Columnist’s grandfather, Clarence (Noodles) Knox (left), fought in the First World War, and his father, William (Bill) Knox, took part in the Second World War. (Knox family photos)

Columnist’s grandfather, Clarence (Noodles) Knox (left), fought in the First World War, and his father, William (Bill) Knox, took part in the Second World War. (Knox family photos)

COLUMN: Reluctance to discuss war speaks volumes

Author’s father suffered severe burns in Second World War, and didn’t talk about it

It’s an image burned into my consciousness as much as the burns on my dad’s legs.

The first time I remember seeing my dad without pants was when he took me to Kal Beach. He had put on his bathing suit and I remember seeing his legs were badly scarred.

I asked him what happened.

“They got burned in the war, and I don’t want to talk about it,” said my father matter-of-factly.

I would guess I was about seven-years-old when that happened. My father would die five years later, Nov. 1, 1975, when I was 12.

Not once in that period of time from the lake to his passing did I ask him about being overseas in the Second World War, spent mostly in Holland.

I asked my three older siblings if he ever talked to them about his war experience.

“Sorry, Rog, did not talk to dad at all about the war. I think I remember him saying he didn’t want to talk about it,” said the youngest of the three, my brother Don, eight years my senior.

Second-born sister Diane recalled: “I, too, saw his scarred legs when we went to the beach but I got the same response as you.

“He seemed reluctant to talk about his war experiences.”

Oldest-born brother Jim had a couple of stories from dad, one being that he sent half his pay home to his mom, our grandmother Selina, who was a war bride and widow and had three kids at home.

Dad also told Jim the Canadian army was looking for volunteers to go to the Pacific front and fight the Japanese with the further enticement of travelling through Canada and getting some leave in their hometowns, of which Vernon was my dad’s.

“There were rumours around the ranks that the war against Japan was going well and would soon be over,” said Jim.

“So dad volunteered for the Pacific and while he was in Canada, the war with Japan ended. He figured by volunteering to go to the Pacific, this got him home about six months earlier had he stayed in Europe.”

Dad was a war hero, at least to one Dutch family.

After he died, a woman in Holland wrote to my mother in search of William (Bill) Knox who, along with the Canadian forces, had helped defeat the Germans, liberated Holland, and was a hit with her and her family when he stayed with them for a bit. They wanted to say thank you to him and all Canadian soldiers for all they did.

My dad’s father, my grandfather Clarence (Noodles) Knox – a nickname he picked up as a pretty good professional boxer – was gassed in the First World War and died of tuberculosis in 1934, so I never met him.

Never got a chance to talk to him about his war experiences, though I’m pretty sure I can guess what the response would have been.

Just last year, a high school friend asked me to phone her dad, a Second World War soldier, and talk to him for our Remembrance Day supplement. I phoned, he politely declined. He didn’t want to talk about the war.

I’ve heard that response from many veterans over my years as a reporter, and I respect that. I can’t fathom the horrors and atrocities they saw and went through.

Every Nov. 11, I always take a moment to say ‘thank you’ in silence to my dad, grandfather, and all soldiers who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today.

Ceremonies will be different this year, but you can still say thanks. My dad would have like that.

“I do remember that Remembrance Day was always very important to him and remember going with him to the ceremonies many times,” said my sister.

Local HistoryRemembrance Day

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

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

Twenty-three B.C. mayors have asked Premier John Horgan to enshrine five pillars of action that give natural resource development a key role in B.C.’s post-pandemic economic recovery plan. (Williams Lake Tribune file photo)
Castlegar mayor joins group asking for key role for resource development in pandemic recovery plan

23 leaders pen letter to premier, asking for inclusion in new policy discussions

Trail city council made a difficult decision and cancelled the 2021 Silver City Days celebration. 
Photo: Trail Times
Silver City Days – cancelled

With pandemic uncertainty still looming, Trail council scuttled plans for 2021 Silver City Days

Teacher Casey Stowe and Principal Wendy Cutler from Twin Rivers Elementary with the donation. Photo: submitted
Castlegar school receives $2000 donation

Twin Rivers Elementary School will use the donation to enhance the school community.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

FILE – A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample during an antibody testing program at the Hollymore Ambulance Hub, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Want to know if you’ve had COVID-19? LifeLabs is offering an antibody test

Test costs $75 and is available in B.C. and Ontario

Most Read