Thursday, 30 March 2017

A Brief Break for Family History

Dad receiving French Legion of Honour
Yesterday, 29 Mar 2017, my father, Réal Dumoulin, received the French Legion of Honour at the Naval Association in North Bay, Ontario, for service during World War II. During the war, he served in the Royal Canadian Navy on the HMCS Iroquois as an Able Seaman.

My Dad, who is now 92, is among 1300 Canadians who have received the award for their aid in helping France's liberation from Nazi Germany during this war. My older brother, Richard, worked very hard over the past couple of years to coordinate the receipt of the award for my father.

Chris, Rick, Dad and Honorary Consul Jean-Charles Cachon
He and my sister, Christine, were in attendance. We're all very proud of my Dad. His time in the war isn't something that he talks about very much, but over the past few years, he's opened up more to share some of remembrances with me when we've chatted.

My Dad, front row centre, as a young sailor
The HMCS Iroquois was launched 23 September 1941. In 1943, the Iroquois was used as a convoy escort for Gibraltar convoys. On 11 Jun, a convoy was attacked by German aircraft in the Bay of Biscay. SS California and SS Duchess of York were both hit and abandoned. The Iroquois rescued 628 survivors from the Duchess of York. I remember my Dad mentioning this and that many years later he was recognised by one of the survivors who he had pulled into his boat for transport back to the ship. (I will readily admit that my memories are sometimes confused, but I'm pretty sure my Dad told me this story during one of our chats.)

The Iroquois was part of a number of convoys to Murmansk Russia that year. When I read the HMS Ulysses by Alistair MacLean, a story about a ship on the Murmansk run, it made me feel closer to my Dad and the experiences he must have had at that time. One of the convoys was used as a lure for German battleship Scharnhorst which was sunk by British forces 26 December. After D-Day, the Iroquois was assigned to carry out patrols of the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay. During this time, she took part in many operations, including Kinetic, whose purpose was to eliminate German warships all along French ports. She took part in three actions including the Battle of Audierne Bay in August 1944, in which they destroyed 8 German ships. Iroquois remained in British waters until the German surrender, being involved in support of Royal Navy action off the coast of Norway.

It was part of Crown Prince Olaf's return to Norway and then sailed to Copenhagen where she was an escort to German cruisers Prince Eugen and Nurnberg until their formal surrender.

Mom and Dad
Dad retired from the Navy after the war and returned to Timmins, Ontario where he worked for awhile in the Hollenger gold mine. He met my mother, Edith Siewert, of Kirkland Lake, Ontario and they were married. He felt that he could better support his family if he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (by then Rick and Chris had been born). The rest, as they say, is history. I've highlighted our lives together in previous BLog reminiscences from the time my Dad was in the Air Force and I was born in North Bay, Ontario in 1955.

Back to the ceremony yesterday, CTV Northern Ontario did a very nice feature on the presentation. I hope you can see the video. If not, there was also a nice article today in the local newspaper, the North Bay Nugget. I'm sure it brought many memories to my Dad of his time in the Navy and of his crew mates.

I'm very proud of my Father and I hope he's not too embarrassed by me writing this. Love you, Dad.

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