the meantime, I share with my family and friends who share a passion for military and WW2 history, some cool details that I have found (so far!) in Grandpa Norm’s military personnel file.
Millbank: northwest of Waterloo, not too far north of Stratford. I have no idea what the population is now… but it is small! Famous now for Mennonites and the Milbank Cheese Factory — where Grandpa worked in 1941 until he left to seek a “better job,” this according to his attestation papers.
My great grandpa, Leslie, was a blacksmith. The five months before enlisting, father and son worked together. Countless times it has been spoken that my great grandfather was a blacksmith, yet I didn’t know that grandpa tried his hand at this craft. This is one of many things I have learned about my Grandpa in the last 24 hours — check these out:
- upon discharge, indicated in his interview with a military counsellor (who helped prep men and women for return to civilian life) that he wanted training as a machinist or electrician and motor winding specialisation (Dad and Brian – wow!)
- from Grandpa’s attestation papers (forms completed prior to enlisting):
- the Baier telephone number was “80 R 31 Milverton” – gonna have to do some research there!
- one of the questions on the attestation paper: “Are you in debt?” to which the response was no.
- when asked if he had any special qualifications, hobbies, etc, useful to the RCAF: “mechanics”
- Grandpa’s attestation papers were signed 20 October 1942
- enlisted on 16 December 1942 in London, ON
- some of the places listed on Grandpa’s Record of Service: London, Lachine (Quebec), Toronto, Guelph, Mossbank, Moncton, Dartmouth, Yarmouth…
- During his service, Grandpa was hospitalized for eight days: 11-19 June 1945
- Upon completion of service, this summary of service is provided: “”Enlisted Standard Aircrew AC2. Graduated as Wireless Airgunner, sergeant. Staff W.A.G, 6 months. Coastal operations (overseas) 2 mon. Total service 28 mon. 2 wks. approx. CVSM & M.D.”