Tag Archives: Belgium

Remembrance Day


Canadian Expeditionary Force Discharge Certificate


My grandfather came to Canada in 1905 with his father: he was 5 years old.

His father stayed for a while, came to the conclusion that it was too late for him to start over in a new country, and went back to Belgium.

My grandfather was left with a Belgian family farming in Manitoba where he was treated poorly.

He ran away when he was 10 years old.

While walking down the dirt road he eventually came across some other kids speaking a different language and they took him to their home.

He became part of their family; he worked on their farm; and he learned their language.

One day a saleman came to the farm and my grandfather heard the saleman and the farmer discussing business in another language.

My grandfather was curious and asked the farmer what language he had been speaking.

English” said the farmer.

Then what the hell am I speaking?” asked my grandfather.

Icelandic” replied the farmer.


note: He signed up with the Canadian Expeditionary Force on Valentine’s Day 1916 and was discharged January 18th, 1919.
His discharge papers say that he was 20 years old and 9 months in 1919, but I think he lied about his age and was really only 15 years old when he joined in 1916.

double note: at the present time there are 10 wars and 32 civil conflicts taking place: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/index.html

triple note: I only knew my grandfather as a person who could make something come alive out of driftwood and burls.

quadruple note: if any family members are reading this … yes I still have grandpa’s discharge papers … and the framed discharge portrait with all the bells and whistles is still stored at brother #2’s place for me one day.

quintuple note: from what I remember he was actually in a trench about 5 km away from where he was born at one time during the war, but didn’t know it.


notes to myself #52

The burl table you store at your brother’s place eventually gets borrowed by your other brother. It’s probably for the best since I don’t think you’ll be moving back to Canada anytime soon.