Langley soldier, 101, receives service medals nearly 75 years after Second World War

John Andrew McLellan hold his World War II service medals. The 101-year-old received his medals 74 years after the end of the war. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)John Andrew McLellan hold his World War II service medals. The 101-year-old received his medals 74 years after the end of the war. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)
John Andrew McLellan’s World War II Soldier’s Pay Book. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)John Andrew McLellan’s World War II Soldier’s Pay Book. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)
Scott MacMillan, Cloverdale Legion president, pins medals on John Andrew McLellan’s chest Oct. 23. When the 101-year-old received the medals everyone in the Legion gave him a standing ovation. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)Scott MacMillan, Cloverdale Legion president, pins medals on John Andrew McLellan’s chest Oct. 23. When the 101-year-old received the medals everyone in the Legion gave him a standing ovation. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)
John Andrew McLellan’s World War II service medals: the France and Germany Star (left) and the 1939-1945 War Service Medal. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)John Andrew McLellan’s World War II service medals: the France and Germany Star (left) and the 1939-1945 War Service Medal. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)
John Andrew McLellan hold his World War II service medals. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)John Andrew McLellan hold his World War II service medals. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)
John Andrew McLellan was an elite athlete in his day. Here McLellan is seen (at right) after he was crowned the Inter Services Boxing Champ for 1941. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)John Andrew McLellan was an elite athlete in his day. Here McLellan is seen (at right) after he was crowned the Inter Services Boxing Champ for 1941. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)
John Andrew McLellan poses for a photo in the early ’40s when he was stationed in Winnipeg. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)John Andrew McLellan poses for a photo in the early ’40s when he was stationed in Winnipeg. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)
Scott MacMillan, Cloverdale Legion president, pins medals on John Andrew McLellan’s chest Oct. 23. When the 101-year-old received the medals everyone in the Legion gave him a standing ovation. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)Scott MacMillan, Cloverdale Legion president, pins medals on John Andrew McLellan’s chest Oct. 23. When the 101-year-old received the medals everyone in the Legion gave him a standing ovation. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)

It took 74 years, but John Andrew “Dutch” McLellan finally received his World War II medals.

McLellan was awarded his hardware at a ceremony Oct. 23 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Cloverdale.

“Dad was feeling really great that night,” said Don McLellan, John’s son.

Don said his dad appreciated that so many family members and others showed up to witness a ceremony 74 years in the making.

“He was pretty proud to receive the medals and he has them on his coffee table,” said Don. “Someone asked him after the ceremony what he thought about all this and he said, ‘I wonder why it all happened.’ They asked, ‘do you mean the ceremony?’ He answered ‘no, why the war had to happen?’”

Don was also glad to see so many people there, both family and others. “A lot of times the veterans get forgotten.”

But it was no clerical error that prevented John from receiving his medals, he just never applied for them.

“He’s just that type of person,” Don said. “He said to me when I asked him, ‘I never applied for them because I was just doing my job.’”

John may not have received his medals at all had the family not inquired to see if John was eligible for a veteran’s pension.

Don said his dad was in the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. “He suffered some hearing loss because of his (service), so we thought he would definitely qualify for a veteran’s pension.”

As they inquired about the pension, they contacted the Cloverdale Legion. That’s when Earl Fraser, the Legion’s service officer, paid John a visit.

“I went to his house to visit him and see if we could get him a disability pension from Veterans Affairs Canada.”

Fraser asked John where his war medals were.

“Awe, I never got them,” John said. “But it doesn’t matter.”

Fraser then told John he should apply for them, even if it was just something John’s children would appreciate.

“I don’t want you to leave today,” Fraser told John, “but when you do go, your boys can have them.”

John agreed. “He said, ‘Okay, that sounds pretty good.’”

So Fraser and Don looked through John’s old WWII Soldier’s Service and Pay Book.

“It said in the book that he qualified for some medals,” said Don.

That’s when things got interesting for Fraser. He called Veterans Affairs Canada in Ottawa and spoke to someone in the Honour & Awards Section.

“I gave him all John’s info and he got back to us later saying John was eligible for two medals,” said Fraser.

Don said his dad was surprised he would be receiving medals 74 years after the war.

Fraser said the ceremony at the Cloverdale Legion was well-attended.

“It was awesome,” said Fraser. “John was very proud of those medals. He earned them.”

Fraser also said John looks great for being a centenarian.

“Nobody could believe his age. At 101, he looks like he could be 80.”

When Scott MacMillan, Legion president, pinned the medals on John’s chest everyone in the Legion gave John a standing ovation.

“I got goosebumps,” said Fraser. “There were tears. It was amazing. Not only was there a lot of his family members, but there was also a lot of members in the Legion that night.”

Thirty-one family members attended the ceremony, which included John’s children and their spouses, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

In total, John has nine children, 24 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren.

John was born in Antigonish, Nova Scotia in 1918, less than six weeks before the guns in Europe fell silent for the world’s first Armistice Day.

John was the youngest of five children and his mother passed away of pulmonary tuberculosis when John was two years old.

“Dad was sent to live in Vancouver when he was six,” said Don. “He went to St. Patrick’s until he finished Grade 9, then he was off to work.”

John was a sports enthusiast, according to Don, participating in lacrosse, football, and boxing. “He lost his spleen to the butt end of a lacrosse stick.”

Don said his dad then signed up with the army and was sent to Vernon for basic training.

“That’s where he met my mother. She waited for three years for him to come back [from the war]. They had six boys and then adopted a girl who was a foster child. They then had two more girls. Mom passed away five years ago this November 12.”

John served in Operation Cottage, part of the Aleutian Islands campaign, in 1943. Both Canadian and American forces landed on Kiska Island only to find the Japanese had already left. But due to mines, vehicle accidents, and friendly fire—both Canadian and American forces mistook each other for Japanese troops—the landing accrued 313 casualties, 92 dead and 221 wounded.

John then went to Europe and was part of the force that invaded the German-held Netherlands.

The two medals John received are the France and Germany Star and the 1939-1945 War Service Medal.

“He is like a lot of soldiers,” said Don. “They don’t want to talk about (the war) much. In the past he talked a bit about the people of (The Netherlands). He said they were very good to the Canadian soldiers. He would have liked to have gone back and visited them, but it never happened.”

The Cloverdale Legion invited John to lay a wreath at the cenotaph in Veterans’ Square on Remembrance Day, but John declined. He lives in Langley and has been attending the Remembrance Day ceremony in Fort Langley for the last six years. John plans to continue on with that tradition again this year with his family.

“He said, ‘Thank you for the honour, but I just want to be with my family again this year.’”

Don’s brother Terry lives in Fort Langley and John likes the town and the Remembrance Day service there.

“It’s a smaller community,” Don said. “The service is very well attended and feels more like a family atmosphere.”

Don said the McLellans always head out for lunch afterwards.

“My brother Terry has been phoning ahead this year to try to confirm numbers. Last year, he made a reservation for lunch for 24 people, but 28 showed up.”

Don said it’s going to be another big year for a big family. He said John can’t wait.

“He loves being with his family, going to the ceremony, and then going out with everyone after.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Selkirk Challengers at a recent class. Photo: Submitted
Two Castlegar sports groups receive provincial funding

28 sports groups across the Kootenay will be receiving money from the Local Sport Relief Fund

Rossland council encourages everyone to support locals only recommendations. Photo: Jim Bailey.
Rossland council promotes ‘Locals Only’ inititative

Rossland mayor encourages people to restrict travel and enjoy what your home has to offer

Caroline Lafond is a Recreation Fish and Wildlife student at Selkirk College. Photo: Submitted
Ecological Comment: Help keep the goats of Gimli wild

A column written by Recreation Fish and Wildlife students at Selkirk College

Kootenay Columbia Teachers’ Union president Andy Davidoff. Photo: Jennifer Small
An open letter to Premier Horgan and Minister Whiteside: Let’s stop harming our children during a pandemic

A letter from Andrew Davidoff, President Kootenay Columbia Teachers’ Union

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

Most Read