Les Gordon was in the Canadian military from 1959 until 1971. In that time he served in Germany

Les Gordon was in the Canadian military from 1959 until 1971. In that time he served in Germany

STORY AND VIDEO: East coast military veteran

In Prince Rupert, there are more than 70 members who belong to the Legion Branch 27. One of those members is Les Gordon




One day a year, Canadians pause and reflect on the service and sacrifice military members have given to the country either overseas or domestic.

In Prince Rupert, there are more than 70 members who belong to the Legion Branch 27. One of those members is Les Gordon, a humble Nova Scotian and a self-proclaimed land lover who wanted a bit of excitement in his early years.

“I was in the First Battalion of the Black Watch. It’s a Royal Highland Regiment of Canada until it was disbanded,” he said resting in his armchair digging deep into his military past.

He started in the Air Cadets when he was 13-years-old, too young to join, and when they discovered his age he was kicked out. Later, he joined the Royal Canadian artillery in the militia and did exercises with heavy anti-aircraft for two years.

All of his brothers were seamen, and his oldest brother was in the merchant navy during the Second World War.

“By that there I didn’t care much for the sea,” Gordon said. “I took a fancy to the military and it was good excitement so I went into the regular army in 1959 and I came out in 1971.”

Gordon served in Germany as tension built up between the Eastern and Western blocs during the Cold War.

In the divided country, he was stationed in Werl, part of the Western bloc that included the U.S., Canada and NATO allies. He was out doing maneuvers when Eastern Germany began to build the Berlin Wall. Soon after he was moved to be closer to that section.

“You weren’t too informed about anything to that nature of what was really going on. They just came along and said you’re going here and you’re going there,” he said.

There was one incident in Germany that stays with him today. His unit was doing a maneuver and they were on top of the tanks. Gordon had his rifle slung over his shoulder. As they were going through the brush, his rifle caught a branch and he was thrown off the tank and knocked out.

“When I woke up the tank was just going by the bottom of my feet,” he said shaking his head. “I came so close to losing two feet it was unbelievable and that was a 60 tonne tank.”

While in the military, Gordon toured many regions of Europe for training or peacekeeping efforts. For six months between 1967-68 he served in Cyprus, one of Canada’s longest overseas commitments.

The island is slightly smaller than Cape Breton, and only has a population of 800,000 people but when the country gained independence in 1960 tensions rose between two ethnic groups.

“We were right on the shores of the Mediterranean. That was a nice place but you never knew when anything was going to happen there. We were always on alert. You didn’t have much time to yourself. You never knew where you were going to be,” Gordon said.

He did a tour in Belgium, did winter warfare training in Norway and exercises with artillery on the shores of Lake Ontario. He also took part in combat training Tasmanians who travelled to Canada pursuing an officer title.

Between tours, he would return to Nova Scotia to his wife and three kids. He met his wife, Marie, in 1946 when she moved to Dartmouth and befriended his sister.

“At times it was hard, like when he went to Cyprus, our youngest was 13-days-old. Then the middle one didn’t know him when he came back. Our girl did because she was three-and-a-half-years-old,” Marie said.

In 1971, the military offered Gordon another posting in Germany but there was no schooling available for his children. Instead, he decided to turn down the posting and retire. The family moved back to Dartmouth from Gagetown and for the next few years he worked at the marine slipway.

As work started to dry up on the East Coast, he was drawn to the west. His brother-in-law said there was a lot of work in Prince Rupert, and so he packed up and the Gordon family moved there in 1975.

“When I first got here in 1975 I planned on working at the mill. When I got here on a Friday and then it was done for three months. I took a few little odd jobs,” he said.

Eventually, he found steady work at the grain elevator and after 20 years of work he retired.

Every year, Gordon goes to the Remembrance Day service. He hasn’t missed a service since the mid-40s other than when he was in Cyprus and Germany.

“Remembrance Day — most of it is sad. A lot of my buddies that I remember and was pallbearers for them both in Germany and in Gagetown and so on like that. They were very good friends and I miss them a lot,” he said adding that the service is a way to celebrate their life and he always has a little tottie for them.

 

Just Posted

Unionized longshore and port workers gather along Highway 16 on June 15 not crossing the picket line where Prince Rupert Solidarity Movement group protests the docking and unloading of the JPO Volans, a ship with Israeli designed technology and equipment. (Photo: K-J Millar/the Northern View)
Prince Rupert Solidarity Group pickets at port in protest

Demonstrations against the container ship JPO Volans lead into the second day to dissuade docking

BC Ferries has announced the welcoming back onboard of recreational travellers on June 15 after the provincial travel restrictions were lifted. (Courtesy of BC Ferries)
BC Ferries welcomes back recreational passengers

The ferries corp will relax mask-wearing in outdoor spaces

Nic Pirillo received $1,000 Youth WORK Apprenticeship Award presented to him by Erik Brooke and Catlin Chandler of Broadwater Industries, in front of the boat Pirillo built in his free time using newly acquired skills. (Photo: supplied)
Learning and earning with apprenticeship

Nic Pirillo graduated in 2020 and was awarded the Youth WORK Trades award

According to the BC Centre of Disease Control epidemiology mapping from May 30 to June 5, there was an increase of one case in the Prince Rupert area after a three-week stability of no new cases. (Image: supplied BC CDC)
Prince Rupert second dose vaccination clinic to run from June 14 to July 9

Volunteers needed for P.R. immunization clinic, recipients must register and cases back up to one

Capt. Portugal was getting into the festive spirit out working for the City of Prince Rupert and celebrating Seafest 2021, on June 12. During regular business hours Capt. Portugal is known as David Costa. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Searching out fun in the sun for Seafest 44

Families and friends can participate in weekend COVID-19 friendly activities

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers found that 56% of foundations and eye products contain high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Most Read