It's time to thank our veterans for
keeping Canada strong and free.
Messages of Support

Say Thank You to Canada's Veterans

On Remembrance Day, show them how much you care

They stood on guard for thee. Now you can give these brave men and women something in return. On November 11th, you can raise a flag in support of our veterans and make their day.

Honour and give thanks for their sacrifice. Support Operation Raise a Flag today.

Our Veterans
Francess Georgina Halpenny
Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)

Francess Halpenny was born on May 27, 1919 in Ottawa, Ontario. Her father was a druggist and was attached to the dispensary in the army during World War I. Her mother, a remarkable woman, was a homemaker who stayed home to look after the family. After the War, Francess, her parents and younger brother moved, first to Maxville in Eastern Ontario, then to Toronto. In 1941, she received her Master’s degree from the University of Toronto (U of T). By the fall of that year she had been hired by the Editorial Department at the U of T Press. One year later, she took leave from her position to join the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) 5th Squadron -- Women’s Division.

“It seemed like the right thing to do,” she said. With her educational background, her skill set was a good match to be selected as a Meteorological Observer. “The role required someone with a bit more education to understand and analyze the weather data collected and make a sensible response.”

For the next three years Francess served her country, spending most of her time stationed at the RCAF base in Torbay, Newfoundland -- eight miles north of St. John’s. At that time it was considered an overseas assignment. The base was an action station and home to fighter squadrons that played a vital role helping to keep the shipping lanes between the North Atlantic and Britain open.

Convoys of ships headed to England with much needed goods for its people along with military supplies and personnel, were high-value targets for the Germans. The Newfoundland coast can be extremely foggy. Having an accurate, up-to-date understanding of weather conditions on any given day, at any given time was critical to determining daily missions and defense flight paths for the squadrons – enabling them to carry out their duties as protectors of the convoys.

“Everything we did was of interest because the flyers depended on the information they were given,” says Francess. “Our job was to observe every hour of weather. We plotted the information we collected from other stations and shared what we collected from ours with them. We worked in eight-hour shifts providing round-the-clock coverage.

“When I enlisted, I had never been to Montreal let alone east of it. During my time in the RCAF, I got to know the Maritimes and became extremely fond of Newfoundland.” Francess spent most of 1945 in Prince Edward Island. The European war was winding down and the efforts turned to planes, personnel and supplies headed to the South Pacific.

Upon returning home, Francess resumed to her job at the U of T – beginning her life-long association with the University. Over the span of her career, she served as managing editor of the U of T Press, associate director (academic) and dean of the Faculty of Library Science. Her extensive body of work in the areas of academia, editing and librarianship reflect her diversity and dedication.

In 1979, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Companion in 1984. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and awarded the Molson Prize for her editorial work on the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. She also received 11 honorary degrees from various Canadian universities.

Francess moved to Sunnybrook Veterans Centre in 2013. Her younger brother and his wife – both Veterans – are also residents.

In reflecting back on her time in the service, Francess had this to say: I was very glad to be able to serve. What we did was an integral part of the mission of the RCAF and I’m very proud of that. No one wants to have to serve, but if they do, they want to put their best effort forward because the lives of others depend on it.”

Don Stewart
Royal Canadian Navy

In the spring of 1942 and just shy of 17, Don enlisted in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Thanks to a phony letter of signed permission from his mother, he made it past the recruiting officer. Despite the fact that his parents were not on board with the idea, he ventured off to sea.

As a junior seaman and gunner, he spent three years on the defensively-equipped merchant ships (DEMS) zigzagging across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans delivering supplies during the Second World War.

"Moving across the Atlantic Ocean, at only eight knots, we were sitting ducks, for the German U-boats," says Don.

Over a period of three years, he saw more than 40 allied ships sink, fortunately he was never hit by a German U-boat or fighter bomber.

In one 1944 convoy, a ship sank with another man named Donald Stewart on board, and Don's parents were notified that their son had died at sea. With no mail delivery, Don did not keep in touch with his parents and so they were unaware of this error.

At the end of the war, he came home unannounced and shocked his father, a policeman who just happened to be at the train station meeting the soldiers returning.

"He usually didn't show much emotion, but that day he hugged me long and hard. I will never forget that feeling – there wasn't much talking," recalls Don.

His focus today as President of the Veterans & Community Residents Council, is to advise hospital administration in a constructive manner on issue related to the welfare of residents living in L-wing and K-wing, Canada's largest veterans care facility.

Back home in British Columbia Don served as Legion Branch President in both Penticton and Kamloops. He has been a proud and active member of the Royal Canadian Legion for sixty-eight years.

Friendships are very important to Don and at the Veterans Centre he keeps busy socially whether it's dinner out in the community, a Legion meeting in Niagara Falls or simply time together with his comrades in the Blythwood Social Club, a pub located onsite for residents and family members to socialize over a beverage.

Originally from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Don is the proud father of eight children, fifteen grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

JOHN CHARLES HALL
Canadian Armed Forces

John served with the 6th Canadian Armoured Corps, B Squadron known as the 1st Hussars. I received my call from the army in the summer of 1942, I was 21 but was exempt until the fall. I had been working up north near Wawa, Ontario running one of the machines that loaded pulp onto boats to be shipped to the US where they used it to make ammunition. Once the harbor froze over, I reported for duty in Toronto, then onto Sherbrooke, Quebec for basic training.

When we finished, they put us in a room and told us they needed tank men and radio operators. They asked if I was interested. I told them I didn’t know anything about Morse Code. They told me I didn’t have to. They wanted to know who could distinguish between the dits and dahs. I guess I could so I was picked and became a Canadian Armoured Corps Operator (CAC).

In the fall of 1943, John was shipped overseas. While in Europe, he and his regiment saw action in France, Germany and Holland.

I saw a lot of battles in Holland. We helped liberate the country. Thousands of men, women and children were dying because they had no food. Several days later, food supplies started to move through for the starving people. They were so happy and treated us well.

I also saw plenty of action in France, the most memorable coming just two weeks after we arrived. Closing the Falaise Pocket was a turning point in the war. The Allied armies had the German army surrounded. We were lined up in our tanks, loaded with ammo and fuel. We were told to go 12 miles per hour and not to stop unless we got knocked out or until we ran out of fuel. We were told to shoot out any buildings that looked like they might have snipers in them.

So much of the German Army was either captured or killed. Thousands of German prisoners surrendered their rifles and they were lying on the ground in a huge pile. Some prisoners were walking around. One young guy came up to me, he had a piece of black bread. He asked me to cut it in half for him, (all sharp items had been taken away from them), he wanted to share it with a friend.

When the war ended on May 7, 1945, I was at the airport in Wilhelmshaven, Germany getting ready to bomb the city the next morning. We were loading up our tanks with ammunition when someone came running and shouting, “The war is over! The war is over!”

My commanding officer came to me and said, “Hall you’re now on leave. A lorry will be here in an hour, get your things together, you’re going to London.” I got to London the next evening. Anyone in uniform couldn’t buy a drink, people were shoving beers at everyone. It was quite the celebration.

When asked about his thoughts on the war, John said, “ I can’t say that I hated the enemy, except the top Nazi Officers who wanted to kill everyone.” For the most part, those on the front lines were just young kids like us who were caught up in the same War that I was. I talked to prisoners. They all seemed to be nice guys. War is a foolish thing. There is nothing honourable about it. People killing people. There’s nothing to be honoured. I don’t think I would want to do it again but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it either.

WILLIAM (BUBBA) BACON
Canadian Armed Forces

William (Bubba) Bacon describes his time with the Canadian military during World War II as a million dollar experience. “I wouldn’t have missed it for a million dollars but I wouldn’t want to do it again for a million dollars.”

Bubba was born in Toronto on December 27, 1919, the younger of two children. His father a painter/ decorator and his mother an office cleaner, separated when he was quite young. While he would split his time between living with each of them, he says he was raised 99 per cent of the time by his mother.

In 1940, when he was 20 years old and looking for adventure, he decided to enlist in the Canadian Militia. Promises of posting to Iceland drew him in. When it became obvious that that wasn’t going to happen, he and a few others moved over to the Canadian Scottish Regiment (16 CScotR) with hopes of being posted to Vancouver Island. However, after a brief initial training at Camp Borden north of Toronto, his unit shipped out to Debert, Nova Scotia to continue training before being sent overseas.

The Regiment arrived in Great Britain in August 1941 as part of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. The next three years were spent in garrison duties, protecting the southern coast of England and training in preparation for the assault landings on Juno Beach in Normandy. On June 6, 1944, members of Bubba’s Unit were among those in the first wave ashore on that fateful day, sustaining heavy casualties. The rest of the battalion, including Bubba, followed in the second wave advancing further inland than any other landing force that day.

Bubba’s time in France came to a sudden halt in Putot-en-Bessin when a grenade he was disarming went off. As he looked down at his right hand as it dangled from his arm, his first thought was, “This is going to break my mother’s heart.”

Back home in Toronto, Bubba studied bookkeeping at a Toronto Business School. He eventually landed a job as an Information Clerk at Toronto City Hall where he worked for the next 30 years. Bubba met and married his wife Margaret, the sister of his best friend, upon his return from active duty. They had two daughters and 2 grandsons.

Bubba became an active member of the Canadian Scottish Association and remained in contact with a number of comrades he met during service. He has travelled back to France to Putot-en-Bessin where his grenade mishap took place for reunions on a number of occasions.

His message to young people today about his time in the military, “I was very happy to do it but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. When you sign those enlistment papers, you are handing over control of your life and from then on, you do what you are told. But if it means serving your country, you do it.”

MAC JOYNER
Canadian Armed Forces

Mac enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in Hamilton, Ontario at the age of 18. Following a year of training, he became a Navigator Bombardier and was posted overseas. After further training, he was posted with 101 Squadron in Lincolnshire, England.

Responsible for pinpointing enemy targets on bombing runs over Germany, Mac flew 33 successful sorties in a Lancaster aircraft. He was often in harm's way and feared the worst, as anti-aircraft fire and shells were firing at his aircraft.

"I was up in the front of the plane, right in the clear capsule, so I could see and feel everything along with sheer panic," says Mac. "I was a lucky one all right."

It was a miracle that no one in his plane, a special duty squadron was killed. The eight man crew (five English and three Canadians) included a German-speaking wireless operator, who intercepted and interfered with voice commands from ground units who were directing the enemy crews. The normal bombing crews had a seven-man crew.

Unfortunately, many of the Lancaster's in his squadron did not make it back. Out of 30 in his original squadron, 45 were shot down in just six months. New planes and crew where being added every day.

"I don't think any of us ever imagined it was going to be like it was," said Mac.

After the war, Mac returned to civilian life and eventually became President of Décor Metal Products, a division of Firestone Canada. At the time, they were the largest manufacturer of automotive safety seatbelts in Canada.

Good times and leisure now fill his days at the Veterans Centre. Mac has no complaints. Keeping physically and mentally active are key to his wellness. Now days though, he prefers to travel by bus rather than air, taking part in community and out of town bus trips. A highlight was when he visited the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton.

Family was and still is very much his priority. His son, two daughters, and two grandsons visit him at the Veterans Centre and take him home for family gatherings often.

For Mac, the war memories remain and are also meticulously tracked in his flight log book. The dates, hours, aircraft names, pilots, and places such as Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Berlin are noted in pen, along with "191 lost" in February 1944 noted and tracked in pencil.

MARY PRESCOTT
CANADIAN WOMEN'S ARMY CORP

After joining up on her 18th birthday, Mary served in the Canadian Women's Army Corp. Her brother was in the air force and thus Mary wanted to do her part. "It was the thing to do and I was looking for some excitement I guess," she said.

In her youth, Mary sang on the radio for the Eaton's Good Deed Radio Club when she was only eight. Then following a Christmas concert in Ottawa, she was discovered and recruited by a scout for the Army Show.

As an entertainer and dancer, she performed in the Canadian Army Show for Allied Troops in England, Belgium, Holland, and Germany from 1943 to 1944.

Working with the show certainly brought its share of excitement. There was the orchestra, the singers, dancers and they even had their own cook. The show was entitled Show Boat and there were 35 in total in the show. Together six trucks crossed the channel, leaving from Surrey, England for a big adventure.

For Mary, the experience led her to the love of her life, a stage manager who signed up with the Army Show, when he could have been discharged from the army.

A member of the 1st Division, he'd been with the war since day one and had been involved in northern Africa and heavy fighting all over Italy. Luckily for Mary, he liked it there and didn't want to go home.

Today, Mary is still as active as ever, using a power scooter to get around. Her love of music is evident and always present, as she travels in style listening to an iPhone playing all the old jazz and classical favourites.

Each week on Wednesdays, Mary takes part in music therapy sessions offered at the Centre.

"It's about my health now and music therapy is good for my mental, physical, and emotional health. Fortunately, I was able to bring my organ here with me. I love to play for the other residents in my unit."

About Operation raise a flag

Sunnybrook officially opened in 1948 as a war veterans' hospital; a place to care for heroes.

Today, as the largest veterans care facility in the country, in partnership with Veterans Affairs Canada, we are honoured to provide the best cognitive, physical, mental health and stroke care to 475 Canadian veterans of the Second World War and Korean War.

What is the Raise a Flag campaign?

As the largest veterans’ care facility in Canada, we offer long term and complex hospital care for vets from the Second World War and Korean War.

In honour of this Remembrance Day, Operation Raise a Flag will help raise funds in support of the Veterans program at Sunnybrook.

Please consider making a donation in honour of our veterans. With your support, 30,000 flags will be planted around our campus for Remembrance Day as a symbol of honour and appreciation.

Where does my money go?

It is the mission of the Veterans Centre to assist each and every resident to achieve their best possible life experience while they are at Sunnybrook. Your gift will help Sunnybrook Veterans Centre provide the very best cognitive, physical, mental health and stroke care to 475 Canadian veterans of the Second World War and Korean War. We believe our brave veterans deserve nothing less.

By giving today, you help ensure that every veteran we care for spends their time in comfort, benefitting from the best medical equipment and most compassionate care possible.

How can I make a donation?

By clicking the donate now button on this page.
Telephone: 1-866-696-2008
In person: Foundation Office KGW01
Mail in your donation: Sunnybrook Foundation, 2075 Bayview Avenue, KGW01, Toronto, ON M4N 3M5

How much are flags?

Each flag costs $25.

Will I receive a tax receipt?

Yes. If you order your flag online, a tax receipt will be issued immediately to the email address provided.

If you order through the mail or in person, a tax receipt will be placed in the mail and received within 10 business days.

Can I purchase a flag for my mother, father, etc.?

Yes, you can. However, the tax receipt will be made out to the individual making the donation.

How long will flags remain on the lawn?

We cannot guarantee the lifespan of these paper flags. Weather permitting, the flags will remain on the lawn throughout Remembrance Day and will be removed the morning of Monday, November 13th.

What will happen to the flags after Remembrance Day?

Flags are collected and recycled.

Where are the flags manufactured?

The flags are manufactured in Ontario and purchased from a local retail vendor — The Flag Shop.

Can I dedicate my flag to a particular veteran?

The flags will be planted on the grounds and messages will be combined for the veterans. If there is a specific veteran that you wish to honour, we will do our best to pass the message along to him/her.

Can I keep my flag?

This is not possible as the flags are not personalized and are planted all together.

How can I volunteer?

You can volunteer on the evening of Friday, November 10 and help plant 30,000 Canadian flags on the Sunnybrook grounds creating a patriotic sea of red and white. Our veterans will awaken on Remembrance Day knowing that you care about their great sacrifice.

To register please complete the form below. You will receive your Volunteer Information Package with all the details.

We welcome groups, like Scouts, Guides and Cadets, as well.