By MPP Toby Barrett
“Finest of mortal friends I’ll not forget.
When war’s a faded memory in the land.”
F/Lt Peter Roberts
By MPP Toby Barrett
As we pledge, at this time of year, to remember the sacrifices made by those who fought on our behalf, two local books have arrived to help us do just that. These books are based on letters, diaries and war logs kept during both world wars.
Port Dover’s Nursing Sisters of World War I chronicles the memories of Minnie and Laurel Misner and field hospital service in Britain, Malta and France.
Flying Officer Ike Hewitt P.O.W. – War Memories bring to life what Ike – a Simcoe resident, age 97 – went through in prisoner of war camps from Dec. 18, 1941 to April 22, 1945.
Both books are chock-o-block with photographs and war log cartoons, letters and artwork. They truly bring to life previously little known stories of these local people during the war years.
With the outbreak of World War I, Port Dover sisters Minnie and Laurel Misner completed their training at Toronto Western Hospital School of Nursing – Minnie in 1908 and Laurel in 1916.
Minnie was assigned to Canadian field hospitals behind the lines in France. One hospital was bombed by the Germans in 1918 and Minnie was mentioned in a number of dispatches. For gallant service under fire, Minnie received the Royal Red Cross Medal from King George V and a framed certificate from Queen Alexandra.
Laurel Misner initially served at a military hospital in Malta. This hospital served allied forces in Gallipoli and the Dardinelles. Laurel was then assigned to operations in France and eventually ended up serving at the same hospital in Britain as her sister.
The field hospitals were often very primitive facilities. Almost everyone was housed in tents. These stretched in regular lines over an area of 20 acres. Minnie and Laurel Misner were a part of the very professional, efficient nursing staff of World War I. Although living under often very difficult circumstances, they knew their job and carried it out to the letter. The morale and good spirits of the hospitals were dependent primarily on the attitude and even-tempered nursing skills of the nursing sisters working in the wards.
The book about Ike Hewitt, and a previously-produced DVD, is one of survival as a prisoner of war during World War II.
Ike’s story is one of sharing the formidable danger and deprivation of three-and-a-half years of forced march and attempting to survive as a P.O.W. in Germany.
In great detail we learn of the destruction of Ike’s Manchester bomber over Brest, France, his bail out over the Bay of Biscay with a flaming parachute, and his pick-up by a German crew after floating for six hours.
The entries in Ike’s ‘War-time Log’ describe his years in various Stalags – his harsh treatment and his eventual escape – as well as bringing to life the camaraderie and common bond of those imprisoned.
Both books, written by war veteran Harry B. Barrett, have now been published by The Who Did It Club and are available at $20 each from area museums and bookstores – including Cayuga’s Neat Little Book Shop, Port Rowan’s A Book Shoppe, Simcoe’s Book Factory, Port Dover’s Tan Mar and Grand Trunk Station.