Thursday, November 16, 2006

Life During Wartime: Part 4

This is not how the Canadian Forces were equipped for their fierce fight to push the Germans up and out of Italy during WWII. If any of them managed to lay hands on this issue of the Saturday Evening Post during those times, I imagine they would have been pretty envious of their American allies as portrayed here by James Sessions.Most people don't even know that, while the world was focused on Operation Overlord at Normandy, some 70,000 Canadian troops where doggedly battling their way up through Italy, forcing the Germans to split their focus, their troops and equipment on another front. These forgotten soldiers, who's efforts went largely unreported in the news, who's sacrifices remain mostly unrecognized to this day, significantly impacted the success of D-Day.

How do I know this? Because my life-long best friend, Wade Hemsworth, wrote a book about how his grandfather, Howard "Babe" Lovell, fought on the frontlines of the Italian campaign.

When Wade was a boy, his grampa was an affectionate, jovial, attentive rascal of a man who got around on two wooden legs. Though I never met him, Wade relished the telling and retelling of the many adventures and hijinks he had enjoyed in the company of his gramps, usually at the cottage home in the North that Babe had built for himself and his wartime bride, Wade's grandma, May. But the smile would fade from Babe's face when talk of the war came up, especially when his young grandson would ask him to tell stories about his experiences there.

Years later, long after Babe and May were gone, Wade, now a man, a journalist and a published author, decided to write a book about his grandparents - and most especially about his grampa. He asked a trusted uncle, Babe's only son, Ian, about the idea of the book, about digging up the stories that would explain at last why Babe walked on two wooden legs.
Ian told him it was possible. By talking to friends and relatives, by researching it thoroughly, Wade could find what he was looking for. But he offered Wade this warning: that the man Wade idolized had been many things before he became a doting grandfather - and that Wade might not like what he would find.

Tomorrow: How Babe Lovell lost both his legs.


  1. Wade had quite a career for himself as a songwriter, musician and chronicler of Canadian (at least the English side of things) history.

    "The Log Driver's Waltz" and "Black Fly" are two of Wade's anthems that depict parts of our history (and in the case of the blackflies, the present) that are not especially well known. They are still sung.

    I had the privilege of seeing Wade perform with the McGarrigles at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1991, one of his last concerts. Our daughter was a few weeks old, and carried around the festival grounds in her mom's Snugli.

  2. Thanks for your comment(s), Black Pete;

    You are referring to Wade's great uncle, after whom he is named.