For the late Cavan veteran Clarence Munro, joining the Armed Forces in Halifax in 1939 was the best option available. At sixteen years of age, he had lost his parents and was supporting himself with the occasional casual work paying $1 for a ten-hour shift. The Canadian Armed Forces were offering secure wages of $30 per month, plus food, shelter and clothing. It was an easy decision.
Bill Bellinger who now resides in Bailieboro, was in a different situation, holding down a well-paying job in Toronto, when on his way to work one day he decided to enlist. His armed forces career began at the Fort York Armory located near the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) grounds in Toronto, followed by further training at Camp Borden. Bellinger’s unit was eventually relocated to Britain in 1940 and finally to Italy in November 1943 as part of the 11th Infantry Brigade, 5th Canadian Armoured Division. He was joined in the unit by his younger brother, and they were one of several pairs of siblings in the unit from across the province.
Before his departure overseas, Bill married one of his work colleagues. He admits that he kept his wife in the dark during his army days to reduce her anxiety about his circumstances, writing home that things were fine and he was having a great adventure.
There was adventure, just as the recruitment posters promised, but not the desirable kind. While Munroe and Bellinger joined the war effort for different reasons, these WWII veterans agreed that there were no words that could adequately describe their war experience. Both of them spent some time in the Allied campaign in Italy fighting battles that were waged uphill as their opponents rained the artillery down on their heads. For obvious reasons, these gentlemen have preferred to push all memories of that period of their lives from their minds, if that is even possible.
Bellinger returned from the war to join the Equipment department for the City of Toronto, ending his career in 1980 as head of a department of 500 staff. Shortly after, he and his wife moved to their Bailieboro farm, where he remains today.
When he describes himself as the “luckiest man on earth,” you understand he is thinking about his wife Cheryl who died in 1983 shortly after their move to the country. Now 98 years of age, he starts his day at 7 am hitting the barn by 8 am to do some chores. These days there are only a few “banty” chickens and some kittens to feed, but it’s important for him to keep active, and he has a number of moves up his sleeves. He demonstrates his dance skills at Millbrook legion events such as Pub Sundays with his daughter or niece. Whether he is at a local legion event or at one in Peterborough, he is a popular attendee known for his quick smile and enthusiasm for life. It is a testament to his strength of character that he continues to spread joy and laughter, effectively putting behind him the unthinkable horrors he came through serving his country. We thank him for both. KG