“Again this week, Rossland was brought closer to the realization of the tragedies of war with the announcement of the death of Pte. Alexander James Nicol Wright, only son of Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Wright, who was killed in action,” wrote the Rossland Miner a few weeks after D-Day in June 1944.
“Like so many of Rossland’s youth, although playing a man’s part to the fullest extent, Jimmie was still to attain the age of manhood which he should have reached July 7.”
Seventy-five years after D-Day, the feelings of those back home reading those melancholy words still seem fresh to Allen Stinson.
“I can still remember, I was 11, in Grade 6 at MacLean school in Rossland at the time,” says Stinson, a past-president of the Rossland Legion. “We were always worried. My pals, my friends, had fathers and brothers being killed over in Europe.”
It can be hard for us to remember now, but in June 1944, there was no guarantee the war would end well for the Allies.
“No, it was the other way around, Hitler was going to take over the world,” says Stinson. “It was a real scary time.
“It was really a sad, scary time for us young kids.”
Many of the early Rossland volunteers for the war joined the 109th Field Artillery, out of Trail. They were far away from the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, but they were by no means safe. Many, including Stinson’s own father, were in Italy, fighting the grueling campaign from Sicily to the Alps.
“A number of them were killed, and a number of them I knew,” says Stinson, whose father was taken prisoner of war in a battle.
Stinson recalled another young man, Clifford Morris, killed in Italy the year previous, two days before his 22nd birthday.
“Let me tell you something about Clifford,” he says. “He lived just across the alley from me. Clifford was a very religious fellow, sang in the choir, could play any instrument you could think of, so did his mother and so did my mother.
“He used to build kites for me so I could fly them over Kootenay Mountain. He was something else.”
Stinson’s father — a decorated war hero many times over — eventually came home safely. But two dozen men from Rossland died far from home protecting their loved ones.
Stinson’s spent decades visiting schools, talking to students about the sacrifice of the thousands of Canadians in world wars and peacekeeping efforts since.
“It’s very important for the children of today to know exactly what happened and why they are free,” he says. “We don’t want history to repeat itself, and it seems to be doing that.
“This is the important thing for children to realize and respect.”
Today, Stinson and his fellow Legionnaires will reflect on that grim but ultimately triumphant day 75 years ago, when 340 Canadians died and almost a thousand wounded. It was the beginning of the end of the Second World War, and Stinson says we must never forget about it.
“We keep talking about it, and we should,” says Stinson. “And hopefully, we can eventually stop all of this.”