Bygone Treasures - To the Lads Who Never Came Home

By Michael Rice

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A few weeks ago, I purchased a small group of old postcards, and among them chanced upon one mailed from the military post office in Rivers, Manitoba in 1942. Rivers had a military base used for training RCAF personnel during World War II, and, as I often do, I undertook a bit of research.

The postcard was written from “Wally” to his Mom...
December 4/42 (only 25 more days!)

Dearest Mom...Have been asking favours of you all my 21 years haven't I, and here's another!

Would you look around for the filter I used with my electric shaver? It's probably in the upstairs medicine cabinet or in my room someplace.

I'm fine and trust you are all likewise. Will be writing you this week-end. Your loving son, Wally

Wally had almost completed his pilot’s training and was counting the days until he was shipped overseas.

J/12340 F/O Walter McPhee was attached to 427 Squadron RCAF - RAF Bomber Command, and was part of a mission to Nurnberg on the night of March 30/31 1944. Wally and his crew of six were flying Handley Page - Halifax III LW-618 coded ZL-E, when they were shot down by a Luftwaffe nightfighter, with the loss of all aboard. Wally was 23.

Sometimes, it’s just a touching message on a simple postcard that stirs feelings we forget we have. I was born near the cutting edge of the Baby Boom generation, so was fortunate to have escaped the horrors of war.

Life was stable. Everyone knew that a newspaper cost a dime, and it took a nickel to mail a letter. When I was 23, I was working in swinging London, with long hair and hippie glasses, enjoying a pint with friends and walking many a night across Clapham Common to the boarding house, a bag of scorching hot chips in hand and not a care in the world.

Wally never had the chance to do that, but his sacrifice and that of so many other young men and women made it possible for me.

A toast to your memory, Wally, and my gratitude to you and your comrades for making things right for us all.

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