Remembrance Day is a time to honour Canadian veterans and thank them for putting their lives on the line.
One of those veterans is Walter Fidler of Ladysmith. Following in the footsteps of his older brothers, Fidler served Canada during the Second World War.
Fidler, who is now 94, was born in Lockport, Man. He was 21 or 22 when he joined the Royal Canadian Army Services Corps in 1921.
“I had three brothers, and they were all in the army,” he said.
Fidler joined up with an ambulance corps in Kitchener, Ont.
“They were a medical unit, and they were in the army and they needed drivers,” he recalled.
Fidler did his basic training at Camp Borden in Ontario.
“While I was there, I learned to ride a motorbike,” he said. “They had an instructor there, and he helped show me how to ride a motorbike.”
After basic training, Fidler moved to Camp Debert in Nova Scotia. After two weeks, he was sent to Halifax. From there, his unit was sent overseas on a boat in 1942 or 1943.
“It took 14 days to go over, and we landed in Liverpool, England,” said Fidler. “Then they moved us down to Aldershot, England, and we stayed with billets there. We kept moving north all the time. After that, we went from England to Italy and landed in Naples. We kept working our way up close to Ortona in Italy. There was lots of fighting going on there in Ortona.”
During the war, Fidler was a dispatch rider, delivering messages between headquarters.
“It didn’t matter what time of night it was; when they called you, you delivered a message,” he said. “They were figuring out what the Germans were doing and what we were doing. I was on the motorbike all the time.”
Fidler would sleep in a tent at his unit’s headquarters and go out on the motorbike to deliver a message whenever he was called to do so.
It was while delivering one of these messages that Fidler was severely injured.
It was around 2 a.m., and he had to deliver a message way up past Ortona, near Rimini.
“It was black and dark, and there was a truck coming out and I was coming in,” he said. “We couldn’t use lights, there was just a tiny light on my motorbike, and I hit the truck head-on and broke both my legs.”
After spending six months in a hospital in England, Fidler was sent back to Manitoba on a hospital ship in July 1945 and ended up in hospital for treatment on his legs.
“They fixed my leg so I could walk, but it was crooked,” he said. “I put up with it for a while.”
This past June, Fidler lost that leg after getting an infection.
When he returned from the war, Fidler worked at a steel mill in Selkirk, Man., and then worked as a crane operator for 18 years.
“When automation came in, in 1961, and they were changing everything, I put in for a job on the floor, looking after the pouring of the metal, and after that, I retired in the 1980s before moving out here,” he said.
Fidler met Jean after his children were all grown up, and they’ve been together 30 to 35 years. When she decided in 1987 to move to Ladysmith because her son lived here, he came with her.
Fidler, who will be 95 next August, is a member of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 171 Ladysmith and the Ladysmith Eagles.