Category Archives: Military

Jack Gross – war hero and Belgian knight

Originally published in the Owen Sound Sun Times, November 20, 2008.

It turns out Paul Gross isn’t the only member of his family who can tell war stories about Belgium.

Gross has received a great deal of attention and acclaim for his recent film “Passchendaele.” He wrote, directed, co-produced and starred in the movie, inspired by his maternal grandfather’s experiences in the First World War.

But Jack Gross, the filmmaker’s uncle, was also in Belgium at wartime. It was a different war and his duties were somewhat different, but a lasting impression was made on the young soldier who was later honoured by Belgium for his bravery at the Battle of the Scheldt.

“I shouldn’t even be here to tell the story today,” Gross, 89, said in an interview at his Port Elgin home.

It’s a story he has kept largely to himself since it happened, in the fall of 1944. Continue reading

Remembering Brig. Tom Rutherford

Originally published in the Owen Sound Sun Times, November 10, 2007.

There are signs directing visitors to the grave of Tom Thomson, who is buried in Leith Cemetery.

There are no prominent indicators that another man named Tom is buried there, a man who arguably gave more to Canada than did the renowned artist.

Brig.-Gen. Thomas John Rutherford CBE, ED, left behind a long and illustrious record of service to his community, his country and his fellow veterans. He also left a legacy of humble comradeship that hid a steely resolve.

“I’ve never had any regrets at anything I’ve had to do,” Rutherford said in a 1974 interview with Ann Kelly of The Sun Times. “I’ve killed a lot of people at close range. I don’t think about those things, it’s very impersonal really. They get you or you get them. It changes one’s outlook on the world.” Continue reading

Tommy Holmes becomes a national hero

Originally published in the Owen Sound Sun Times, October 26, 2007.

The only two words inscribed on the face of a Victoria Cross are “For Valour. ”

But “valour” hardly begins to describe the acts that have earned the British Commonwealth’s highest decoration for bravery.

It certainly doesn’t explain what happened 90 years ago today, when an Owen Sound teenager played an important role in Canada’s eventual victory over German forces at the Battle of Passchendaele:

“Private Thomas William Holmes, Mounted Rifles . . . enlisted in Owen Sound in December 1915. When the right flank of our own attack was held up by machine gun fire from the pill box, producing heavy casualties, Holmes on his own initiative, and single-handed, ran forward and threw bombs, killing or wounding the crews of two machine guns, then returned, secured another bomb, and again rushed forward alone and threw a bomb into the pill box entrance, causing nineteen occupants to surrender.” – from the official citation.

That succinct description fails to completely capture the essence of just what Tommy Holmes did on Oct. 26, 1917. Continue reading

Veterans Way

Originally published in the Owen Sound Sun Times, November 12, 2005.

As far as Julia Levine was concerned, her class was seeing history in the making.

Levine, who teaches a class of 27 students at Bayview Public School in Owen Sound, made sure she noted something special to the children after the Remembrance Day service on 1st Avenue West.

The avenue was designated Veterans Way in honour of 2005 being the Year of the Veteran, and Levine wanted her students to realize that they had been present when the designation was made.

“A lot of times in our community, there are things that are named and places that are named and we take it for granted,” she said. “I wanted to point out to the boys today that they were here on the day that in their community we have made a special day in honour of the veterans.

“Every time they go by the sign, they’ll be able to remember that they were here for that event. I think it’s important. It’s history.” Continue reading