Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veteran's Day - So Much Still to Learn

Veteran's Day reminds me that there is much more research to be done about the military histories in my family.

I always thought that only members of my mother's family served in WWI and WWII.

George W Smith (my mother's father) WW1
Lt Col George W Smith (second from left) WW2
Herbert Smith, my grandfather's brother.
Lt. George Robert (Bobby) Smith - cousin - 2nd fm. left
Lt Col George W Smith - Maternal Grandfather - 3rd fm right
Capt William John White Smith - great-uncle - 2nd fm right
About Spring '44

My grandfather's WWII service file, which I received recently from Library & Archives Canada, contained information previously unknown by my mother or by me. She thought she knew every detail, but some information was new even to her. We can't wait until the archive gets to the Smiths in their WWI digitization project to learn even more.

I only learned of service by a great-uncle and cousin in the U.S. on my father's side when I visited a cemetery in Connecticut last year and saw these headstones. I have yet to research their military service. It's a shame I didn't know about this when my dad was alive.

Headstone of my great-uncle,
brother of my paternal grandmother.

Headstone of my cousin, son of my paternal grandmother's
other brother, Axel Anderson.

I also discovered recently that, whether I can prove it or not, I am descended from at least two Revolutionary War patriots. I found my great-grandfather's sister in a DAR book as descended from two veterans, but since I am so far unable to prove my great-grandfather's birth, I may not be able to prove this lineage for his descendants. In any case, I hope I have time soon to learn more about their service.

Charlotte Fisk was the sister of my great-grandfather,
George Robert Smith.

But whether it is Veteran's Day or Memorial Day, I always pause to remember by grandmother's brother, L/Cpl. Lawrence Nimmo Dean, killed in action in Holland on April 2, 1945.

L/Cpl Lawrence Nimmo Dean

Although I didn't fully appreciate the experience then, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit his grave with my grandmother and mother 32 years ago.

Headstone of L/Cpl Lawrence Nimmo Dean
Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, Nijmegen, Holland
Taken by my mother ca 1958

I never knew Uncle Lawrence, but recently found his service file on Ancestry and found myself near tears as I looked through the 60 pages of documents.  He was wounded twice and gravely injured in a motorcycle accident, suffering a fractured skull and losing several teeth. He suffered from headaches even after his discharge from hospital and had to have a lower denture put in to replace the teeth. Even so, he fought to stay in action rather than be sent home. Ultimately he was killed on a reconnaissance mission just 34 days before V.E. Day.

His file was also full of tiny little details we had not known previously that filled in a few of those little cracks and helped to flesh out the details of someone I never met. I hope that someday I can do this for all of my Veteran ancestors.

Plaque in memory of Uncle Lawrence
hanging in the Minton United Church, North Hatley, Quebec.

UPDATE: Our Basenji, DJ, continues to struggle under the weight of his illness which has now been revealed to be complicated by azotemia, insufficient filtering of the blood by the kidneys. His meds have been adjusted, we are adjusting his diet and I am having to learn to give him fluids subcutaneously.  We hope to see him bounce back soon, but his condition is still serious.

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