K-W Record, Vet Inspiration For Bronze

September 13, 2002, K-W Record, Cheri Greeno


Sculpture way of honouring Dieppe heroes
SEPTEMBER 13, 2002

As she stared down at her hero laying sleepily in a hospital bed, Jane Hook knew it was the right time to ask.

If she didn’t, how would her friend, the man she calls her Uncle Hal, be remembered?

“I love you,” she whispered to him. “I’m torn about asking you this because I know how hard the war was on you.”

But as he looked back at her, Hook mustered the confidence to ask what she had wanted to ask for the past few months.

May I sculpt you?

“Many people don’t see these frail old men as the heroes they are,” said Hook, a part time sculptor and clinical social worker in the community mental health clinic at Cambridge Memorial Hospital. She also has a practice in psycho-therapy in Cambridge and is a student at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto.

“You see them walking down the street and don’t associate hero with frailty,” she said.

But Hook knew the story of this 87-year-old Guelph man, a long time family friend. She had been told of his nightmares and his flashbacks. She has even heard him cry on the days his mind won’t let him forget the battle in Dieppe.

“I wanted to honour him,” Hook said.

And so she asked if she could memorialize him by sculpting him. To her surprise, Harold (Hal) Wright agreed and began posing once he recovered from a stroke and was released from hospital.

They met once a week for six weeks and the result was a 23-inch tall bronze sculpture of a war vet. It will be placed in Toronto’s Fort York Regimental Museum – just one way to remember those who fought in the worst massacre against Canadian soldiers during the Second World War.

This weekend, other local Dieppe vets will be remembered as they march through the streets of Cambridge to take part in the annual Warrior’s Day Parade. The theme of this year’s parade is the battle of Dieppe, which took place 60 years ago.

“We want to honour the remaining Dieppe vets,” said Pat Baker, president of Preston Legion Branch 126. “It is the legion’s responsibility to educate people to never forget what these people have done for us.”

The Aug. 19, 1942 raid on the French costal port of Dieppe involved 6,100 troops – 4,963 of them Canadian, the rest British commandos and a handful of American Rangers.

The idea was to test German defenses.

It turned into a disaster for Canadian troops, leaving 907 dead and injuring 586. Another 1,946 were taken prisoner.

Well-known Cambridge resident David Mulholland, a retired Royal Marine captain, was shot twice in his right leg and once in his left arm as he tried to beat German gunmen.

“They never healed,” he said as he takes his finger and traces the white scar mark on his arm. “But I’m alive.”

When asked what he’ll be thinking about Saturday during the parade, Mulholland has to pause. He stares at the pavement in front of the Preston Cenotaph and sighs.

“I’ll be thinking about the bodies laying on the beach. I’ll be thinking of the people who didn’t come back.

“I was lucky.”

Yesterday, local legion presidents raised a French flag at the Preston Cenotaph in honour of those who were killed.

Today, Mulholland will help hand out commemorative bronze medallions to Dieppe vets or their family members during a gala evening at the Preston Legion.

The parade will be held tomorrow.

But like most services held to honour war vets, Capt. Harold Wright won’t be attending.

He’d rather not remember what he’s trying so hard to forget – the bullet wound to his head, the hours spent floating hopelessly in the water, his friends wrapped in blankets.

“He never attends them (services),” said his wife, Vivian. “And he never watches shows at the theatre with war in them.”

The parade starts at 11a.m. at the intersection of Bishop and King streets. About 2,000 people are expected to take part, including 17 military bands.