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Faces of Freedom Podcast – The Second World War Series

Faces of Freedom Podcast

Between 1939 and 1945, more than one million Canadians and Newfoundlanders served around the world during the Second World War, helping restore peace and freedom.

In this series, we want you to hear from the Canadians who served in this global conflict. From the Battle of the Atlantic to the Liberation of the Netherlands and the battles in between, we encourage you to discover the stories and history of those who served and sacrificed for our country – the Faces of Freedom.

Listen to the podcasts below, subscribe through your favourite podcasting app for future episodes, and share your thoughts on social media using #CanadaRemembers.

Episode 1: Anne and Howard McNamara

Anne and Howard McNamara

Both Anne and Howard McNamara served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. Anne joined as part of the Entertainment Unit, helping boost morale across North America and Europe, while her future husband Howard served as a Spitfire pilot in the North African and Italian Campaigns. They are the faces of this year’s Veterans’ Week poster.

Photo Credit: Marie France L'Ecuyer

  • Transcript of podcast - Episode 1

    Music [00:00]

    Host [00:29]

    War transformed not only those who fought on the front lines and the civilians who experienced it, but also those who supported them on the home front. Although a long-awaited peace lay ahead, there were many changes to the faces that returned, and in those who greeted them.

    Veterans Affairs Canada wants you to explore the stories of those Canadians who have served and sacrificed for our country. These are the Faces of Freedom.

    Host [01:05]

    When all of the men her age were enlisting Anne McNamara knew she wanted to do her part. Determined not to be left behind, she joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943, as part of the Entertainment Unit. There she starred in the All Clear variety show alongside her fellow cast members and together, in an effort to boost morale, they brought the show to Allied bases across North America and Europe.

    Music [01:38]

    Mrs. Anne McNamara [01:42]

    When we were in Washington we played the Walter Reed Hospital. And, they were the first in danger to return from Pearl Harbor. Now that whole hall was filled, filled with young men.

    Maybe there were women too, but the majority men. Well when we appeared, girl, to do our first number, the curtains opened and they screamed and they whistled and they hooted and howled, you know, they yelled and screamed so much that we couldn’t hear the music. So we couldn’t get started our dance because we couldn’t hear the band. And the next day in the paper it said they were a little confused when they first started but once they got going it was really, really an entertaining show.

    Music [02:30]

    Mrs. Anne McNamara [02:39]

    The bombing was just horrific, but the destruction they did, you couldn’t believe it unless you saw it and the people were still sleeping in the Tube because I guess they were bombed out and had no place to go. And we started entertaining the troops right away, because you know the fellows were there, they were posted you know in different camps there around England and Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

    Music [03: 07]

    Mrs. Anne McNamara [03:15]

    Well we got to Amsterdam and Holland, oh they were so nice to us there. They didn’t tell us the queen was in the audience. We just went ahead and did the show and after the show, they said to us, get changed and go downstairs, the queen is there. But by the time the girls got their makeup on and got their uniforms on, the men had already, they had changed, most, a lot of them just did the show in their uniform, like the sketches in different things, they didn’t have to change. So they were all in line ahead of us and the girls were all at the end of the line, and we were sort of giggling and trying to practice how to curtesy, when it came to our turn, but it never came to our turn because she just had a allotted time and she had to leave. So we didn’t get to meet her and we weren’t allowed to take any pictures so that was us and Queen Wilhelmina.

    Music [04:12]

    Host [04:19]

    Meanwhile her future husband, Howard McNamara, who was considered too skinny when he first tried to enlist, was working hard to put on weight. He was eventually accepted by the Royal Canadian Air Force, later serving as a Spitfire pilot in North Africa and during the Italian Campaign.

    Mr. Howard McNamara [04:45]

    My younger brother was turning, turning eighteen in 1940. So when he turned eighteen we both decided we should join. So we went down to the air force recruiting office and wanted to sign up. My brother passed, right away. I passed the physical, but when it came time to my, my weight the doctor says I think you better go home and put on another ten pounds. So I didn't join the same day my brother did.

    Mr. Howard McNamara [05:36]

    We were stationed at Port Said, we spent about eight months being retrained and re-equipped with Spitfires. When we were completely re-equipped, we were then transferred from Egypt to the Italian Campaign. The American Bomber Command was stationed in their gardenia. Which is, in the, which belongs to Italy. And when they went out campaigning they would fly north and we would pick them up and cross over to northern Italy to operate. And that’s when I completed my operational tour.

    I found out when I got home that November that my brother had been shot down. And he had been on a fighter squadron in England and he was shot down over Europe. He was twenty-one years old at the time. When I was home on leave and all this came out, the family asked me if I would accept the retirement offer that the air force was giving out at the time. Because they had enough pilots overseas that they could afford to retire a few of us, so I took the offer.

    Music [07:25]

    Mrs. Anne McNamara [0731]

    We had met before the war I guess, and then we didn’t know each other we just had met. And then after the war was over we used to go dancing, you know it was always never like a date, like two people going with each other, it was always like a gang would go. We were in each other’s company, he’d be with his date and I would be with mine, and one night we started to dance together and it felt pretty good. And so that’s when we started to go out together. We got engaged, we got married in May, in 1948 I think, and that was it. We’ve been married now … do the math forty-eight till now –

    Mr. Howard McNamara [08:16] Seventy-two.

    Mrs. Anne McNamara [08:17] Seventy-two years.

    Music [08:18]

    Host [08:28]

    And with that, I’d like to thank you for listening to this edition of the Faces of Freedom podcast. You can keep up to date and join the conversation on social media by using the hashtags #CanadaRemembers and #FacesofFreedom. Or you can find us online at veterans.gc.ca/canadaremembers. We also have online Faces of Freedom articles, where you can learn more about those who have served and sacrificed for our country. If you have a suggestion for the podcast – whether it’s a specific guest or story – you can reach us on social media, through the Canada Remembers Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as the Veterans Affairs Canada Twitter account.

    This spring, Veterans Affairs Canada will commemorate the 75th anniversaries of the Liberation of the Netherlands and V-E Day, through digital initiatives and activities. Let’s flood social media with tulips, the flower representing the friendship between the Netherlands and Canada, using the hashtag #Tulipsathome. You can also send a postcard virtually thanking those who have served. Show us how you remember this spring using the hashtags #Netherlands75 and #VEDay75.

    Thanks for joining! We’ll see you next time. And remember – their faces tell the story, but their legacy will live on.

Want to learn more about the McNamaras’ stories? Read their Faces of Freedom profile for more information.


Episode 2: Elsa Lessard and the Battle of the Atlantic

Elsa Lessard and the Battle of the Atlantic

Elsa Lessard enlisted in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service, commonly known as the Wrens, in 1943. During the Second World War she served in a secret communications station where she helped intercept messages from German U-boats that were hunting Allied convoys in the North Atlantic.

  • Transcript of podcast - Episode 2

    Music [00:00]

    Host [00:16]

    War transformed not only those who fought on the frontlines and the civilians who experienced it, but also those who supported them on the home front. Although a long-awaited peace lay ahead, there were many changes to the faces that returned, and in those who greeted them. Veterans Affairs Canada wants you to explore the stories of those Canadians who have served and sacrificed for our country. These are the Faces of Freedom.

    Elsa Lessard enlisted in the military in 1943 with the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service, commonly known as the Wrens. Lessard served at a secret communications station, hidden away from the public, where she helped intercept enemy messages from German U-boats. Her most vivid memory is the thousands of Canadians who lost their lives on the dangerous Atlantic Ocean during the Second World War. To this day, at ceremonies to honour the Battle of the Atlantic, every toll of the bell for the ships that sunk brings Elsa back to her time in the secret operations room. Now 98 years old, Elsa Lessard tells us her story.

    Elsa Lessard [01:43]

    Then I enlisted, when they started to recruit for women in the Navy, in 1943. Because my eldest brother had been in the Navy when I was six years old, and so I enlisted, and I was trained at the Station Gulf Ontario, which is now Cambridge.

    And then, I took special training in Morse Code, which I already knew, because my brother had taught me when I was a young lady, and I eventually served in the south of Ottawa, and in New Brunswick, on a secret station hidden away from the public, and the station in New Brunswick was close to a village called Gunningsville. And there, we intercepted the enemy’s messages from Germany.

    Host [02:55]

    The Wrens were tasked with helping locate German submarines and to intercept their coded messages to bases back in Europe. The women sat for hours listening on their earphones and were known as 'The listeners'.

    Elsa Lessard [03:13]

    And when a U-boat, or U-boat found a convoy, it would interrupt that static which is a stream of weather forecast and stuff that just stay online of the Germans, and it would interrupt with a special code saying, “I have a convoy”. We were trained to listen for those special codes. And as soon as we did we would push a button, and you would have heard the frequency, that’s where the sound is coming from, of a U-boat, or a U-boat pack, and she would, sitting in front of our round television-type screen, she would take a direct line bearing of where the sound was coming from. Immediately, a teletype operator, another woman in the Navy, would teletype that direction right over to a secret station just south of London, England called “Bletchley Park”.

    Bletchley Park, they would plot, they would be women in the Navy on tall ladders, and they would plot where all these lines were coming from. So the one from Canada would be joined by one from Greenland, from Boston, from a whole circle in the North Atlantic.

    And they would plot them on wall, standing on top of the big ladder, and where all these lines crossed, that’s where the German U-Boat, or U-Boat convoy, was tracking our ships, which were sending supplies to the U.K, and those supplies would be everything from food, because the U.K was isolated by the enemy. So it would be food, but it would also be tanks, or airplanes, and equipment for them to fight the war, and they won eventually!

    Host [05:56]

    Since her service, Elsa has been advocating for the women who served during the Second World War to receive proper recognition.

    Elsa Lessard [06:09]

    However, I did in 1975 contact local media, and one man said “What is all that about”? I said “Did you know they were women in World War II”? No he didn’t. “Well I said, there were 56,000 women fighting in World War II. Some were connected to the Air Force, for the Canadian Air Force, some were connected to the Army, the Canadian Women’s Army Corps”. You know what, much of all these people went to the war.

    Anyway, but when the Navy was told you have to use women because the men, the men.. need backup, they said “fine”. There are going to be women in the Navy, and you know, it was a verboten. Women were not allowed on a ship, they were considered bad luck. I don’t know that that’s changed anywhere, I think we’re still considered bad luck.

    Anyway, the powers of being in the Navy said “Well, if we have to have women in the Navy, they are going to have to obey by our rules, not separate rules. So, if they misbehave, or if they don’t show up on time on their watches, they can be punished, and you have to take an oath of allegiance, of secrecy, for 40 years, on pain of death”.

    Host [08:06]

    Often, she thinks of those who signed up to fight for peace and freedom and did not return.

    Elsa Lessard [08:17]

    I remember all the time. I remember knowing all the men who didn’t come back. I remember all the men that went to high school that never came back.

    Host [08:33]

    And with that, I’d like to thank you for listening to this edition of the Faces of Freedom podcast. You can keep up to date and join the conversation on social media by using the hashtags #CanadaRemembers and #FacesofFreedom. Or, you can find us online, at veterans.gc.ca/canadaremembers. We also have online Faces of Freedom articles, where you can learn more about those who have served and sacrificed for our country. If you have a suggestion for the podcast – whether it’s a specific guest or story – you can reach us on social media, through the Canada Remembers Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as the Veterans Affairs Canada Twitter account. Thanks for joining. We’ll see you next time. And remember: their faces tell their story, and their legacy, will live on.

Want to learn more about Elsa Lessard? Read her Faces of Freedom profile for more information.


Episode 3: Stanley Edwards and the Dieppe Raid

Stanley Edwards and the Dieppe Raid

Stanley Edwards was a Calgary Tanks trooper and participated in the Dieppe Raid. He was captured by German soldiers and became a Prisoner of war. He escaped merely days before the end of the Second World War.

This episode was created using the audio from our “Heroes Remember” series. Sadly, Mr. Edwards passed away in 2019, at the age of 96. We are preserving his legacy.

  • Transcript of podcast - Episode 3

    Music [00:00]

    Host [00:17]

    War transformed not only those who fought on the front lines and the civilians who experienced it, but also those who supported them on the home front. Although a long-awaited peace lay ahead, there were many changes to the faces that returned, and in those who greeted them. Veterans Affairs Canada wants you to explore the stories of those Canadians who have served and sacrificed for our country. These are the Faces of Freedom.

    Mr. Stanley Edwards was born on the 17th of February, 1923 in Big Valley, Alberta. He enlisted in the army just two days after his 18th birthday in 1941, as part of the Calgary Tanks. He trained for more than a year as a crew member in the new Churchill tanks before having to put his skills to the test during the Dieppe Raid on the 19th of August, 1942.

    Please note, this episode was created using the audio from our Heroes Remember series. Mr. Edwards passed away on December 5th, 2019, at the age of 96, but we are preserving his legacy.

    Stanley Edwards [01:37]

    We were farming there and I had a pretty good life, then my brother and I decided to join up in Stettler and away we went you know. All I remember is when we landed in Scotland, and then they transferred us to Salisbury Plains in England, and we were there till Dieppe. We were there till they landed in ’42. Dieppe was planned in July that same year and we went into the ocean and the weather was very bad and they cancelled it and everybody went on leave with their girlfriends. Imagine how many people told them and they shot us right back to Dieppe on the next round. I joined when I was 18 right after my birthday and I was 19 when I landed in Dieppe, you know, so we were just young people. When I was going in, I think it’s pretty scary. Although, like I said, being so young, we didn’t take it too bad you know, too serious, but then when you get there, with all the disaster that’s happening, then you realize it’s a bad place. When you walk ashore on a flat beach, what chance do you have to live? The tank protection was a good thing for us. That’s why we lived. The pile of people that died on a beach like Dieppe alone shows you that it killed a thousand men that day alone, you know. And when you get to Dieppe, it’s a flat area in front of town, full of rocks. And you go in there with a tank, well you don’t get very good traction. It'll throw tracks off your vehicle. And so, it wasn’t a good place to land, that’s what I’m trying to say. It was not good for infantry or us. You see, when you’re in the infantry you’re coming in on a flat deck like that and the Germans are up high. Well, what hope does an infantry guy have to live – not hardly any. And that’s why so many died, you know.

    Host [03:50]

    Mr. Edwards was captured during the Dieppe Raid and sent to Germany. He tells us about his experience as a prisoner and the work party he went to Poland with.

    Stanley Edwards [04:05]

    It was horrible. I guess it’s better than dying but it’s – a thing you don’t want to do is surrender. But we did and they shipped us back to Germany. So we were there for almost three years. They also tied us up, you know that, and chained us for probably 18 months, maybe? Something like that. I have been on a party in Poland. We worked on a farm and that was okay cause you get more food then, you know. So I think that’s a good idea, yeah. Yeah, I didn’t have no problem. Never got beaten, ever no… When you’re taken there’s a lot of sadness you know, and then you just grow into it kind of deal. You have to live there, you know it, so you learn to guide your life each day.

    Host [05:04]

    Twice, Mr. Edwards attempted to escape. He was successful the second time.

    Stanley Edwards [05:16]

    Wow, that was something else. To my remembrance, I wasn’t even with the Germans when the war ended. I had already escaped and got to the Russian front, just in Poland, you know, where we lived with them. There was three of us – another Canadian, an American and myself. And we lived there for quite a while, maybe 20 days, and so the end of the war was coming then anyway. Twice I escaped. The first time we were sleeping in a barn, we must have been marching somewhere and we were in a giant barn, and me and another guy decided to take off in the middle of the night and away we went. I think we got caught though in about, I’m thinking only twelve or thirteen days, somewhere in there, and back to the camp, you know. The second time, we didn’t get caught so that’s when I met with the Russians. That was a good experience then. Yes, to get free was really great. I never thought you’d see home again, you know. I suppose if you don’t get sick is one thing. Sickness would generally kill you but yeah, I was just newer there. You know you can’t get out and if you escape you got a danger of being shot. I took that chance but it wasn’t a good idea either cause the Germans always threatened if you escape, they’ll shoot you dead.”

    Host [07:19]

    Mr. Edwards tells us about his mother’s reaction when he returned home, and the lessons he hopes his experience can bring to younger generations.

    Stanley Edwards [07:33]

    My mother did know. They sent her telegrams and told her what she could do if she sent parcels. And I remember one letter, mother asking them, I seen that letter in my drawer, if she could send a pair of boots. I said I’d rather have food! That was quite a homecoming. Oh wow! I remember her, well you know how mothers are. She cried and cried and said I would never leave again. Well, who knows. But that’s the way it was then. If I’m talking to youth I would tell them to try and prevent wars. That’s right. Prevent it if you can. Try and get along with people and not shoot at them and other than that, I think Canada’s a pretty good place to live. They don’t start these things, we just end up in them, that’s it.

    Host [08:42]

    And with that, I’d like to thank you for listening to this edition of the Faces of Freedom podcast. You can keep up to date and join the conversation on social media by using the hashtags #CanadaRemembers and #FacesofFreedom. Or, you can find us online, at veterans.gc.ca/canadaremembers. We also have online Faces of Freedom articles, where you can learn more about those who have served and sacrificed for our country. If you have a suggestion for the podcast – whether it’s a specific guest or story – you can reach us on social media, through the Canada Remembers Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as the Veterans Affairs Canada Twitter account. Thanks for joining! We’ll see you next time. And remember – their faces tell the story, but their legacy will live on.

You can also read about Stanley Edwards through his Face of Freedom profile.


Episode 4: David Adlington and the Italian Campaign

Sergeant (Ret'd) Chris Zizek

David Adlington served with the Royal Canadian Regiment in the Second World War. He participated in the Italian campaign, in the critical Battle of Ortona, where he was injured.

  • Transcript of podcast - Episode 4

    Music [00:00]

    Host [00:17]

    War transformed not only those who fought on the front lines and the civilians who experienced it, but also those who supported them on the home front. Although a long-awaited peace lay ahead, there were many changes to the faces that returned, and in those who greeted them. Veterans Affairs Canada wants you to explore the stories of those Canadians who have served and sacrificed for our country. These are the Faces of Freedom.

    David Adlington enlisted in the army in London, Ontario in 1939 and served with the Royal Canadian Regiment. After spending time training in England, he eventually made his way to Sicily and mainland Italy to help defeat the enemy forces there. Now 101 years old, Mr. Adlington recalls the difficulties he faced during the Second World War, and a significant moment when he returned to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Italian Campaign.

    David Adlington [01:23]

    There was no work, you know. My father started a small bakery business. We originally started making our own bread and then the neighbors wanted some and so forth, so we wounded up making a little bakery. I worked in the bakery helping my father so I learned a little bit about baking and stuff. We were selling bread then at seven cents a loaf. It’s hard for people who weren’t there to realize how bad things were in the Great Depression.

    I enlisted in London, Ontario on the 3rd of October of ’39 and that was in the depth of the Depression. We lived in a small village at that time. I was born in Wales actually. We emigrated to Canada in 1930, I was 10 years old. So I thought it was a chance to go back overseas and of course nobody had at that time any idea how... everybody was saying “oh well the war will be over you know by Christmas” and stuff.

    So I went to London and joined with the RCRs and I was issued a World War 1 uniform. They didn’t even have uniforms. We did the usual thing, some start out, some training and stuff and eventually we were issued with a proper uniform. We eventually wound up going to Valcartier camp in Québec and did a bit of training and it was very cold. I think it was in December.

    Host [03:25]

    Following his initial training, Mr. Adlington recalls boarding the ship that would take him overseas for more training and some unexpected adventures.

    David Adlington [03:42]

    We embarked Halifax on the 18 of 12, ’39. We disembarked in Scotland, the 30th 12, ’39. The training in England was pretty boring. They were still thinking in terms of World War 1 I think. First thing we did is we went to Salisbury Plains and we were digging trenches. Training consisted mostly of route marches. A lot of 20-mile marches, small pack, weapons and things. We were stationed in tents out in a wooded area and I remember we were right on the flight path for London. And the Battle of Britain took place basically right over our head. We would stand there and watch. It was quite something to watch all those planes flying around and watching planes coming down, smoking, parachutes coming out.

    Host [04:49]

    In June 1940, the Royal Canadian Regiment was briefly deployed to France to help with the defence of the country, but the French were soon forced to surrender and the Canadians were evacuated back to England. Three years later, Mr. Adlington boarded the SS City of Venice to set sail for Sicily, Italy. On the 4th of July 1943, the ship was torpedoed and sunk in the Mediterranean Sea. Adlington narrowly escaped with his life.

    David Adlington [05:44]

    And about quarter to 9 that night, boom they hit us. Torpedo hit us and I was under, the ship was going, like sinking, the torpedo hit right in the forward hold. So our boat station there where we use to take fire, and I went up to the boat station and there was just a bunch of slivers hanging there, the explosion had gotten up the side of the ship and blew our lifeboat away. So I made my way back to the rear of the ship, the ship was sinking by the front. And we went over the side, and of course when you go in the water, you take everything off. Boots, pants, and you’re basically in your underwear. Fortunately the Mediterranean is warm. All the ships in wartime carried what we called scramble nets. And we went down the nets and into the water. I remember, I was near the stern of the ship and I guess the propeller was still turning and I let go of the net and there was a frigate or a destroyer, I think it was a frigate, standing off not too far picking up men in the water. And I let go and it sucked me down under the water, and I had a life jacket on and I finally couldn’t open my mouth and I thought what a hell of a way for this to end with all the training and stuff we’ve gone through.

    Host [07:29]

    Mr. Adlington was picked up by a Royal Navy frigate and transported to Algiers, Algeria. before rejoining the Royal Canadian Regiment in Sicily.

    David Adlington [07:47]

    We suffered a lot of casualties, it was very hot the heat a lot of sickness. Malaria, dysentery. And I was in every action going up to Sicily up till we finally made Italy and so forth. They were sort of repetitive in the same kind of tactics. Carriers were kind of useless over there because of the terrain. And the roads, there were no roads, very main road. We wound up eventually being dismounted I guess you'd say we were part of the infantry and so. It went on and on up to Ortona. That was…well, I was, I was knocked out in Ortona by, I think it was a mortar bomb. We were getting.. It was what they called.. we used to call them the screaming Mimis. They made a screaming sound. We were attacking up the, you’ve heard of the valley of Ortona and up in the hill… I got knocked out and when I came to in the morning. I was kind of half covered with dirt and I didn't know where I was or what was going on. And suddenly I heard somebody moving up behind me and I automatically thought it was the Germans but it turned to be out some soldiers from the PPCLI who were moving through. And they said the RCR had withdrawn. And so I managed to get across the gully back up to the regiment. I guess I was in a dazed condition and then on the Sunday next thing I know I was in an ambulance. And going back to a field dressing station. Just on the stretcher and laying on the ground I remember somebody threw a blanket over me I guess I went to sleep and I think I slept for twelve hours. Because you were physically and mentally exhausted and no sleep and so forth.

    They couldn’t have drugs or things nothing what’s there to do anything for you. So I developed I don't know what it was I guess it's from the concussion. I was concussioned. I couldn't stop shaking. And I remember the doctor finding, there is a doctor coming told me that he said there's a, in your paybook .. I was listed as that, your trade as a baker. He said you know there is a shortage of cooks and butchers and I could get you a transfer to the service corps.

    Host [11:18]

    Mr. Adlington served as a cook for the remainder of his service. In December 1944, almost five years after boarding a ship to Scotland, he received a one-month leave to return to Canada. He never returned overseas and was discharged in July 1945. In 2019, he participated in a trip to Italy commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Italian campaign.

    David Adlington [11:52]

    I had a nice experience, I was there in a cemetery. And this lady come up to me and she had an Italian chap with her and she said would you mind if he had his picture taken with you. And I said no, I’d be honoured. And his name was Thomasso. And he said he was seven years old in the battle of Ortona. And he said they were starving, and the civilians you know were starving and that…. But what nobody really talks about too much is there was eleven hundred civilians killed during that battle. He said that he was seven years old and he didn't, she was interpreting for him, and they said that he was starving. And then he said a Canadian soldier gave him his rations. And he was so.. he remembered, he never forgot.. and he was so…..We hugged each other and I shed a few tears with him. He was a very nice man. Kind of the highlight for that day you know, always so nice to have a nice thing happen like that.

    Host [13:27]

    And with that, I’d like to thank you for listening to this edition of the Faces of Freedom podcast. You can keep up to date and join the conversation on social media by using the hashtags #CanadaRemembers and #FacesofFreedom. Or, you can find us online, at veterans.gc.ca/canadaremembers. We also have online Faces of Freedom articles, where you can learn more about those who have served and sacrificed for our country. If you have a suggestion for the podcast – whether it’s a specific guest or story – you can reach us on social media, through the Canada Remembers Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as the Veterans Affairs Canada Twitter account. Thanks for joining! We’ll see you next time. And remember – their faces tell the story, but their legacy will live on.

Want to learn more about David Adlington? Read his Face of Freedom profile for more information.


Episode 5: Jaye Edwards and D-Day and the Battle of Normandy

Jaye Edwards and D-Day and the Battle of Normandy

Growing up in Kent, England, Jaye Edwards was known as an adventurer to those who knew her. Eventually, her sense of adventure would lead her to fly planes during the Second World War, as part of the Air Transport Auxiliary.

  • Transcript of podcast - Episode 5

    Music [00:00]

    Host [00:18]

    War transformed not only those who fought on the front lines and the civilians who experienced it, but also those who supported them on the home front. Although a long-awaited peace lay ahead, there were many changes to the faces that returned, and in those who greeted them. Veterans Affairs Canada wants you to explore the stories of those Canadians who have served and sacrificed for our country. These are the Faces of Freedom.

    Growing up in Kent, England, Jaye Edwards was known as an adventurer. Eventually, that sense of adventure saw her flying planes during the Second World War. However, her interest in flying began well before the conflict started.

    Jaye Edwards [01:13]

    Well, I don’t know exactly, but in 1939, early, so January, I saw an ad. The National Women’s Air Reserve. I don’t know that I really thought of flying before then, but that gave me an interest and so I applied and they accepted me. I had said to mother, what would you think if I was going to fly? And she said, well, we might have to think about that. And I just said, well I’ll wait till I’m 21 and then I can do it anyway! To my recollection, we wore white boiler suits, so that we had a kind of a uniform. They didn’t teach us …They were talking about the mechanics of a plane, not how you would fly a plane. But how it’s made, more. I stayed there until March when they said, would you like to fly, learn to fly? Well what would you say? Well I said, yes please! It crossed my mind, that’s what I came for. That’s why I wouldn’t say no.

    Host [02:54]

    After years of pilot training, Ms. Edwards began to fly missions for the Air Transport Auxiliary, taking planes to Allied airfields.

    Jay Edwards [03:08]

    Well, I did 500 hours solo. I started in ‘43 and finished in ‘45. And so it wasn’t the whole of the war. I didn’t start at the beginning because I didn’t have enough experience. When the war started, you had to have 500 hours solo, and I had exactly two hours solo. As a group, Air Transport Auxiliary, flew planes from airfields that were needing a new plane. We flew new planes to an airfield where they’d lost a bomber or a fighter due to the war. The planes we flew were going to an airfield where they would be needed to fly over Germany.

    Host [04:23]

    While Ms. Edwards and her colleagues did their best to avoid poor weather, they often had no choice but to fly through it.

    Jay Edwards [04:37]

    You didn’t have to fly if it was miserable weather. They left us to make our own decision. If you didn’t like the weather, because it was, really... You know in England, some days, it’s pretty stinky. If that’s the correct term. And so, you had a choice as to whether you were going to fly or not. I was told this storm, snowstorm was behind me, and I would be gone. But the snowstorm hurried up. And so I was actually in front of it. And then slowly more or less in it.

    Host [05:26]

    When the Second World War ended. Ms. Edwards remembers being happy that no more people would be hurt or killed.

    Jay Edwards [05:39]

    In some ways I was sorry because I knew that that was the end of flying really for the time being. Yet obviously, I was pleased that it was ended so that no more people would be killed. Anyone who joined the services, or not necessarily the services, but anyone who did any war work, they were making their contribution and it was sad that anyone had to be killed in the process of it.

    Host [06:23]

    And with that, I’d like to thank you for listening to this edition of the Faces of Freedom podcast. You can keep up to date and join the conversation on social media by using the hashtags #CanadaRemembers and #FacesofFreedom. Or, you can find us online, at veterans.gc.ca/canadaremembers. We also have online Faces of Freedom articles, where you can learn more about those who have served and sacrificed for our country. If you have a suggestion for the podcast – whether it’s a specific guest or story – you can reach us on social media, through the Canada Remembers Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as the Veterans Affairs Canada Twitter account. Thanks for joining! We’ll see you next time. And remember – their faces tell the story, but their legacy will live on.

Want to learn more about Jaye Edwards? Read her Face of Freedom profile for more information.


Episode 6: Guy Crowther and the Liberation of the Netherlands

Guy Crowther and the Liberation of the Netherlands

Serving with the 5th Canadian Armoured Division, Guy Crowther celebrated his 21st birthday in unique fashion - by helping liberate the Netherlands in the final days of the war.

  • Transcript of podcast - Episode 6

    Music [00:00]

    Host [00:29]

    War transformed not only those who fought on the front lines and the civilians who experienced it, but also those who supported them on the home front. Although a long-awaited peace lay ahead, there were many changes to the faces that returned, and in those who greeted them. Veterans Affairs Canada wants you to explore the stories of those Canadians who have served and sacrificed for our country. These are the Faces of Freedom.

    Music [00:59]

    Host [01:05]

    There was no birthday cake for Guy Crowther on May 6th 1945. But there was still a celebration. Crowther spent his 21st birthday in the recently liberated Netherlands, as part of a Canadian tank crew. Crowther's military career began two years earlier when he enlisted with the 5th Canadian Armored Division in Vancouver, and was posted to the United Kingdom. By the time he retired from the military in 1946 and finally returned home he had served in Italy and throughout Western Europe. He joins us today.

    Music [01:43]

    Guy Crowther [01:47]

    It’s a feeling that I’d never get again, for sure. They were so appreciative, so that they were climbing on the tanks and as you went down the streets there, and I wasn’t in a big parade either, but yes they were climbing all over the tanks, and kissing you and doing.. laugh.. It was a great time for us, for the soldiers and a great time for the Dutch people because they were literally starving to death. So we emptied out our tank of all the food we had, we had a lot of what we called M and V which was meat and vegetables in an ordinary sized can, and they of course loved it, and we were so tired, sick and tired of it, that we were quite happy to give it away.

    Music [02:51]

    Guy Crowther [02:57]

    We stayed in a house, that was commandeered away from the Germans, Germans were in this house too. But they of course left when we took over their accommodation. This house had a big hall attached to it. In this hall, the Dutch people had setup a dance for us, and they announced my birthday which was quiet unusual but that was good and yeah, we had a real good time at that birthday.

    Music [03:45]

    Host [03:49]

    Being a member of a tank crew was dangerous duty but Mr. Crowther had survived the war. It would take time to get back home after the fighting ended, though. Here he describes the sweet relief he felt when his troop ship finally reached North America and sailed into the harbour in New York City.

    Music [04:13]

    Guy Crowther [04:19]

    I think it was somewhere around, getting close to midnight or something when we were coming in there, and it was you couldn’t see hardly anything out there because it was so foggy and rainy and it was a real miserable night, but anyway, you couldn’t see a thing. But, as we were coming, we knew we were getting close to America and as we were coming close, through the fog you could just see this big, lumpy statue coming up on our left, and sure enough it was the good ol’ Statue of Liberty. We.. that was the first thing we saw of the American coast, was the Statue of Liberty and that felt like Heaven. Because we were home, we were home, we were home.

    Music [05:27]

    Host [05:32]

    And with that, I’d like to thank you for listening to this edition of the Faces of Freedom podcast. You can keep up to date and join the conversation on social media by using the hashtags #CanadaRemembers and #FacesofFreedom. Or, you can find us online, at veterans.gc.ca/canadaremembers. We also have online Faces of Freedom articles, where you can learn more about those who have served and sacrificed for our country. If you have a suggestion for the podcast – whether it’s a specific guest or story – you can reach us on social media, through the Canada Remembers Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as the Veterans Affairs Canada Twitter account.

    This spring, Veterans Affairs Canada will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands and V-E Day through digital initiatives and activities. Let’s flood social media with tulips, the flower representing the friendship between the Netherlands and Canada, using #TulipsatHome. You can also send a postcard virtually, thanking those who have served. Show us how you remember this spring, using #Netherlands75 and #VEDay75. Thanks for joining! We’ll see you next time. And remember – their faces tell the story, but their legacy will live on.

Want to learn more about Guy Crowther? Read his Face of Freedom profile for more information.


Episode 7: Now and then: Two generations of Veterans remember

Now and then: Two generations of Veterans remember

Both Anne and Howard McNamara served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War.

Bambi Gray was born and raised in Kingston, Ontario — one of Canada’s proudest military cities. She enlisted in 2011 and went on to serve her country for seven years as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces.

McNamara Photo Credit: Marie France L'Ecuyer

  • Transcript of podcast - Episode 7

    Music [00:00]

    Host [00:18]

    War transformed not only those who fought on the frontlines and the civilians who experienced it, but also those who supported them on the home front. Although a long-awaited peace lay ahead, there were many changes to the faces that returned, and in those who greeted them. Veterans Affairs Canada wants you to explore the stories of those Canadians who have served and sacrificed for our country. These are the Faces of Freedom.

    Both Anne McNamara and her husband Howard McNamara served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. Howard McNamara was a pilot who saw action in North Africa and during the Italian Campaign, flying the famous Spitfire fighter plane. Mrs. McNamara, then Anne Goode, was a performer who took part in military entertainment shows in North America and Europe, helping keep morale high.

    Bambi Gray was born and raised in Kingston, Ontario — one of Canada’s proudest military cities. She enlisted in 2011 and went on to serve her country for seven years as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces.

    Together, they share stories about their enlistment, draw parallels between their military experiences and discuss the importance of commemoration.

    Bambi [01:47]

    So my name is Bambi Gray. So I grew up in Kingston, Ontario, and I spent my whole life here, and I actually started going to Army cadets with my father when I was 5 years-old. I had a brother who signed up, and my dad, he decided instead of continuously driving my brother downtown to the Armoury, and then coming home just to turn around a couple of hours later, he decided that he was going to volunteer. Well, my dad became the quartermaster at the PWOR, the Princess of Wales’ Own Regiment Army Cadets Corps, downtown Kingston, and because my mother took that as an opportunity to have a couple of hours by herself, she sent me with my dad, and I, quite literally got to play in the bins of the supply room at the Armouries. So, later on in life, when I became a supply tech, it’s funny, because I can say I was actually a bin rat.

    So when I graduated high school, I went to school, I went to St. Lawrence College for corrections. My father is a prison guard, a correctional officer, and it just seemed right that I was going to follow in his footsteps, because I swore up and down that I didn’t want to join the military, because I had been going to Army Cadets my whole life, from age 5 to 18, I said I’d had enough of wearing a uniform. Plus, when I was in high school, I went to Catholic high school, I wore a uniform. So I said “mom, dad, I’m not joining the Army, you can’t persuade me. I’m not doing it”. Well, when I graduated college, and it was time for me to apply to become a correctional officer, I decided I really didn’t see myself doing that, and the only thing that I could really think of that made me happy career-wise was when I was going to Army Cadets. I genuinely enjoyed it.

    So when I was 20-21, I enlisted, and I spent my whole career in Petawawa.

    Anne McNamara [04:07]

    When I joined the Air Force, because all the guys were leaving, and I felt like I was getting left behind, so I said to myself “If they can do it, so can I”. So I went and joined the Air Force.

    So at the time I joined, they were the new show, that’s why I… the new entertainment unit. There was a new show they’d developed, and in my history, they noticed that I had been a dancer, and they needed another dancer in a show called “all clear”.

    So I was chosen and that’s how I got in the entertainment business in a show called “All Clear” .

    Howard McNamara [04:53]

    When the Second World War started, all you heard on the radio was what was going on.

    So really, what convinced us was the Battle of Britain.

    So when my brother turned 18 I says, “Jim, I think we’d better join up”. So we both volunteered to join the Air Force, and after our training, we both became fighter pilots.

    And when I came along, a couple of months later, when we graduated from operational training, we were asked if we’d like to volunteer to join up with the Middle Eastern Squadrons, because the war in the desert was starting to get a little busy. So our graduating class all volunteered to go out to the Middle East. So we ended up starting our operational training in Egypt, and we went through Egypt, North Africa, and then the Italian Campaign.

    Host [06:34]

    Bambi and Anne share how their upbringing inspired them to join the Forces, and Anne provides reflections on how military conflict does not just impact those who serve, but also the families and loved ones at home.

    Bambi [06:53]

    Growing up, I was a “Tomboy” through and through. I… My mom, she had two sons before me, and when she found out she was having a little girl, she was excited, so ecstatic. But she learned quickly that I didn’t like wearing dresses, I didn’t like playing with Barbie dolls. I just really wanted to do what my brothers were doing. I wanted to play to mud, I wanted to… If they were doing something, I wanted to do it. Maybe that’s why I have the attitude… a similar attitude. Well, if they’re allowed to do it, why can’t I do it? There should be no reason why I can’t do that.

    Anne [07:32]

    Well, my mother… We were three of us overseas at the same time. (Oh really?) Yes, that was the brother in the Army, and then you had the brother who was in the Air Force, and then I was in the Air Force, and the three of us were overseas at the same time. So, it must have been a worry for them. In those days, the girls, the fathers didn’t want the girls to join up, you know. “Your daughter shouldn’t be in the service”. Anyway, my father didn’t say a thing, but my mother… Because they couldn’t stop me. Anyway, they figured “if you want to be the first, do what you want”. So anyway… Well, my father had been in the Army. He was in France during the First World War. So he was kind of pleased I think.

    But you know what I think the most of? It’s the mothers that waited for these young people to come home, and the mothers would get the telegrams saying they were missing in action, and they still hoped that they would see them again. That is what I think of on this day.

    Host [08:47]

    Commemoration is very important to both Bambi and Howard. The two Veterans share their thoughts on remembering, including why it’s important to continue to educate others on Canada’s military history – both past and present.

    Bambi [09:09]

    Well, I think it is important to remember everyone who served regardless of what conflict it was, because it was different. It was harder to volunteer when Anne and Howard were assessing their lives when they were younger, opposed to now. Not that it is easy to say goodbye to your family for six months, but now when someone goes overseas, they’re not supporting a combat role, they’re normally teaching. So when groups go overseas now, it’s to educate and teach other Forces, as opposed to physically being involved in conflict.

    Again, I think some people forget about that. But as time goes on, it’s hard to remember that 75 years ago, something ended, that if it wasn’t for you and Howard, that it could still be going on now, or we may not be here to address the conflicts going on within our own country.

    And I just… I believe it’s super important to continue to teach and commemorate so it doesn’t happen again, and so if it does happen again, people are comfortable to turn and talk to individuals like yourselves, and ask about your experiences, opposed to if we were just to forget about what happened, because there are some people who want to forget about it. It was a very sad time. Well if we forget about it, if we are not comfortable talking about it, if we’re not happy to talk about it, then how do we move forward? How do we learn? How do we make things better? So it’s important to be thankful.

    Howard [11:30]

    A lot of people ask why we celebrate Remembrance Days, and I think “why do we celebrate”? Well, last November, one of my daughters and I were in Italy with the DVA, and we were visiting one cemetery.

    One of the girls who was helping me said “your name is on this grave”. And here, we looked at it, here is my name, “Howard McNamara,” and it went through my mind, who’s looking after this man? I mean he was 23 years old. I think he was a pilot. And what goes through your mind, “that’s why Remembrance Day is a day to remember these people.

    Host [12:51]

    And with that, I’d like to thank you for listening to this edition of the Faces of Freedom podcast. You can keep up to date and join the conversation on social media by using the hashtags #CanadaRemembers and #FacesofFreedom. Or, you can find us online, at veterans.gc.ca/canadaremembers. We also have online Faces of Freedom articles, where you can learn more about those who have served and sacrificed for our country. If you have a suggestion for the podcast – whether it’s a specific guest or story – you can reach us on social media, through the Canada Remembers Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as the Veterans Affairs Canada Twitter account. Thanks for joining! We’ll see you next time. And remember – their faces tell the story, but their legacy will live on.

Want to learn more about their stories? You can read their Face of Freedom profiles for more information.


Episode 8: Canadian Youth - Keeping Veterans’ Memories Alive

Canadian Youth - Keeping Veterans’ Memories Alive

As part of their efforts to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Orillia Secondary School organized A Walk to Remember, where dozens of students participated in one-kilometer walks throughout their neighborhoods to commemorate the anniversary.

The episode puts a focus on youth involvement within commemoration, and includes interviews with the teacher responsible for spearheading the initiative, Ms. Leanne Young, as well as three students who participated.

  • Transcript of podcast - Episode 8

    Music [00:00]

    Host [00:18]

    War transformed not only those who fought on the front lines and the civilians who experienced it, but also those who supported them on the home front. Although a long-awaited peace lay ahead, there were many changes to the faces that returned, and in those who greeted them. Veterans Affairs Canada wants you to explore the stories of those Canadians who have served and sacrificed for our country. These are the Faces of Freedom.

    May 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands and the end of the Second World War in Europe. To commemorate this important milestone, Leanne Young, the Chair of Canada and World Studies, and a teacher at the Orillia Secondary School in Ontario, put together an incredible initiative to commemorate Canadian sacrifices.

    With the help of her students, she created a Walk to Remember, an event crafted by and for Canadian youth. Together, they ensure these sacrifices are never forgotten by younger generations. Let’s hear from Leanne about the project and how it came to be.

    Leanne Young [01:38]

    One of the students’ idea was; ‘let’s do a walk’ and so the goal came to be; can we walk 75 kilometers, can we get each student to walk at least one kilometer in honour of remembrance? And so the students were really keen because: One, most of them either were at their computers for five to six hours a day, and it promoted some physical activity. And two, students got to think about what their role is in keeping the memory alive, why and talking about that historical significance of World War II. And so we decided, sort of as a group, that we would wear red in honour of our Vets and students submitted photos. Some of them had written captions and “We want to remember” and “We must always remember” and it was really endearing seeing the photos that were coming in from the students. Some students would be like, “Oh you know, my mom and I went for a walk and we talked about you know what it must have been like on that day on Juno Beach” and I had another student walk, her whole family walked with her.

    I think that that was the most rewarding thing that I got out of it, was the re-telling of how their walk went, who they went with, and what they were thinking about. Our youth are engaged. They’re interested to learn more.

    History is more than just learning from a textbook. It’s about feeling experiences. It’s about understanding people's voices, it’s looking at various perspectives, and its understanding that these are human experiences. So placing them in the shoes of what it would have been like to be a soldier, a pilot, an ambulance driver during the First or the Second World War is very important for them to sort of feel that empathy and feel that sense of pride.

    Host [04:03]

    While teaching at Orillia Secondary School, Leanne has organized a variety of trips overseas with students to Canadian war cemeteries and memorials. While visiting Normandy in 2019, a touching moment occurred. She recalls the experience that showcases the importance of having young Canadians not only remember, but understand why we must never forget.

    Leanne Young [04:32]

    I always call it the 'Ah ha" moment. We were at Beny-sur-mer this past year or last year. We were standing there and there was a grave site from a young Canadian that was 14 years old that had died just days after D-Day. And a student stopped, dropped to his knees, and was visibly shaken. So this was more at the end part of our trip, and he just says “I get it. I get how important this moment is.” And so that for me, those ‘Ah ha’ moments that these students have along the trip, where they’ll pull me aside and say: “This is why we’re here. This is why we’re doing this”, means the world to me. And they come back to our school environment and they are so lucky to have had this experience but they share that with their other peers and they tell them, and so that to me is probably the most important thing about these trips. It’s they’re continuing the story of what our Vets went through in the First and Second World War. So I think it’s so important that we change how we teach our students to remember.

    Host [05:51]

    Students were quite enthused with the project. Paige Hannan is one of the students from Orillia Secondary School who got to travel to France and also partake in the Walk to Remember. She shares reflections on her experience and why her and many other students choose to remember this Veterans’ Week.

    Paige Hannan [06:13]

    So our great idea was our Walk to Remember. So each student who was involved in the process went out and walked. I believe we asked every student to walk a kilometer but some people did more. And we wore our red shirts just as a sign of unity and we took a picture at the end. Just to kind of have a record of what we did and it was really great. It was a nice way to bring everyone together and kind of keep the momentum going on our project and what we were hoping to do.

    I was one of the students who was lucky enough to attend our history trip a few years ago now. We actually attended the 75th anniversary of D-Day at Juno, which was a really special experience and it was kind of one of those days that you will never forget. Doing the walk kind of brought you back to that day, back to that feeling of just being surrounded by so many people who were passionate about the same things that you are passionate about, and were feeling the momentum that we were bringing with the students. So it was really special. You just have some quiet time when you’re out walking to reflect on what was happening there, and how lucky we are to be in the position we are today because of some of those events, as terrible as they were, but I think it was a really good time for reflection with the students.

    Last year, just before we had left on our trip. Each student who was going on the trip was assigned a soldier from the Orillia area where we are from. We were to look them up and learn about them whatever we could as we were going to be going to visit their graves when we were in Europe. So my soldier, Ambrose, he was from Orillia. He fought at D-Day and survived D-Day. But unfortunately about five days later, he would be crossing a field and was killed. And I was actually able to track down Ambrose's family who still lives in Orillia and I could go talk to them. They had letters from him, they had pictures that we wouldn’t have been able to find online of him and his family. And they had real firsthand accounts of his character, and how he felt in the moment, and what they had observed of him when he was home on leaves or just before he left. And it was so special to get that real connection to it. So that kind of brought it home for me, that first meeting there.

    Host [09:08]

    Fellow student Emma Thomson shares her similar experience being part of the Walk to Remember. She explains why learning and understanding Canadian history is important to her.

    Emma Thomson [09:26]

    It was a really nice time, to just you know, have some quiet, just think about all the people who fought for our country. And, just think about that and take the time out of your day to remember them and appreciate what they did for our country.

    I’m really interested in history, I’ve been taking it every year in school. So I think that remembering Canadian sacrifices is just something that’s important to me, I don’t know, I’m a Canadian, I like being involved in things. And, yeah, I think, I don’t know, it’s just important to bring awareness to stuff like this because not a lot of people know about it.

    So, I think that’s, that’s what I do to make sure people remember and make sure people appreciate the lives that were lost, especially Canadian lives. I think a lot of young people might think that history can be boring, but if you really take the time to learn about it, and like take these classes, especially at our school with great teachers like Ms. Young available to us, taking the time to, you know learn about it is really important and really good for students.

    Host [10:47]

    This Veterans’ Week, Orillia students Emma, Cameron and Paige had a message to share with our Second World War Veterans.

    Emma Thomson [11:00]

    I think it would just be thank you! Like, thank you, know that you’re appreciated, know that young students are really appreciating that, everything that they did for us, you know, risking their lives for our freedom. I just think that’s really important to know that we are thinking about them and that we appreciate what they did. So yeah, I think I would just like to say thank you.

    Cameron [11:26]

    I would say thank you so much for your service, thank you so much for your sacrifice, you did a great job!

    Paige Hannan [11:31]

    First and foremost, Thank you. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for everything that has been done for me in the past. And I want them to know that we’re here, the young, the students are here and we are doing the work and we care and we hear you and we are, we’re going to continue to do that.

    Host [12:51]

    And with that, I’d like to thank you for listening to this edition of the Faces of Freedom podcast. You can keep up to date and join the conversation on social media by using the hashtags #CanadaRemembers and #FacesofFreedom. Or, you can find us online, at veterans.gc.ca/canadaremembers. We also have online Faces of Freedom articles, where you can learn more about those who have served and sacrificed for our country. If you have a suggestion for the podcast – whether it’s a specific guest or story – you can reach us on social media, through the Canada Remembers Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as the Veterans Affairs Canada Twitter account. Thanks for joining! We’ll see you next time. And remember – their faces tell the story, but their legacy will live on.

Want to learn more about Orilla Secondary School? You can read their Face of Freedom profile for more information.

Looking for more podcasts? Check out our previous series featuring Veterans from the Liberation of the Netherlands Campaign, as well as a series on some of the competitors who will represent Canada in the Invictus Games, which have been postponed to 2021 because of COVID-19.

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