Campbellton brothers return to Vimy Ridge, where father, 3 uncles fought

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Campbellton brothers return to Vimy Ridge, where father, 3 uncles fought

Growing up in Campbellton, the Dewar brothers admit they didn't appreciate their father's contribution to Canada's history.

Bob Dewar said he knew two things about his dad, Oliver Dewar. He was "tough as nails" and he loved to dance.

"He'd rent a dance hall down the North Shore pavilion, and he'd invite all his friends to the party," Bob said.

Oliver Dewar and his three brothers, Les, Daniel and John, all fought at Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917.

Oliver was hit by shrapnel during the First World War battle, Daniel was shot in the face and Les was shot in the leg, but unlike 3,598 soldiers who lost their lives, all of the Dewar brothers survived and returned home.

That battle was the first time all Canadian divisions fought together, and it's been seen as a turning point that contributed to the defeat of German forces.

Now, the next generation of brothers — Oliver's sons Bob, Les Jr., Oliver Jr. and Tim — will make the journey to Vimy Ridge, tour the Canadian memorial and walk on the site where their father and uncles fought 100 years ago.

Les Dewar, who was 12 when his father died, said the veteran rarely talked about the 28 months he spent on the battlefront in France and Belgium during the war.

Les wishes he'd asked more questions of his father, who was 33 years older than the siblings' mother.

"I had asked him ... did he ever shoot anybody and he said, 'Well Leslie, I fired my gun but I hoped I never hit anyone," Les said.

"He told me about somebody right beside him getting killed. And just the horrors — what these young boys and young men saw in that war ... it was just brutal and no wonder so many of them had difficulties when they returned home."

Bob Dewar said he too wishes he had asked more questions when he father was alive.

"As you age things like this become more important and more emotional," Bob said. "And for us, it's hit us in the last four or five years.

"We've talked about it more and how blessed we are to have had a father like we had."

Les said the four surviving Dewar brothers will leave next week for Vimy Ridge.

"We believe it's a tribute to our dad and his brothers and sister that if we're able to go, we must go, and luckily the four of us are going."

Bob, who now visits schools talking about the First World War, is afraid younger generations won't know the history of the forces who fought at Vimy Ridge or appreciate their contribution.

"We're also hoping that their legacy won't be forgotten by the generations coming after us, and that's up to us to make sure that they do remember," he said.