“Lest We Forget.” Every November 11th, Canadians across the country pause in a silent moment of remembrance for the men and women who served our country during wartime: World Wars I and II , the Korean and Gulf Wars, For NATO and today in Peacekeeping efforts and the Afghanistan War. Thousands have served and died for our country. Many others have been wounded or taken as prisoners of war. Some veterans were lucky. They survived and now willingly share their experiences.
The Royal Canadian Legion, Bronte Branch 486 hosted a Remembrance Day Service at the War Memorial in Bronte, Oakville. Wreaths for the fallen were laid and crowds gathered to pay their respects, along with the veterans, the young cadets and Girl Guides and Boy Scouts on parade, the Government of Canada, the Region of Halton, the Province of Ontario and the Town of Oakville, to name but a few.
Agreeing to tell his story, Andy Barber says; “I am a Canadian Naval Veteran who served aboard the 2nd Tour of the HMCS Haida on the west coast of Korea”. North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25th 1950 and the United Nations enlisted Canadian Forces to be a part of the war effort. “We very quickly got control of the air and sea and the rest of my tour was spent patrolling west coast of Korea making sure there were no more mines that might impede the safety for other ships on the waters”. The HMCS Haida is a Tribal-class destroyer that served the Royal Canadian Navy and sank more enemy surface tonnage than any other Canadian warship.
Andy now speaks to public school children about his experiences. They always wonder, “Why did you decide to go to war?” His story likely echoes the story of many others. Fate has a way of putting you in the place you are supposed to be! As it turned out, for Andy Barber, he says he spent five of the best years of his life serving Canada aboard the HMCS Haida.
In 1950 Andy was a young 17 year guy with one of the best jobs in the world as an apprentice, working for the Canadian National Railway, learning to work with wood and steel. Andy says, “I was in the line-up one day to be paid and was moaning and groaning about the income taxes being taken off my cheque.
My friend suggested that the armed forces did not take tax off your pay. The day I turned 18 years old, I enlisted. Two weeks later I got paid, with income taxes coming off my paycheque! I could have strangled my friend, Archie!” However, his future had been decided. Andy Barber was off to war.
Like most returning veterans, a lot of things have happened since Andy’s return from duty. “I traveled all around the world and ended up marrying a gal who lived three streets away, right here in Oakville, and have two daughters who are both successful in business. I got my through all the emotional and drinking hang-ups that were problems on my return from duty. I have a lovely wife whose father was a decorated hero in World War 11 and she understood the challenges I faced and got me through all of that stuff. Family is wonderful. Everything has turned out very well for an old guy like me.”
Andy Barber is still very involved with the HMCS Haida as President of the Haida Association. The Haida is now a National Historic site, anchored at Pier 19 in Hamilton. The Haida welcomes visitors and offers the opportunity for each one of us to feel and understand a part of our heritage – according to Andy, it is “Touching and walking a piece of history”.