Welcome to the Stouffville Legion Branch 459

CYRIL ARTHUR ALBERT BACK

I was born at Woodstock, Ont. on February 4, 1922. My father, Arthur Back came out to Canada from England in 1913 to take up farming.

When the First World War broke out, it was in 1916 when my father and uncle decided to join His Majesties Army and enlisted together. During training they became separated and posted to different companies. My uncle’s company was required to join the group that ultimately became involved in the Battle of VIMY. My father’s company was held in reserve. When they were committed to the front line, my father was sent up to the line to repair the signal system and decided it was no place for him. He had been involved in a musical band and had experience with the euphonium, so he transferred to the Army band.

In 1917 after the Battle of VIMY, my uncle was killed in a subsequent battle. The grave was lost and as a result his name appears on the VIMY Monument.

My father applied to go on leave to get married and later he returned to France. He was posted home for discharge, but he had to be sent back to Canada for “demob” and my mother went with him as a War Bride. This was in 1919 and they rented farm at Hawtrey, near Woodstock.

I remember my father talking about the snow on the farm. He said I spoke about the trees in the orchard and enjoyed the snow: “Look at my tracks in the snow, Daddy”.

Because of a violent wind storm which took the roof off of the barn, and also because my mother was homesick, they decided to return to England in 1925. We settled in Edmonton, north of London.

In 1942, I was called up for military service in the RAF. I did my training at Skegness, England. We were first sent to North Africa and landed at Algiers. We were then sent further up the coast where we were posted to the Tactical Airforce. We spent a few months at various posts before being sent to Sicily where we were camped under canvas in an almond grove. One evening, the Germans had come over to bomb the Port of Syracuse. Two “friendly“ shells came into camp from the Port and exploded outside our tent in the camp. Shrapnel hit my tentmate and he said “Cyril, I`ve been hit!“ I replied, “No, Peter, you haven`t.” But then found that he had been nicked in the neck. I sent him off to the medical officer for treatment. When we struck camp a few days later I discovered that our tent had been torn by shrapnel. It was fortunate we had been laying down in our cots.

We were then sent across to Taranto, Italy and went up to a small village past Bary. It was there that I noticed that my helmet had become a casualty of war. The same shrapnel had come through the tent, hit my helmet, which was resting on a box – fortunately not on my head!

In 1945 I was sent home to London, England to be demobbed.

In 1957 my wife and I decided to immigrate to Canada with our two sons. We travelled separately, meeting up in Toronto where I had established accommodation and had found myself a job with the Royal Trust Company. I stayed with that company until my retirement in 1987. We moved to Stouffville in 1986.

– Cyril

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