For young Alf Grubb of Teeswater, World War 2 was not about a wild adventure abroad – it was about commitment to Canada. In 1943 he joined the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE), to train for some of the most dangerous work in the Army.
Basic training for soldiers in Southwestern Ontario was at Camp Listowel – long hours of marching, running, weapons handling and ‘pushing the envelope’. Camp Listowel must have seemed like a long way from the family farm in Culross Township!
From Listowel, Alf was off to Camp Petawawa to Engineers School and trades training in sheet metal work. Completion of his trades training saw Alf’s pay packet swell by 10 cents to a round dollar a day!
No time to waste – there was a war on after all – Alf shipped west to Suffield, Alberta for chemical warfare training, then after a brief return to Petawawa, it was off on the train to Nova Scotia to await a troop ship to Europe!
As Alf was landing in Liverpool, Canadian soldiers were storming ‘Fortress Europe’ at Normandy, so with not much more than a quick cup of tea he was off again, joining the Canadian Army as it fought its’ way through northern Europe.
Building Bailey Bridges in the dark and then tearing them out at daylight became routine – a full night’s sleep a rare treat. Alf helped in the liberation of Holland and experienced the battles of Nijmegen and Arnhem (made famous by Cornelius Ryan’s book ‘A Bridge Too Far’) before the Canadian Army turned south into the heart of Nazi Germany. Ironically throughout the entire campaign the closest Alf came to his sheet metal training was soldering bullet holes in truck radiators!
With the surrender of Germany Alf ‘signed on the line’ for the Japanese campaign and was whisked back to Canada for more training. As luck would have it he arrived on Canadian soil just in time for Japan’s surrender, so instead of learning tropical warfare and jungle hygiene it was off to the demobilization centre in Toronto for an even tougher challenge – back to his ‘regular’ job in Galt!
Three years is a long time to commit your life to, but it was a commitment Alf accepted on behalf of Canada. At the 11th hour of the 11th day Alf will pause with the rest of us and remember those he trained and served with who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we all enjoy today.
Thank You, Alf!
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Alf Grubb and John Wocks established Buddsteel Architectural Products Ltd. in 1980. Upon John’s retirement in 1990, Alf took over the business and continues to actively oversee all of the company’s daily operations.