Second World War veterans Reginald Price, 96, and Les Taylor, 100, here seen Berwick Royal Oak Retirement Community, are getting ready to mark Remembrance Day Saturday. Wolf Depner/News Staff

Saanich veterans share a glimpse of Second World War

Reginald Price and Les Taylor are among 61,000 surviving Canadian veterans of the Second World War. Price is 96 years old, Taylor 100, having crossed the century-mark in October. While both currently live at Berwick Royal Oak, their experiences during and after history’s largest conflict differ in many ways.

Price served as a Lancester pilot in Bomber Command, flying 31 missions between October 1943 and May 1944 over German-occupied Europe and Germany itself, with eight missions over Berlin, “one of the most hazardous places,” as he says. Price also participated in the March 1944 raid over Nuremberg, the costliest mission in the history of Bomber Command, which lost 106 planes and 545 men.

But Price speaks off these events with a matter-of-fact tone, as if describing a trip to the dentist, necessary, but not necessarily impactful. For Price, the war was “one of those things that happened a long time ago” that will “hopefully…never happen again.”

His memories revolve around the vagaries of military bureaucracy, like the one that ended his active service. While waiting for a mission briefing, Price and his multi-national crew of Australians and English airmen received word that two previous bombing raids over French railroad yards once again counted as full rather than one-third missions. This change gave them 31 missions, one over the number required to be rotated out of combat action.

Several months later, a German air raid killed one of his crew members, when he was visiting his family in North London, two weeks shy of his 21st birthday.

“One of the unfortunate aspects of war is that people get killed,” he says. Did Price ever experience what one might call survivor-guilt? “No, not really,” he says. “I don’t think I really thought about that, although obviously, we’re quite lucky to survive.”

Price continues to meet other veterans through the Vancouver Island Aircrew Association, a group for former and current aircrews, to talk about various subjects, but not necessarily the war. When asked whether he ever cursed the war, Price said he never really thought about it. “It’s one of those things that happened,” he said. “I seldom think about the war. I have done so many more interesting things after it.” That includes a long career as a pilot, flying commercial jets for the last 20 years of it.

Taylor, meanwhile, remembers little of the war now, and perhaps that might be a blessing. Taylor landed as a lieutenant with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders based out of Winnipeg in France’s Normandy region shortly after D-Day on June 6, 1944. Confronting the Camerons was the 12th SS Panzer Division (Hitler Youth), an elite German unit notorious for its battle fanaticism and war crimes committed against both civilians and captured soldiers, including Canadians.

Fighting near the city of Caen and the Falaise Gap during the summer of 1944, Taylor earned a battle field commission to captain, but also suffered a shrapnel injury. “We had taken [two] German prisoners, when I was hit by mortar shrapnel, which went right through my lower left leg, breaking my leg and coming out of the back,” he wrote in a book that his family published later. “I was not in pain, just numb…the pain came later.” More than 70 years later, Taylor touches his leg to show where he suffered the wound.

Other details of this period in Taylor’s life would have long faded away, were it not for his book. Flip through it, and a personal century unspools in front of you. It shows Taylor as a young man and father of two during the 1930s as the world prepared for the war, and as a proud father of four (three girls, one boy) and grandfather in its prosperous aftermath. It points to a fully lived life in and around Victoria, far removed from the horrors of war.

“I have erased it from my mind,” says Taylor, when asked whether he finds it difficult to speak about his experience.

But his eyes light up when asked about the number of his grandchildren. “I have too many,” he says. “I have lost count.”

Just Posted

Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations open new RV Park

Both nations excited about new economic venture

Parents grieving teen’s overdose death say it started with opioid prescription

Elliot Eurchuk, 16, died at his Oak Bay home Friday, after taking street drugs

UPDATE: Victoria hosts first National Cannabis Conference

Vendors, shoppers and cannabis-curious folk head to the Victoria Conference Centre

Victoria High School students find themselves in a ‘Hairy’ situation

Vic High drama students performing modern version of Broadway musical ‘Hair’

Ready for day two at the Home Expo

One exhibitor, Atlas Junk Removal, uses their trucks for a good cause

VIDEO: Moose found licking salt off B.C. man’s pickup truck

Tab Baker was in his garage in Prince George when the small moose gave his truck a clean

Spring Home Show this weekend in Colwood

West Shore Parks and Recreation will be transformed to showcase everything home related

B.C. student makes short-list for autism advocacy award

Brody Butts honoured for his role as a mentor and self-advocate

Austin Powers ‘Mini-Me’, Verne Troyer, dies at 49

Facebook page confirmed his death Saturday afternoon

Alberta man dead after snowmobile collision on B.C. mountain

The incident occurred on Boulder Mountain Friday morning

16 of 20 fastest improving B.C. schools are public: Fraser Institute

Independent elementary schools remain at top of the chart in think tank’s annual report card

Dinosaurs taking centre stage at National Geographic event

NatGeo Live series finale May 2 at the Royal features renowned paleontologist

UPDATED: 1 person dead after highway crash in Nanoose Bay

Accident happened just before 4 p.m. near Hillview Road

NAFTA: Talks continue through weekend in scramble to get a deal

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called negotiations ‘perpetual’

Most Read