It's time to thank our veterans for
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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
Al Wallace
Al Wallace
Sergeant Air Gunner, Squadron 419, World War II
Al Wallace

No stranger to Sunnybrook or the veterans who call it home, Albert (Al) Wallace will experience his first Remembrance Day at the country's largest veterans’ residence, as one of its own.

This year, at the age of 98, Al came to live at Sunnybrook, joining some of the many friends he's made over his 53 years of service to veterans through his volunteer work with the Red Cross and Sunnybrook; the last 28 years at the latter.

As a volunteer wheelchair escort once a week, Al enjoyed chatting with fellow veterans as he took them to their medical or therapy appointments and back to their room.

" I lost many friends in the war, and so there's nowhere else I'd rather volunteer," he told the National Post in 2016. "I just like the atmosphere here... I like visiting the guys, and I am going to keep it going until I can't keep it up anymore."

Al's first service was to his country, for four years in the military. "I wanted to do my part to help out with the war, to help out Canada."

As a Sergeant Air Gunner with squadron 419 during World War II, Al had flown planes through 10 air operations over Germany when he and his fellow soldiers were shot down. "Five of us got out using our parachutes. Two died," recalls Al.

He was taken prisoner and spent two long years in a German prison camp.

"When the Russians were coming, we were moved out, forced to walk through Germany on foot. On January 30th, we left at midnight. All you could take was on your back; clothing, food for survival. It was winter, and there was snow on the ground; on the road for 14 or 15 days sleeping in barns with nothing. Got to the railroad. Packed us in boxcars and went to another prison camp. It had barrack blocks bunks for us to sleep. No toilets inside. Eight men in a room with bunk beds. Pretty basic living. Played sports to entertain ourselves."

"Being a prisoner of war helped me to survive to 100 (almost). Toughened us up. No conveniences. It wasn't easy. Everything was hard to come by."

When asked what key event stood out to him, he said: "Getting out of there after the war. May 2nd or 3rd, liberated by the British army, flew to England. Took us back to trucks, to the airbase. 25 of us jumped into the aircraft through the hatch."

When Al awakes on November 11th this year, his eyes will come across a sea of Canadian flags dotting the lawn outside his new home. A reminder for him and all Canadians. A tribute to his service and sacrifice.

Arthur Stanton
Royal Canadian Air Force

If you want to get Art’s attention, you shift the conversation to photography. As soon as you do, his face lights up and he shares many examples of recent images he’s captured through skill, a good eye and plenty of patience when called for. This centurion has been wielding a camera since he got his first Kodak Brownie camera at the age of 12. His passion for the art grew from there.

Arthur was born on February 19, 1916 in New Brunswick. He grew up in Toronto, lived on Davenport Avenue and attended Jesse Ketchum Public School. He got his training in electronics at a local technical school. “I was always very good with my hands,” he said.

Art’s adeptness came in handy when he enlisted, first with the Queen’s Own Rifles at the age of 17, then with the Royal Canadian Air Force where he trained in aircraft mechanics. While stationed down East, he said he must have caught someone’s eye during a flight training session. “Before I knew it, I was recommended for pilot training. I earned my wings flying two engine planes.”

After serving in England during World War II supporting the RCAF, training pilots and transporting goods and personnel, he returned home to Alberta where he married his wife Bess in a ceremony performed in the military chapel. They raised four sons. Bess passed away in 1998.

After the war, Art worked for Air Canada for 30 years in reservations, teletype and, later, computers. When the company relocated to Montreal, he opted to stay in Toronto rather than disrupt his family. His wife had a job as a dietitian and one of his sons was at university. The company offered him a position in the public relations department where he put his photography skills to work. “I was the one they sent out to photograph the scene when any accident or mishap occurred,” he said. “I had a special license on my car that gave me full access to the grounds and runways at Malton Airport – known today as Toronto Pearson International Airport. I also took photos that were used in Air Canada advertisements.”

As the co-owner of a bi-plane, Art would take aerial shots for homeowners of their property. He recalls taking wedding photos. “I would also go out on runs with the Scarborough Emergency Response Teams and take photos for them.”

Back in the day, Art developed his own photographs. He had a darkroom in the basement of his home in Scarborough, recalling how he spent many a long night there. Today, the digital photos he takes with his Nikon are printed by his son on his large format printer.

Today, Arthur can be found front and centre at any event taking place at the Veteran’s Centre capturing the moment. Results of his work can be seen in the Centre’s events calendar.

Art specifically loves to take photos of plants, wildlife and birds around the grounds at Sunnybrook. He will wait for as long as it takes to capture the perfect shot – a gopher family peaking out from under a bush; tiny birds perfectly lined up on a bird feeder; a flower in full bloom. The walls and door to his room showcase some of his best. And, if you have the time, he’ll gladly show you some of the many others he keeps tucked away.

Clayton (Clay) Hayes
Canadian Merchant Navy, Able Bodied Seaman, World War II

In the fall of 1944, 17 year old Clayton (Clay) Hayes hopped a freight train headed to the West Coast of British Columbia from his home in Brandon, Manitoba and enlisted in the Canadian Merchant Navy. His brother was already serving with the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). His father had served with the Merchant Navy (United Kingdom) during World War I (WWI). Stationed in Vancouver, Clay was assigned to the Goldstream Park merchant ship. Merchant ships carried vital cargo to the people affected by the war (food / clothing) as well as much needed military supplies (aircraft, tanks, guns and munitions) and whatever else was required for the war effort.

The Goldstream traveled down the Pacific coast, through the Panama Canal to New York Harbor where it would become part of a convoy of 80 – 90 ships gathering from across the United States and Canada before heading across the Atlantic to England. Because of its vital cargo, the convoy was a prime target for enemy surface raiders and U-boats. Part of Clay’s job as an Able Bodied Seaman was either to man the crow’s nest, on watch for enemy subs and aircraft, or to be at the wheel steering the ship.

Clay recalls that on one trip leaving from Vancouver, they were hit by a severe storm off the coast of California. All hands were on deck, trying to save the lumber secured to the deck with chains. The storm was so bad, they lost all the lumber and a number of crewmen (including a friend of his) were badly injured. The injured were taken to a hospital in San Pedro, California before the Goldstream renewed its trip.

One of the scariest moments came while unloading their cargo at the Surrey Commercial Docks in southeast London. The fleet got hit numerous times by unmanned German planes launched from German occupied France. Although the bombs landed close by, their ship was not hit. Others were and lives were lost. After the war ended in 1945, Clay stayed on for another two to three years to help with the post war rebuilding efforts.

Upon his return home, Clay married Margaret Doyle and together they raised four children (three daughters and a son). Over the course of his working life, Clay owned and operated several small businesses in the Toronto area including one that manufactured menu covers and another that sold industrial latex to art supply stores across Canada and the United States. He retired at the age of 85. Margaret passed away in 2010 at age 82.

When asked about his war experience, Clay is positive. “I’d do it again for sure,” he said. “The whole war experience was very good. I’m very proud of the role that the Merchant Navy played in providing desperately needed equipment, fuel, food and personnel to Europe and around the world.”

Henry (Hank) Wong
Sergeant, Force 136, Special Operations Executive (SEO), World War II

During the Second World War, the Allies were trying to figure out a way to drop an elite military team into regions of the South-East Asian Theatre occupied by the Japanese. The British Intelligence needed soldiers who could slip behind enemy lines and sabotage Japanese interests by any means including: destroying communications towers, bridges and railway lines. They had previously used undercover operatives in Europe, working with various resistance movements but couldn’t use these agents in Asia as they wouldn’t blend in.

Their plan, code named Operation Oblivion, involved recruiting Chinese-Canadian and training them in guerrilla warfare. Each team member would be taught a specialty whether it was explosives, communications or tank command. Initially they had difficulty finding these service personnel, as Chinese-Canadians were severely restricted in joining the Canadian military, especially in British Columbia where the highest number resided.

Among those selected for this extremely dangerous, covert operation was Sunnybrook Veterans Centre resident Henry (Hank) Wong. His specialty, which earned him the nickname The Trigger, was small arms. Beretta, Luger, Japanese Nambu, name the pistol and he could efficiently dispatch an enemy soldier with any of them. Silent assassination? Hank learned that too.

The Operation was considered a suicide mission and the men were offered cyanide capsules to place inside a tooth in the unlikely event they were captured and taken alive. But according to Hank, he didn’t see the need for it. “If they captured you, you were dead anyhow.”

Hank joined the Canadian army in 1940 after being turned down by the Navy because of race. He trained as a weapons specialist with the Kent Regiment in Chatham, Ontario, helping with coastal defense in Halifax, Niagara and British Columbia. In 1944, while on compassionate leave following the death of his brother in law, Hank was approached by an officer with the British Special Operations Executive (now M16). When asked if he was interested in returning to active duty, he jumped at the chance and ended up at a secret camp in a secluded bay near Penticton, B.C.

For the next five months, Hank and the other 12 Asian men who had been recruited, trained clandestinely on the shores of Okanogan Lake. They lived in tents, practiced rolling out of moving vehicles, learned hand-to-hand combat and participated in gun maneuvers with live ammo. “When I was recruited, even I didn’t know what it was for. They didn’t tell you anything. You didn’t have a name, you had a number.”

From B.C., they were shipped to Melbourne, Australia for more intense training. It was there, in 1945, that their mission was abruptly scrapped. The Americans had just bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrendered and their expertise was no longer required, leaving Hank and his crew in limbo. Because they weren’t officially Canadian soldiers and, frankly weren’t expected to return alive, no plan had been put in place to get them home. “We just sat there,” says Hank. “Nobody owned us. We had to work our way back to Canada on a freighter.”

Because Operation Oblivion was a clandestine British initiative, the Canadian Government never acknowledged the service by the men in Force 136 nor will you find any mention of it in Canadian military records. According to Hank, they were acknowledged for joining and leaving the army, but nothing in between. The men were sworn to secrecy for 25 years, but even after that only partial details emerged. The story of their service came to light in a documentary produced by Omni Television in 2014 and in follow on newspaper articles.

After the war, Hank worked for General Steel Wares in London, Ontario as a heating and cooling lab technician. He then became an auditor for the United Steel Workers Union. When asked how he felt after doing all that training and then not seeing action, Hank says that’s just how it goes in the service. “In the army, you do what you’re told and you take what you get. We were already to go. Then it was a no go. As soon as they dropped the atomic bomb, they didn’t want anything to do with us.”

The service of Chinese-Canadians in the Second World War, despite various racist, legal impediments, has been cited as instrumental in helping to overturn and abolish the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1947 – helping to pave the way for Canada’s future embrace of multiculturalism.

Henry (Hank) Wong passed away in October of 2019 at the age of 99 and was the last surviving member of Operation Oblivion.

Mel Storrier
Royal Canadian Corps of Signals

Mel Storrier, 97, is a survivor in every sense of the word. At 66 years of age, while semi-retired and living in Etobicoke, he suffered a severe stroke that would change his life.

The stroke affected the left side of his body, leaving him paralyzed with no range of motion and without the use of one hand. His vision and hearing were also affected. Then, to complicate matters, Mel fell and broke his hip during physiotherapy.

“Staying at home was not possible, recalls his middle son, David, who visits his dad often at the Veterans Centre. “My mother was showing early signs of dementia and was not able to care for Dad. Sunnybrook was the perfect place and it has been his home for the last 29 years.”

Originally from Quebec, Mel was born in Rosemont, the centre-east part of Montreal. In 1939, at the age of 18 and still in high school, he decided to join the army, rather than be conscripted. He served with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals as a motorcycle dispatch rider delivering messages to the front line and signalman sending Morse code messages. In the summer of 1943, Mel and his unit participated in the Invasion of Sicily. Like many veterans, he never spoke openly about the war to his family.

When he returned from the war in 1945, Mel studied at McGill University and graduated with a degree in engineering in 1951. It was there that he met his wife, Teresa “Lee” Eileen, and they were married in Montreal, prior to his graduation. Mel ran several companies during his career as a mining engineer, working mostly in Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.

Mel has approached life with a great deal of determination. A life-long learner, he is a keen reader and frequent visitor to the library at Sunnybrook’s. Keeping his mind and body as active as possible has been important.

Art therapy has also provided both great enjoyment and benefit. Mel always has a new idea and a “can do” spirit. “I’ve always had a little bit of art in me and I’ve just let it grow. It comes naturally to me,” says Mel.

Whether he’s working in the art studio with fused glass or in the photography studio, Mel has shown that there is a great deal to life after a stroke.

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.

British Military

In November 1942, Edward (Ted) Hoare was conscripted into the British military first as a Trooper and later as a Commando with the British Commando Special Forces (Churchill’s Green Berets). In just over a year after joining the infantry, he was on the front lines of one of the longest, bloodiest battles of the Italian Campaign – the Battle of Monte Cassino.

At the time, it was believed that the German troops were using the historic, hilltop Benedictine Abby as an observation post. From the deep slopes behind the Abby, they had full view and control of the entire Liri Valley - preventing the advancement and critical link up of allied forces to the north and the south.

From January to May1944, the battle for Monte Cassino raged. Ted’s platoon arrived at the battle site in February, in time for the second of four major assaults that took place over the five month period. He recalls the difficulty of going up the mountain to get into position overlooking the Abby. “There were no roads going up there, so we used mules to transport everything: ammunition, food, water and, of course, to fetch the wounded and the dead and bring them down at night. The mules crossed seven miles of goat tracks over terrain in full view of the monastery, directly exposed to deadly enemy fire – hence the name Death Valley.”

Ted also recalls the bomb raid that took place on the morning of February 15, 1944. Within four hours, 142 B-17 Flying fortresses, 47 B-25 Mitchells and 40 B-26 Marauder Medium bombers dropped 493 tons of ordnance on the Monte Cassino complex. From his slit trench deep in the mountain, he had a front row seat to the action as allied forces dropped their payload. Within a month, the Germans were driven out and on June 5, Rome was liberated. The cost of victory? Fifty-four thousand allied and twenty thousand German soldiers dead.

Ted was eventually transferred to the Commando Unit. With his background in mines and explosives, he had the skills and experience they needed. However, tragedy struck when a farmhouse they were holed up in took a direct hit from enemy fire. His buddy was killed instantly. He and two others were gravely wounded. They were carried out under fire. He underwent surgery to remove the embedded shrapnel and spent the next six months recovering in hospital in a body cast that went from his neck to his knees. He celebrated his 21st birthday at the beginning of May 1945 and on the 8th, celebrated Victory in Europe Day (VE Day).

Returning home, he met his wife Patricia who had also returned from being in the British Army. She served as a staff car driver in the same unit as the Queen. They married soon after. In 1957, they emigrated to Canada along with their three children.

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.”

Donald (Digger) Gorman
Donald (Digger) Gorman
Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR)
Donald (Digger) Gorman

Donald (Digger) Gorman was 20 years old when he joined the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) in 1942. He left university half way through his third year to enlist. It was the thing to do, says Don. We were young. Our chums went in. We all did it. It didn’t seem tough at the time.

I was stationed in the North Atlantic, primarily in Halifax, Nova Scotia – part of the Battle of the Saint Lawrence – Anticosta Island. As a member of the RCNVR, our primary role was to protect a block of up to 40 merchant ships that carried cargo to England to supply the war. That made them prime targets for enemy submarines. Our job would be to continually circle around them as they sailed across the ocean to keep the enemy subs from sinking them. When we were on convoy duty, we typically spent 14 days at sea and three days in port. In port, we usually had some drinks, good meals and we could go to the Red Cross and Salvation Army for free warm clothes, cigarettes, cake etc and maybe, before I was married, go out with a girl or two.

During the war there were good times and bad times. The good times had to do with the camaraderie. Like the words from the old song: shipmates stand together, don’t give up the ship. On a ship if someone gets killed or wounded, you have to take their place, you can’t call in a replacement which is why during basic training we had to learn a bit about everything. So when you are at sea, there is a great sense of fellowship and loyalty among the men, I certainly remember that. It’s called esprit de corps. Any Vet will tell you that.

The bad times of course were when you had to drop a depth charge (Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) weapon) on enemy submarines. That would be the worse thing we had to do. Once a ship was down, you didn’t shoot the people in the water, that’s not right. The purpose of a Navy ship is to sink ships, not kill people.

I remember one time when we did sink a sub and the enemy – both dead and alive -- were in the water. We collected the dead, brought them onboard and wrapped them in canvas to be taken back to shore. Survivors were taken prisoner. While onboard, we treated them well and we fed them the same food that we ate. When it was time to go ashore, they offered us one of their hats. It was filled with their gold rings and watches – anything they had of value to give to us in appreciation for how well they were treated. Of course, we all refused.

Don’t forget you could be in the water some day. That was what we were taught, so we always treated those enemy sailors who ended up in the water, the way we would have wanted to be treated if it were us instead of them. I’ll never forget that gesture. They were just young boys like us.

After the war, Don went back to school to complete his third and fourth years. He graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a BSC in Geology. He studied economic geology as a graduate student at the Royal School of Mines in London, England and earned a PhD from the University of Toronto (U of T). Don worked for the U of T for 46 years. In the summer he did contract work for a mining company, focused on economic mineralogy in the northern most regions of Canada and all provinces except PEI. In 2009, he was inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame.

My wife Reta and I got married during the war in 1944 while I was on leave. We were high school sweethearts and celebrated 70 years together. She died in 2014. Our family includes five children (three girls, two boys), ten grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Throughout my life I’ve always been very active. I loved all sports, played tennis from the age of 12 to 85, skied and played hockey. I wasn’t a bookworm, didn’t let that take over my life, I was a scholar not a bookworm, I always make that distinction.

Don’s busy life continues at Sunnybrook. A resident for four plus years, he’s active on three or four committees and is Vice President of the Residents Council.

Douglas Brooks
Royal Regiment of Canada

Douglas Brooks was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1921. He was the middle child of nine – four brothers and four sisters. Growing up during the Great Depression, there was no work, so Douglas, who was 18 and his younger brother Raymond, who was 17, enlisted in the Royal Regiment of Canada – the Royals as they were known. They lied about their ages so Raymond could enlist. “The army paid $1.39 per day. It wasn’t much, but when you have nothing, it’s a fortune.”

After participating in basic training in Toronto, they spent the next six months in Iceland before heading to England to await further orders. Those orders came on August 19, 1942. They were part of Operation Jubilee, which saw more than 6,000 Allied forces – including some 5,000 Canadians - converge on a 16 kilometre stretch of shoreline in Dieppe, on the northwest coast of France.

“We couldn’t get close to the beach and had to jump off our TLC (Troop Landing Craft) into the water wearing our full equipment pack and carrying multiple rounds of ammunition and our machine gun. We were wearing our best uniforms so that we would look good for inspection on our return. When I jumped, I went in over my head. I remember thinking to myself, what a hell of a mess I’m going to be when I get back to go on parade. Of course, there was no way we would get back.”

The Allies’ plan was to launch a large-scale amphibious landing, damage enemy shipping and port facilities and gather intelligence on German defenses and radar technology. “It was a disaster. We weren’t ready and the Germans were.“

More than nine hundred Canadians – including Raymond - lost their lives as a result of the raid that day. The Royals proved to have the highest casualty rate of all participating units – 94%. “In my platoon of 19, only two of us survived. I didn’t have a scratch on me. That’s pretty tough odds. I believe that day wasn’t my day to die. For my brother, his day had come.”

In addition, 1,946 Canadians were captured by the Germans. Douglas spent the next two and a half years as a prisoner of war (POW). He spent 12 months chained and tied up before becoming part of a work party on a farm near the Polish border. “Food was scarce and everyone was on rations. If you were anything below a sergeant, you had to work.”

The POW camp was liberated in 1945. After five and a half years overseas, Douglas headed home, eager to leave the horrors of the war behind. “Once I got out of the army, I didn’t join any post-service organizations or take part in any ceremonies. I wasn’t interested in doing anything like that. It was too painful to think about even on Remembrance Day. Instead, I choose to just think about me and my younger brother.”

Richard Ratcliffe
Richard Ratcliffe
Royal Canadian Navy
Richard Ratcliffe

When Richard Ratcliffe left his home in St. Catherines, Ontario to enlist at age 17, he was on a quest for adventure, eventually travelling far from the Royal Canadian Naval College in British Columbia to the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Western Pacific, as well as seeing active service during the Korean War.

As a member of the Royal Canadian Navy, Richard participated in daring missions around the world, buoyed by a sense of pride in being able to defend the interests of the United Nations and NATO over the course of a successful military career that spanned roughly 25 years.

He rose through the ranks, serving aboard 12 ships and ultimately as Commander of the famed destroyer the HMCS Qu’Appelle, with a crew of 230. During the Korean conflict from 1950 to 1952, he helped provide anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defence, which included escorting an aircraft carrier flying strikes into North Korea.

Following active duty, Richard served another five years with the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve. Subsequently, he worked for the Maritime Council of Premiers in the Nova Scotia government, and as head of the residence at St. Mary’s University. In 1981, he and Mary Patricia, his wife of almost 50 years, established Cumberland County Knitters, a cottage industry that manufactured hand-knit sweaters and fashion accessories.

While Richard’s naval career was filled with drama, one of the highlights of his life took place in 2017 when he soared over Niagara Falls by helicopter with his grandson Joe as part of the Sunnybrook Veterans Grant a Wish, a program made possible by donor support. Viewing Niagara Falls from the air had been a life-long dream of his. "As children, the Falls were always an attraction for us. The ride lasted just 12 minutes, but for me, it was the trip of a lifetime."

His "can do" attitude and leadership abilities still characterize Richard at age 89. As a resident in Sunnybrook’s Veterans Centre for roughly two years he’s enjoying sharing stories and memories with his fellow veterans, but he lives very much in the present. In 2017, he was elected president of the Veteran and Community Residents’ Council. What’s more, that year he was also featured on the Toronto Star front page as one of three veteran bearers of the Invictus flag.

Richard’s adventure continues, this time in service of his fellow veterans with whom he shares his youthful spirit and love of life. "The war was exciting, but right now is just as exciting," he exclaims. He is visibly moved when expressing his gratitude to Sunnybrook Veterans Centre for the outstanding care he has received. "We’re 475 of the most privileged people in Canada. We’re treated like royalty every day."

William (Bill) Mogavero
William (Bill) Mogavero
Canadian Armed Forces
William (Bill) Mogavero

Bill was a Gunner in the Korean War.  He enlisted in the army at Chorley Park in Toronto, Ontario in August 1950 when he was 21. He felt it was something he had to do. The Korean War had just begun and both of his brothers had served during WWII.  From Toronto, he went to Petawawa where he was outfitted before shipping out to the Canadian Forces base in Shilo, Manitoba for basic training.

One memory that stands out for Bill is the Canoe River train crash that happened  November 20, 1951. “Our group, 23 officers and 315 men of the 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (RCHA) were on route to Fort Lewis, Washington for additional training before being deployed to Korea. The railroad dispatcher had mistakenly put two trains on the same track in the Rocky Mountains near Valemount, British Columbia. Ours an older, wooden train and a more modern steel train – the Transcontinental Flyer met on a curve, neither seeing the other one coming, and hit head on.”

The damage to the older train was severe. Seventeen Canadian soldiers were killed - more casualties than the unit suffered during its first year of fighting in Korea. ““We were all taken back to Banff, Alberta by a train that had a mother engine added to it so the injured, many badly burned by stream, could be treated. The rest of us were re-outfitted. We waited for the track to be repaired and resumed our trip to Washington to complete our training.”

From Seattle, the men got on an American ship and crossed the International Date Line on route to Korea.  “The trip took several days and we arrived either late January or early February 1951. We drove up the front, eventually setting up camp north of the 38th Parallel in enemy territory. As a gunner, my job was to fire a 25-pounder field gun which was mounted and pulled on a trailer.  We’d set up several kilometres behind the frontline troops. We supported the Princess Patricia’s and the Van Doos. The Major, who was also on the frontline, would give orders and radio the coordinates for us to fire. If wrong, he would readjust them and we fired again. This continued until we hit the intended target.

During this time they were deployed on or near Hill 355 so named on military maps because it was 355 metres above sea level.  The Hill was strategically located just north of Seoul and was highly valued because it was the highest ground overlooking the surrounding front lines and supply routes. Bill recalls that they took a severe pounding there as both sides fiercely fought to gain control.

Bill’s 18 month military commitment turned into two years. He returned to Canada on July 27, 1953.   “When they sent replacements, you went home,” he said. Upon his return, his brother bought him a dump truck and he went into the trucking and excavation business during the summer. In the winter, he drove trucks for Texaco, Canada for 15 years delivering furnace oil until they shut down their Canadian operations. He later worked with Canada Post as a driver and letter carrier, and the TTC as a wheel-trans driver. He has 5 boys and 11 grandchildren.

“There’s no need for young people to die. If you see death in the field, it’s not glamorous like the movies. I start thinking of my children and my grandchildren. I don’t want that for them. I’m lucky I came out unscathed, but a lot didn’t. A lot of them bear scars that you’ll never see.”

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, 47,500 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?

Every donation will raise a flag.

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 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?

Thank you for your interest in volunteering with Operation Raise a Flag!

We have had an overwhelming response and all positions for this volunteer opportunity have now been filled.