SOUTH RIVER – George Carpenter of South River knows that if his father were still alive today he would have experienced one of the proudest moments of his life on Saturday night.
George picked up the only posthumous award at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal presentations on Aug. 25 at the Algonquin Theatre in Huntsville on behalf of his father Horace Carpenter. Parry Sound Muskoka MP Tony Clement and MPP Norm Miller presented the medal after the Township of Machar put the recommendation forward.
Horace, who was most commonly known as Ray, was nominated because, after 42 years of service between the Royal Navy and the Canadian Army, he dedicated his time educating school children from Kindergarten to high school each Remembrance Day.
Ray passed away on March 30 of this year. He was 89 years old.
George says his father began visiting schools on Remembrance Day many years ago and his visiting grew from South River to other locations including Scollard Hall in North Bay and Huntsville High School.
He and some other veterans headed out to the schools together but over the years Ray was the only one left.
A photograph of Ray hangs inside South River Public School to this day.
“He took a lot of pride in doing it,” said George. “He just talked about his experiences, answered questions. He had served on quite a few ships so he took pictures of the ships that he served on.”
Ray was in the British Navy during the Second World War and was involved with the sinking of the Bismarck.
“He really enjoyed it. He felt obligated to share his knowledge so that people wouldn’t forget,” he said.
George says his father would have been very proud and very humbled.
Ray was born in Plymouth, England in 1922 and joined the Navy as a boy of 15.
A year later action with Germans broke out and Ray was involved from the very beginning.
Ray never talked about the war experience to his own family until after a life-altering experience.
He was a survivor of one ship that sank and he traveled to England for a reunion and met up with the son of a fellow survivor who had passed away. The son asked Ray what his father had done in the war.
“(Ray) realized at that point that if he didn’t talk about these things with the people close to him that it would leave questions,” George said. “When he came home from that trip he was changed. He did talk about some of his experiences and that became quite important to him.”
He began to impart that knowledge, not only of his experiences but also of the impacts of war and the effects of survivors and family left behind.
This was quite a change from before when he, like so many other veterans, were tight-lipped about the events of war.
“It was just something that he didn’t feel he wanted to talk about,” said George. “I think the horror of war, in some instances, you want to protect people from those sort of things. You see things that typically wouldn’t be great coffee table talk.”
Ray realized with that one conversation that that son had no knowledge of any of his experience.
“I had felt very similar until Dad came back and told me what had happened over there and then he started to talk about some of his own personal experiences,” he said. “It leaves a hole, it’s part of somebody’s immediate past that they took part in but never talked about, you wonder why.”
Ray immigrated to Canada in 1950 and joined the Canadian Army.
“He was a man of service,” he said. “He came from a family where the British Navy was the service that everybody joins.”
George says when Ray came to Canada and joined the army it was family first.