A plaque hanging on the wall of Rita and Dan Davies’ house reads “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.”
The John Stuart Mill quote doesn’t hang alone. Above it is a small newspaper clipping with a picture of Rita’s father, William John Michael Boyle, hanging in a frame, alongside his Second World War identification necklace, cap and medals of honour. The plaque is a tribute to him, a small reminder to all who see it of who Boyle was and what values he lived by.
Boyle was born in Scotland but was raised in Canada. He was only 19 when the war broke out and enlisted shortly after. He was stationed in England, then deployed to Dieppe, a German stronghold in the north of France, in 1942. Boyle was one of 4,963 Canadians who fought in what would become known as the Dieppe Raid.
“The sacrifices that they made,” Dan says. “For them, it wasn’t a job, it was a cause. They weren’t fighting for the right to disagree, they were fighting for something much deeper than that.”
Of those 4,963, only 1,596 returned to England following the attack. Boyle, who was injured by mortar shells, was taken with 1,946 other Canadians as prisoners of war. For nearly two years, he lived in a German POW camp. Following the conclusion of the war, he was repatriated to Canada.
Once arriving back he met Rita’s mother, they married, had children and settled in Alberta in 1949. Despite continuing with life as normal, Boyle was not unaffected by his time in the war, Rita and Dan told the News.
“He never talked about it,” says Rita.
There are still many parts of his story she doesn’t know. Things he never shared with her about that time. But, for Rita, that part of his story was not his defining factor. For Rita, he was a dad before all else.
Boyle, or ‘Red’ as he was affectionately referred to by his friends and family, was a dedicated father.
“Rita was very close with her dad,” Dan says.
She has tears in her eyes when speaking about him, but smiles when describing him.
“He was very quiet. He was extremely intelligent,” she says.
“He was a voracious reader. For entertainment he would read the Americana Encyclopedia,” says Dan, as he and Rita laugh at the memory.
They tell of Boyle’s interesting life; his love for learning despite only attending school until Grade 6, when he left to work in a goldmine, his career as a sheetmetal worker, his athleticism.
“He was the lightweight boxing champ in the Canadian army before he went to Dieppe,” says Dan. “My son has his trophy still.”
They also tell of his lifelong love for music and how he played snare drum in the Regimental Pipes and Drums of the Calgary Highlanders. His drumsticks hang in the frame with his war possessions.
They speak of his love for his family and the time he dedicated to them.
“He was over the moon (to have grandchildren),” says Dan.
Rita and Dan say they will think of him this Remembrance Day and hope that, like Boyle, all veterans can be acknowledged, not just for their service, but also for who they were as people.
KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News