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What was it like to write a letter to a mother?

Heroes Remember

What was it like to write a letter to a mother?

What was it like to write a letter to a mother? Well it was very simple because you always were taught to say the same thing. Never felt any pain, covered himself with glory and he might have been a bounder but he wasn't. But, I mean you were, you were programmed to write those kinds of letters, otherwise you never could have written them. How could you write a letter you know, to a guy, when you used to take his sister out dancing or something like that? How could you write a letter to a lady like that, that you know, I just buried your husband. I remember a case in Brandon, a guy by the name of Riesberry and he came up to us as a lieutenant and I was a captain at the time. And I had met his wife in Brandon and I buried him and I sort of said to myself I wonder if I can write the kind of letter, you know. I prided myself on having some writing skills. Can I write this? Forget it, the minute you try to get poetic or something, you're just asking for trouble like you couldn't believe. So what you did was you just went reverted style, you just went back to the usual "he died a great hero's death and it was sudden and he didn't suffer." And these sort of things that, that you were trained to say, but. You get pretty, pretty adept in what I call schizophrenia, in the sense that you knew that you had a job to do and you had to make it as easy as you could on the recipient of this letter you were writing so you stuck to the, to the form, as the Brits would say. Now your inner most feelings, you see, if you allowed them to escape, fine but you couldn't, you couldnt dismiss them, you couldn't say it didn't happen. Of course it happened. And that's when things became very difficult. It, you see it didn't happen to private soldiers, they never wrote letters. It didn't happen to corporals. It just happened to officers. It was the officers or the senior NCO's who were acting as officers. It just happened to them, they were the only ones who went through this experience. And I think that they learned, that if they were to bare their souls, if they were really to try to say what this really meant, I mean for, to see a guy and particularly if he was badly wounded and you know, let's get honest about it; supposing he had his head shot off, what do you do? Do you write, you don't write his wife and say that, but you don't even admit it yourself. You just say, Jim old guy, Jesus what a God damned bloody mistake this was, and it's too bad and I know, I wish it had been someone else, but what you're really saying is thank God it wasn't me.

Mr. Chadderton describes having to write letters of condolence for fallen members of his regiment.

Clifford Chadderton

Clifford Chadderton, CC, O. Ont., OStJ, CLJ, CAE, DCL, LLD Mr. Chadderton was born May 9, 1919, in Fort William, Ontario, and was raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His mother worked as an accountant. His father, an entrepreneur, was a veteran of the First World War who suffered complications from being gassed at Vimy Ridge. Under the tutelage of his parents Mr. Chadderton was brought up to believe in Canada and the importance of education. He became interested in social events, politics, military history and the process of debate. These interests led Mr. Chadderton to become a news editor for the Canadian Press and a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press while attending the University of Manitoba. Mr. Chadderton even found time for another interest - playing hockey for the Winnipeg Rangers, the farm team for the New York Rangers. On October 15, 1939, Mr. Chadderton enlisted in the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, climbing the ranks quickly to become a company commander and an acting major by the end of the war. While serving in Europe he was wounded twice, once by a bullet at the Abbaye d'Ardenne in Normandy, and then by a grenade near the Leopold Canal in Belgium on October 10, 1944. There, he lost his right leg below the knee, and his military career came to an end. Mr. Chadderton never let the loss of his leg hinder him. In fact, it has made him a beacon of hope to many, and has given him the opportunity to work for the needs and benefits of Canadian amputees and veterans. He is the Chief Executive Officer of The War Amps, and Chairman of the National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada. A persistent, dedicated and devoted man, Mr. Chadderton is also known nationally and internationally as a documentary producer, creating The War Amps Never Again! series, which illustrates the realities of war. He has also written an inspirational memoir entitled, Excuse Us! Herr Schicklgruber, which is an insight into the personalities, feelings and hopes of the men who fought alongside Mr. Chadderton in the Second World War. Mr. Chadderton continues to challenge the world and enjoy life with no regrets, having made a home for himself in Ottawa, Ontario, and creating a legacy with his wife, two children, and four grandchildren.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Clifford Chadderton
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Royal Winnipeg Rifles
Infantry Company Commander

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