Ex Cadets connect with school children- #5 in a series
On Remembrance Day 2017, 7964 Don Bell (right) and 7530 Fletcher Thomson (left) (both Class of ’69) marched in the veterans’ contingent of the Ottawa parade. Upon dispersal, while they were on their way to the Veterans’ Lunch at the Chateau Laurier, a lady in the crowd gave each of them a letter written by a school child thanking them for their service, and asking questions about life in the Armed Forces. When they arrived at the lunch, they found more letters like these at their table.
After the lunch, Don noted that some of the letters had not been picked up. To avoid having the letters go unanswered, he canvassed classmates to write replies. Over the next few Issues, eVeritas will publish these letters and replies. Due to privacy and security concerns, only the students’ first names can be published.
We hope you enjoy reading the letters.
14 November 2017
Dear Piper and Brett,
Thank you for your letter, which I received on Remembrance Day just after marching in the parade with fellow veterans at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
My name is Fletcher Thomson and I grew up in Ottawa, Ontario and went to Nepean High School. After I finished high school, I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and attended College Militaire Royal in Saint-Jean, south of Montreal, and then the Royal Military College in Kingston where I studied Chemical Engineering. As an aircraft maintenance engineer, I was first posted to Chatham New Brunswick with 416 Squadron and the CF-101 Voodoo aircraft. Later on I worked on the CF-5 Freedom fighter aircraft at 434 Squadron in Cold Lake Alberta. I trained as a military parachutist and was responsible for technical aspects of parachutes and aircraft safety systems.
I was sent to Vietnam for six months in 1973 on the International Commission of Control and Supervision Vietnam (ICCS). The 1,160 personnel of the commission were from Canada, Hungary, Indonesia and Poland and our role was to monitor the cease-fire in South Vietnam as per the Paris Peace Conference. The Commission arranged the release and exchange of more than 32,000 prisoners of war. I was at a teamsite with another Canadian along with two officers from Hungary, Indonesia and Poland. During that time I did not get home but I did write lots of letters to my wife and family and was able to make a few phone calls home on a short wave radio link.
I am happy to say that we never had to fight a war. It was a bit like life in a schoolyard. We stood together with our allies whenever someone tried to bully any of us, and the bully finally decided that it was better not to start a fight at all.
I am retired now. It’s up to younger men and women to follow behind me, to learn how to do all the jobs in the Army, Navy and Air Force, and to be so good at their job that no enemy will ever want to start trouble. I hope that war never comes again, but if it does, it’s best to know what to do.
I wish you great success, and I hope you do something to make Canada even greater than it already is.
You asked what medals I have. There are three and the photo was taken on this year’s Remembrance Day Parade at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
- Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal (CPSM)
- The ICCS Service Medal
- The Canadian Forces’ Decoration is awarded to officers and Non-Commissioned Members of the Canadian Forces who have completed twelve years of service. Each bar recognized 10 additional years of service.
You asked how many soldiers fought in the war.
Over the course of the Second World War, from 1939 to 1945, more than 1.1 million Canadians served in the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force, and in forces across the Commonwealth. More than 44,000 lost their lives and 54,000 were wounded. My father was in the Royal Canadian Air Force during that war and he served in Canada training aircrew. I was born after the war ended.
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