Friday, 9 November 2012

...for Remembrance Day, lest we forget!

                                          My Dad, Robert T. Weller, RCAF, Pilot Officer

These are just a few images of family heirlooms that i've kept of my Dad's from his time as a Pilot Officer in the RCAF during WWII and his time on the Toronto Police Force afterwards.

                                                               My Dad, in uniform

My Dad's family with 6 kids grew up at 227 Erskine Ave., near Yonge and Eglinton during the dirty 30's and the kids went to John Fisher Public School on Erskine and then onto Northern Secondary on Mt. Pleasant. I recall Dad telling me that during the winter months, the kids would skate down Erskine to and from school while in the summer evenings, the popular sport was 'dickie shine your light' while playing in Mt. Hope cemetery up the street.

                                            My grandfather, William James Weller,

My grandfather, William James Weller, joined “ The Borden Machine Gun Battery,” as a machine gunner in January,4, 1915, #867, as Private. He was part of  the Canadian Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium during this European War..Was he at the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battles of the Somme? We are unsure, but the timing is right for the Somme and the following battles in France and Belgium involving the 'Old Contemptables'. We do know that he fought in Belgium during the bloody WWI battle of Passchendaele where he was wounded in October or November, 1917. With that injury, his war was over and he was discharged from Christie Street Hospital in Toronto, Ontario on December 31, 1917.

                                                           My Grandmother, Edith Weller

While in Christie St. Hospital, he met his future wife, Edith Mae Shilling, who was a nurse's aide at the time.

                                   My Grandson, Owen wearing his great-grandfathers RCAF uniform

My Uncles landed in Normandy with the Canadian Army in WWII and fought in Montgomery's operation, 'Market Garden', sent to liberate Belgium once again and provide a gateway into Germany. Uncle Jack McDonough was with the Engineers and Ski Patrol.  My cousin Steve believes he disembarked form the "Isle de France" in 1941.  He volunteered for the navy, air force and army, but was turned down for various health reasons, until the army finally drafted him in 1941.  Steve says that his Dad was thrown in with the Americans, I guess in England, who were in tears that they had been drafted, but Uncle Jack was ecstatic! He trained at Camp Borden, Petawawa, and in Calgary.  He was on guard duty in Niagara Falls, Steve thinks, guarding the power plant, when a family of skunks followed him along his path until he had to turn around and march back.  Luckily they wandered off! He was also on guard duty somewhere, sometime and was inspected by Princess Elizabeth!  He always loved the Queen!  Never a Christmas morning went by that he didn't stop and listen to the Queen's message to the world.  He was a Private most of the time and was just made a Corporal before the war ended. 
                                                     My Uncle Jack in Uniform
When the Canadians liberated Holland from the Germans, they couldn't believe the starvation and other deplorable conditions the Dutch people were forced to live - or try to survive - under.  So those big Lancaster bombers flew in en masse low and loud and, instead of dropping bombs on the Dutch, as had happened so often in the past, the big doors of the bombers opened up above them and dropped them loaves of bread!  Then went back and loaded up with more food.  Steve always thought that was a great story.

                                                        A view from the cockpit of a Lancaster

One of the youngest RCAF Pilot Officers in WWII, my Dad joined the RCAF in 1943 and received his Flying Officer Commission in October 1944, only 19 years old. Dad trained in Dunnville, ON. and then on to Comox, B.C., preparing for the invasion of Japan, right up to the Japanese unconditional surrender on August 15, 1945. 

                                                             My Dad and Mom, during WW2

While Dad was stationed in BC, my mother was making Lancasters at Victory Aircraft in Malton, On. As a rivet girl, Victory made over 4,000 Lancasters, from plans developed in England. As it turned out, my sister was born on August 1, 1945 and they sent Dad home to be with Mom. By the time he got back to his squadron in Comox, the most horrible event of their time was drawing to a close.

                                   Dad at the arrest of the Boyd Gang on Heath Street, Toronto in 1952

After WWII, my Dad joined the North Toronto Police Force with many of his childhood friends after they all returned from war and he was stationed at old #12 at Yonge and Montgomery where, amongst many other events, he was in on the arrest of Peter Woodcock, the child killer who murdered little 4-year-old Carole Voyce, amongst others. Dad and his partner in 1957, both in plain clothes went to Woodcock's foster mother's home around Yonge and Lawrence and arrested then 17 year old Woodcock to the loud wailing's of his foster mother. As I recall, an image of Dad and Partner, in plain clothes escorting Woodcock into #12 made the front page of the Toronto Star! It could even be the page that Dad put into his scrap book! I recall him telling me the story of the joint North Toronto Police/OPP arrest of the Boyd Gang at their hideout on Heath Street after their last prison break from the Don Jail. I also recall details in his scrap book, but when watching a Boyd Gang special on TV last year, there he was, top left in full uniform in a congratulatory 1952 photo with then Toronto Mayor Alan Lamport, front and centre shaking hands with the then Chief of Police, who's name I don't recall (not James Mackey) with the rest of the North Toronto Police squad who arrested Boyd in two rows around them. Dad was on a stakeout [from a tip] at Caufield's Dairy on Manor Rd and Young St. at night, when The Boyd Gang struck. Dad and his partner were upstairs where the safe was when the Boyd Gang burst into the room. The Toronto police at that time carried .32 revolvers. We don't know how many guns the Boyd gang had but one had a shotgun. In the next minute, they were all shooting. No one in the gang was hurt and they escaped. Afterwards, they noticed Dad's partner had his body outline on the wall in shotgun pellets where he was standing. These days, they send in the ETF to do the dangerous stuff.

As a rookie, Dad started off as a uniformed constable walking the beat on Yonge Street and one day, shortly after receiving his St. John Ambulance training, a cab comes flying toward him and suddenly braked. The driver hollered at Dad to jump in the back seat as a young lady was in the throes of delivering her baby. Dad jumped in and off they went to the nearest hospital. When they got to the hospital, Dad handed over a newborn, still with cord attached to the nurses in Emergency...and then the cabbie drove him back to Yonge Street. My sister recalls a photo of him lugging a teenager from a dairy. This appeared on the front page of, she believes, the Toronto Telegram.

In the late 40's, North Toronto Police led the way with personal service. When the father's in the community went to the Jolly Miller, in Hogg's Hollow on Friday nights, they didn't drive. They didn't need to as the cruisers were waiting outside at closing hour so their 'boys' could drive them all home. When my Aunt Pat, Dad's youngest sister was 15, was walking up Keewatin, between Mt. Pleasant and Yonge Street wearing a halter top, she noticed a cruiser in the distance. With that, she turned around and ran back towards her home but the cruiser roared up beside her and then stopped abruptly. In attempting to identify her, an officer then asked her, in no uncertain terms if she was, "Bob Weller's sister"!

In October 1954, I clearly recall peering out the window to the darkest day that I had ever seen when out of the mist, Dad's cruiser drove up. Suddenly Dad hopped out of the cruiser and bounded up the steps to get out of the pouring rain.

Looking like a drowned rat, he told us that he just came home for a change of clothes as he and his team where still pulling people out of the raging Humber River during Hurricane Hazel!

There are many other RCAF and North Toronto Police stories to tell so come back often.


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