Second World War veteran Howard Walker wouldn’t think of missing the Remembrance Day ceremony at Centennial College.
“The thing that keeps me coming back is the atmosphere the kids create themselves,” Walker said.
Howard Walker has participated in the observance at the East York campus of the college for 13 years. He returns year after year to share his stories with the students, and to visit with the college faculty, as well as other veterans.
“If there’s something important to you, something you like to do,” he said, “try to get other people to enjoy it too.”
Walker began his military career as an Aircraftsman second class in 1943. He worked in aero-engine maintenance attached to the Long Range Squadron and the East Coast Command stationed in Scoudouc, N.B.
The Scoudouc airfield was a repair depot used to service aircraft employed on long-range, anti-submarine patrols such as the B-24 Liberators, American built four-engine bombers. He eventually reached the rank of Leading Aircraftsman (LAC) before he left the military.
Walker served on maintenance missions all over the East Coast of Canada, including Summerside P.E.I., Dartmouth N.S. and one overseas mission he remembered fondly.
“The flight sergeant came over one day and said, ‘We need two mechanics for overseas,’” Walker said. “So I said, ‘Terrific!’ I wanted to go over like everyone else at that time. Where did we go? Gander, Newfoundland.”
At the time, Newfoundland was not a Canadian province, but a separate Dominion in the British Empire.
Walker appeared at the Centennial College ceremony representing the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 617. He has been a member of the branch, located at 937 Warden Ave., for 15 years. The branch honours the 617 Squadron of the RAF, an elite Second World War bomber squadron, nicknamed the “Dambusters.”
No. 617 Squadron gained the nickname because of its bombing raid on the dams of the Ruhr Valley in Germany. The famous mission occurred on May 15, 1943 when a squadron of Lancaster and Mosquito bombers attacked the dams.
Legion Branch 617 pays tribute to that heroic action by being actively involved in the local community, including working with veteran and senior groups as well as youth. The Dambusters are involved in many Legion youth programs, and always make the time to talk to young people.