THOMAS KERVIN PHOTO Dennis Flannigan, Royal Canadian Navy veteran, and George Kearey, a veteran from the British Armed Forces, are both involved in Royal Canadian Legion’s Branch 237 in Port Hardy.

THOMAS KERVIN PHOTO Dennis Flannigan, Royal Canadian Navy veteran, and George Kearey, a veteran from the British Armed Forces, are both involved in Royal Canadian Legion’s Branch 237 in Port Hardy.

Veterans reminisce their service to the nation as Remembrance Day draws closer

Two veterans share their stories as they commemorate those who served during the First World War.

On August 4, 1914, Great Britain, and all of its colonies and dominions which included Canada, declared war on Germany. Two veterans sat down reminiscing about family history involving the Great War, mostly about stories involving their fathers or uncles. This Remembrance Day marks one hundred years since the end of the First World War and the veterans talk on the importance of remembering those who served.

One British veteran’s story, who’s made Port Hardy his home

One veteran, George Kearey, who served in the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, mentioned his father and uncle enlisted early in the First World War. In fact, the two answered the call to duty within the same month the war had started. The two men were sent as part of the units in what was the initial waves of Allied engagements.

Kearey, who wrote in “Tale of Two Brothers,” to the Gazette back in 1996, had said his family George and William (or Willie) Kearey immediately enlisted into the Great War. George “found himself in the machine gun regiment,” Kearey wrote, “He was in France within two months serving with the Royal Scots. He earned a battlefield promotion to lance corporal.” Kearey also recounted that George was injured and sent home within five months.

Willie, on the other hand, served in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer and was sent to the front lines. Kearey’s father was only 16 at the time of when he enlisted. Willie had joined as a private and “not as a boy soldier.” Kearey confirmed that, “yes, there were … boy soldiers and sailors up until quite recently and they bled just as good as adults.”

In what could be a humorous recollection, Kearey mentioned his father “was piggy backing a wounded Jock (a soldier in a Scottish regiment) when his suspenders broke (Willie Kearey’s). This to him was funny.” The Britishman-turned-Canadian citizen also added that “it sounds like a potential disaster. Three feet of mud, shells bursting all around, dodging from shell hole to shell hole with a wounded man on your back, your pants fall down and you are not even 20 years old.”

As with many soldiers who came back from the Great War, George “never said one word about his service.” But Willie had mentioned on occasion “the dirt, filth, and horror of the trenches. It is for fellows like these that we have a day of Remembrance on November the 11th,” Kearey noted.

During his experiences serving Britain, Kearey noted, “I was in the Royal Navy and I spent two years in that. And then I went into the Merchant Navy and I sailed the world, here there and everywhere.” He pointed out there was a lot more freedom in the British Merchant Navy than the Royal Navy or the Canadian Navy during his service.

In his most notable time spent in Britain’s military, Kearey was sent to Greece during its revolution. “We got out of that mess and then I just put in the time,” until he retired, got married and was hired for a regular job. He then decided to move to Canada shortly after his service.

Another longtime local served in the Navy during the Cold War

Dennis Flannigan, who served during the Cold War in the 1960s with the Royal Canadian Navy, gave his account of what it was like to serve. Flannigan joined in 1967 and “back then they still wore bell-bottom trousers and I think what they call the round rig,” he explained.

He noted the military branches were subsequently unified during his service. He noted after the unification into what is now called the Canadian Armed Forces there were many changes. The new “green uniform … many thought we were bus drivers,” he mentioned in slight humour. “I served on two destroyers, a submarine, and a sailing vessel,” he added, “but life at sea in peacetime, we periodically had to do patrols because of the Cold War.”

“On the West Coast, we had to be on the lookout for Soviet incursions into our waters. There was a time we were recalled and there was a Russian vessel – they called it a research vessel – but it was a spy vessel I’m sure.”

He then said that radar jamming equipment was working while they escorted the vessel in the Juan de Fuca Strait into Vancouver, BC. Flannigan mentioned it was close to the end of the year at the time and “this Russian came out and waved at me and said, ‘Happy New Year Canada!’” He had chuckled afterwards having shared that story.

He mentioned one of the many things he did during his service: “We were chasing drug smugglers. Of course, back in those days, we had to prepare for what we thought might be a conflict with the Russians,” Flannigan concluded in recollection of his days of service.

Remembrance Day, on Nov. 11, commemorates Canadian veterans, the men and women who served their country in the First and Second World War, the Korean War, and the conflicts Canadian Armed Forces participated thereafter. The ceremony in Port Hardy will be held at the cenotaph in Carrot Park near the waterfront, with the ceremony beginning at 11:00 a.m.

Correction: The Gazette would like to apologize for misspelling Dennis Flannigan’s surname, but has since updated the article to include the correct spelling.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Kearey Family photo William (Willie) Kearey, left, and George Kearey, right, enlisted in the Great War in August, 1914 when they were 16 and 18 respectively. The original photo was taken circa 1914 or 1915.

Kearey Family photo William (Willie) Kearey, left, and George Kearey, right, enlisted in the Great War in August, 1914 when they were 16 and 18 respectively. The original photo was taken circa 1914 or 1915.

Just Posted

U’mista Cultural Centre is closed to the public until further notice, as of Nov. 23, 2020. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
U’mista closed until further notice due to new restrictions

North Island on high alert against COVID-19

Port Hardy Rotary Christmas Float. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Rotary float returns to Port Hardy to spread much needed Christmas cheer

The Christmas Cheer Float is a festively decorated full-size semi-tractor.

Email letters to editor@northislandgazette.com and we will publish online and in print.
LETTER: Fish farms boost North Island economy

“… our local jobs, local taxation revenue, and the like will disappear!”

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the project site in Kitimat. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Brenda Schroeder thought she was reading it wrong when she won $100,000 from a Season’s Greetings Scratch & Win. (Courtesy BCLC)
New home on the agenda after scratch ticket win in Saanich

Victoria woman set to share her $100,000 Season’s Greetings lottery win

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested for refusing to wear mask at Kelowna Value Village

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Most Read