John B. Le May’s private collection

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J.B. Lemay has never turned his back on a souvenir — most timely of all, a bit of aging paper, torn from a Teletype machine 70 years ago.

The walls of the 91-year-old Second World War veteran’s dining room are covered in knick-knacks, including stuffed unicorns, commemorative beer bottles, plates and glass birds. They are all surrounded with fairy lights amidst an array of technological odds and ends, from rotary-dial phones and VHS tapes to a brand new digital camera and widescreen laptop.

He keeps his real treasures out of sight.

Those include old British newspapers featuring him on the front page, a liberated official portrait of German airforce commander Hermann Goring, a mint-condition Hitler Youth uniform with medals, the watch of a German soldier he took prisoner and autographs of Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth and President Eisenhower.

There’s a story behind each one, and even a great tale about the time he gave Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands (just three years old at the time) a ride around Vanier on the handlebars of his bicycle.

But that aging piece of paper is really special. It was May 4, 1945 and Lemay was with his Air Force squadron in Reinsehlen, Germany — not far from Hamburg.

He’d been overseas fighting the Germans since October 1942, having signed up on his 18th birthday — Aug. 25, 1941 — all 104 pounds of him.

He remembers that fateful May evening in 1945 like it was yesterday. Around 7:30 p.m., he was sitting on a canvas folding chair in front of his tent — next to the communications trailer, a German soldier’s helmet perched on a stick in the ground behind him, marking one of many places they buried the enemy.

Suddenly, an operator in the trailer called out — “The war is over!”

Lemay ran into the trailer and the operator tore the paper out. It read: ALL HOSTILITIES ON SECOND ARMY FRONT CEASE AT 0800 HOURS TOMORROW MAY 5TH.

“The second army front was all the allies,” Lemay says. “Almost no work got done after that. But, because there was no alcohol on the camp, the men just fired their guns for an hour. You laid low, you just stayed there — belly to the ground.”

Lemay keeps the bit of aging paper safely stored among hundreds of photos and documents, in clear plastic folders in the east-end home he’s shared with his wife for 48 years. He and Raymonde will celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary this fall.

Thursday he will proudly help commemorate the anniversary of that bit of paper, as an invited guest to Parliament Hill where he will help recite In Flanders Fields.

His torch held high.

Twitter: @DougHempstead


Now you know why we are so proud of John…

Post No. 403


A comment  amending this  list….

I should point out that Flt/Sgt Bradley Edward ARGUE was lost with 403 Squadron on April 25,1942, over France. This is the second time I have brought this to your attention so that I could amend your list.

Sorry to be such a bother but I thoroughly enjoy your entries even though my father was connected to 408 Squadron after the war and I am doing wartime research on that squadron.

Thank you

Stu Tait

Post 403

RCAF 403 Squadron list of casualties
sent by Dean Black.


Flt/Sgt Bradley Edward ARGUE was lost with 403 Squadron on April 25,1942 – POW  

F/L        Edward Grant Aitchison       Age 26    31 March 1945

P/O        Douglas Spencer Aitken      Age 21     08 March 1942

F/O        James Hamilton Ballantine  Age 26    08 March 1944

P/O        Harry Vern Boyle                Age 21     17 August 1944

P/O        George Rawson Brown       Age 19      31 May 1943

F/O        Wallace Victor John Burdis Age 22      17 April 1945

F/O        Harold Chauncey Byrd         Age 22      19 March 1945

P/O        John Nicholson Cawsey        Age 21       12 February 1942

F/O        Stuart McIntyre Connacher Age 25      16 February 1943

F/O        Charles Gordon Cumming    Age 21      13 March 1943

F/O        Richard Wright Denison       Age 25     18 March 1944

Sgt          Joseph Leo Deschamps       Age 23      04 April 1943

WO2      Ronald Dunbar                     Age 19      13 March 1943

F/L          Henry Percy Duval, MiD     Age 30      27 April 1942

F/O        John Walter Benson Earle   Age 22      05 August 1944

F/O        Dudley Jack Edwards           Age 20       25 February 1943

F/O        John Charles Elliott             Age 21       20 June 1943

S/L          Norman Ralph Fowlow,  DFC Age 22    19 May 1944

P/O        John Edwin Gardiner             Age 23       19 August 1942

Sgt          Lesa German                        Age 21       30 July 1941

S/L          Frank Edward Grant            Age 28       04 September 1943

FS           Frederick Alexander Higgins Age 23     08 November 1941

P/O        Gordon Francis Joseph Hoben  Age 21       11 July 1942

F/L          John Hodgson                         Age 22       02 June 1944

F/O        William Thompson Lane           Age 21       15 May 1943

F/O        James Leon Lanfranchi             Age 26       28 June 1944

F/L          Lynn Bertram Madden            Age 22        15 May 1943

F/L          Stanley Wilbur Matthews        Age 24    16 November 1943

F/L          Donald Joseph McKenna         Age 30   08 September 1941

P/O        Frank Hooper McWilliams       Age 21       20 June 1943

P/O        Norman Monchier                    Age 19       19 August 1942

FS           Arthur Joseph Monserez        Age 19       17 January 1942

P/O        William Forsythe Munn           Age 27       25 April 1942

FS           John Norman                         Age 26     22 September 1942

F/L          Miall Bourchier O’Kelly         Age 21      16 July 1944

F/L          Patrick Terrance O’Leary      Age 22      27 February 1943

F/L          Clifford George Pennock      Age 22      25 March 1944

WO1      William Charles Powers         Age 23      20 July 1944

F/O        MacKenzie Reeves                 Age 25      28 March 1945

FS           Kenneth Ellwood Root          Age 24      24 September 1942

P/O        Lewis Cameron Rowe            Age 21     13 November 1943

F/O        Donald John Shapter             Age 24    14 July 1944

P/O        Graham Milton Shouldice     Age 21    17 August 1943

F/O        Robert Harry Smith              Age 21     19 May 1944

F/O        Stanley William Smith           Age 27     29 May 1944

WO1      Milton Eldon Soules              Age 22      28 August 1944

F/L          Herbert John Southwood    Age 25      24 October 1943

FS           William George Uttley         Age 21      13 May 1943

P/O        Leclare Allerthon Walker, MiD(3) Age 24    19 August 1942

P/O        Claude Weaver, DFC, DFM & Bar  Age 19    28 January 1944

F/O        Harold Andrew Westhaver      Age 21      15 December 1943

P/O        William Zoochkan                   Age 22      25 April 1942

This could be a most fitting time for a final post on this blog that I started back in September 2010 when I met Greg Bell.

I did not know back then there was a 403 Squadron and even less someone whose name was Walter Neil Dove.

In a sense, this blog was written by him, this young recruit who became a Spitfire pilot and then came back with his war memories his grandson has been sharing with all of us.

Greg's grandfather