CALL TO DUTY THE DAILY COURIER, TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2012
John Ritchie and Ellen Black hold a picture, taken at the Vernon Army Camp of their brother Bill who was killed in action on D-Day,he was 20 years old at the time. In the background is the house that he lived in on Burne Avenue in Kelowna.
Bill Ritchie A Kelowna man killed in the D-Day invasion is remembered by his sister as an athletic and personable young man eager to serve his country. An avid outdoorsman, Bill Ritchie was the oldest of six children when
the Second World War began. “He couldn’t wait to get into the army,” his sister, lifelong Kelowna resident Ellen Black, 82, recalls. After training in England for three years, Ritchie was a corporal with the Canadian Scottish Regiment when he stormed ashore with thousands of other Canadian, British and American soldiers during the D-Day invasion, June 6, 1922. Ritchie was killed by a German sniper. Official records show that 3,700 people from B.C. died in the Second World War. In the early 1950s, the provincial government began the Remembrance
program, naming geographic features after people who died in the war. “People named on this list are among those who made the ultimate sac-
rifice for British Columbia, and attaching their names to geographical fea- tures across the province is a permanent reminder of that sacrifice,” Paul Ramsey, a former provincial environment minister, has said. In 1996, a small lake in the Kootenays was named for Bill Ritchie. It’s
north of Christina Lake in Gladstone Provincial Park, midway between Grand Forks and Trail. Ritchie’s younger brothers, Ken, John and David were too young to serve in the Second World War. They would go on to form Ritchie Bros., the world’s largest industrial auctioneers.
Mervin Law was mid upper gunner on a Lancaster bomber during the Second World War. Asea of ships
By RON SEYMOUR The Daily Courier
Steve Bandurka Army sapper, served in Northwest Europe The highlight of the engineers, we put one of the nicest bridges on the Rhine River in Germany, a return Bailey, huge. It was a work of art.We had to get across the river, and get the seat down for the bridging, and then get the two seats started and build towards the centre. But we had to do it in the dark because we’d get shot down in the day-
time. The shrapnel was so bad we had to cover our tires on our vehicles so they wouldn’t get shrapnel in them. But it was a beautiful sight when we got finished. We built bridges, we took infantry across, lifted mines and did all the me- nial work, like get rid of, pardon me, bodies, some way or another. And clearing the road so that the troops could come through.
or Mervin Law, the D in D-Day stands for dawn.
The young air gunner and his bomber crew were headed back to England from a Mission over Europe early on the morning of June 6, 1944 when they looked down and beheld a remarkable scene.
“Daylight was just breaking and we could see all these ships, hundreds upon hundreds of all shapes and sizes, down in the English Channel,” recalls Law, now 90.
“It was really quite a spectacular sight,” Law says. “Our pilot dipped the wings so we could all get a good look everything. We were all quite excited because we suddenly realized what was going on, that this was the invasion fleet.”
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Though Law and his Halifax bomber crew had flown dozens of missions to that point, they were not technically part of D-Day. They had been assigned to bomb a marshalling yard near the southwest German town of Konstanz the night before, and had no idea the long-awaited invasion was set for the next morning.
“Like everyone else, we knew it was coming some- time, with all the build-up in England and soldiers all over the place. But we didn’t know when,” Law says.
Law, who’d grown up on a farm in Saskatchewan before the war, was part of 36 bombing runs over
A picture of Mervin Law with “C”Charlie Crew sits on top of a flight log book.
Europe, then worked as a gunnery instructor. During his missions, his crew consisted of four Canadians, an Irishman, Scotsman, and a Welshman.
“Plain luck had a lot to do with it,” he says, when asked how his crew survived all those sorties. “And we had a good pilot who knew what he was doing.” “But it was still terrifying, no doubt about it,” he says. “The searchlights were the worst. We knew if they got us cornered, with a whole bunch of search- lights fixed on you, their fighters would come in fast and you’d never get out of that alive.”
After the war ended, Law left the air force and went on to enjoy a long and satisfying career in a much more down-to-earth job. He was a letter carrier.
a living tree or blade of grass. On the morning of the 10th, our zero hour for going over the top of the trench- es was 5:45 a.m. Fritz opened up on us with everything he had.Ma
ny of our boys were killed or wounded. At 11 a.m, we were ordered to advance 400 yards. When we gained our objec- tive, which were shell holes and trenches four feet deep full of putrid water and dead
bodies, we had hardly half our company left. We dug ourselves in as best we could,
even using dead bodies to build fortifica- tions. At this time, there were less than 30 of us left from our company of 250 men. Some were killed by concussion, and didn’t have a mark on them. Canadians always gained their objec- tive. But the price we paid was terrible.
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