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The Honourable Troublemaker

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Family members of veterans have a significant contribution to Canada’s war time history and are pivotal to carrying on their relatives’ legacy. The Memory Project, has created a new initiative: Memories Continued. We will be collecting stories provided to us by the family members of veterans: the memories of what it was like when their loved ones were away at war; stories of wartime passed down from grandparents; memories of receiving letters and news from the front. Each memory will be accompanied by a contextually themed write up. We hope to honour our veterans’ memories and to include them in The Memory Project dialogue so that we may never forget the legacy of their service.

Every Remembrance Day, I am reminded of the honourable man that much of my family never had the pleasure of meeting: my great grandfather Russell Claude Downey, who died at age 31 in the Battle of the Rhineland. On 19 February 1945, the Essex Scottish Regiment of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division was surrounded by German reinforcement and 140 lives were surrendered. He never got the chance to meet his youngest daughter, my grandmother, Margaret.

picThis makes it difficult to know anything more than his accomplishments in the Army. We never got to experience his personality and unique characteristics; however, we are grateful for what we do know.

Russell was more than a soldier. He was a loving husband and father, he was a joker and some might even call him a troublemaker. The one thing I know for sure is that each generation that followed has inherited his humour.

In a letter addressed to his wife on 22 December 1945, Rose Hannah Downey while he was, somewhere in England’ he wrote, “One of the fellows has just been transferred in another company and tonight we are kidding the day lights out of him.” My father, his siblings and my sister and I have the same sense of humour. So for that, I thank Russell. The family has also heard stories of him arriving late and pulling stunts forcing him to miss time in training camp.

Russell Downey is memorialized at the Galt Legion in Ontario, where he first joined the Army.

My family and I continue to learn more about him and the family history with each Remembrance season.

We owe him our love and freedom.

 

By: Kelsey Vere