Around Remembrance Day, Michael Warren’s son recalls his father’s toughest wartime memory in Belgium during the Second World War.
“My dad said the Germans knew exactly where they were,” Daniel Warren said. “Sometime during the night, (his father’s unit) started getting bombed and the commanding officer told everybody to ‘Stay in your trenches. Don’t get out.’ In the morning, my dad was the only one alive. He lost 19 of his friends. He said, ‘It’s just pure luck.’”
Daniel Warren explained that at the time, his dad was 17 years old and was serving with his regiment in France. His father’s wartime journey had started in Montreal, where he joined the military when he was a youngster.
Michael Warren was then taken to Winnipeg for training. From there, he went overseas to England, France, Belgium and Germany, serving with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.
The Second World War took many young people from their native lands and thrust them into foreign lands with limited food rations and the constant risk of death.
“He was one of the first Canadians to hit the beaches on D-Day, June 6, 1944. They were right in the middle of the battle,” Daniel Warren said of his father’s service in Normandy.
However, the kindness of Allied strangers and the bonds between soldiers, kept Michael Warren going.
Being from Montreal, Quebec, Daniel Warren said his dad spoke French. One evening, he said his father’s Canadian battle group came across a French farm family. They fed the Canadians the meat from an entire cow of theirs that night. Daniel Warren, recalled his father saying that it was one of the best meals of his life.
Despite traumatic war experiences, he had no major physical injuries or emotional disorders such as PTSD. However, for his first two years back in Canada, he would instinctively duck down when he heard a plane overhead. He earned six medals. His granddaughter, Danielle Warren, remembers him as “a typical grandfather.” He died 10 years in 2005 ago at 78.
Danielle Warren said that memories are better than war memorabilia because they last longer.
“To make up for physical things, you have memories and you can pass those along too,” she said. “You can pass those along through generations.”