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Written by PETER RICHARDSON
For many today, the Second World War is a distant memory. Something they read about in history class, or hear about ,once a year, on November 11th. The fact that it changed the face of the world and affected our history for decades after it ended, 73 years ago, in 1945, is often lost in the day to day of living in the modern world.
Youth today never had to endure the hardships of war as they grew up. Never had to wonder if their fathers would come home again or if their homes would still exist tomorrow. They never had to listen to foreign voices telling them what they could and could not do, nor did they have to endure life in servitude to the Nazi regime that spread across half the known western world and beyond. Today, there are fewer and fewer surviving veterans from that war to end all wars. Ninety-seven-year-old Steve Chamula, however, is one.
Born in Detva, in Slovakia, on May 26th, 1921, he would bear witness to his whole world being changed forever, in a few short years. In 1939, at the age of 18, Steve received permission to come to Canada, with the proviso, that he must return for his military service. Little did he realize, at the time, that it would not be in the Slovakian military. Within two weeks, Steve had a job, new friends and money in his pockets. Life was good in Port Colbourne, Canada. However, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi's had by now invaded Steve's homeland and he could not return.
In 1943, he enlisted in the Canadian army, because he felt it was the “right thing to do”. He was not a Canadian citizen and in fact, was not even naturalized until after he was in the army. He did his basic training in Brantford, Ontario and then more advanced training at Camp Borden. From Camp Borden, Steve went to Halifax, where he shipped out to Scotland aboard the SS Mauritania. After crossing the Atlantic and landing in Glasgow, the troops took a train to Aldershot Barracks, Aldershot, England. By now, Steve was Private Chamula, with the 48th Highlanders. He would remain a Private throughout the war. He felt this was primarily due to his poor English language skills, but really was unconcerned about it.
In 1944, Steve and the rest of his Regiment, sailed a long and evasive journey to Naples, in Italy, where they were to be a part of the Italian Campaign, as the 1st Infantry Brigade, part of the 1st Canadian Division.
Within two or three weeks of his arrival, in Naples, the famous volcano, Mt. Vesuvius erupted, on March 18th, 1944 and destroyed several villages and a large portion of the American B25 bomber aircraft at the Pompei airfield. From Naples, Steve's regiment moved north, with the campaign where the young Private was wounded, in the neck, by shrapnel in Northern Italy. He was sent south, behind the lines, to recover in a field hospital, however, after a month, Private Steve Chamula returned to active duty with the Regiment. He was a participant in the, at first, ill-fated Lamone River crossing during Operation Chuckle in December of 1944 and crossed the Lamone with the 48th Highlanders to capture ground over the Fosso Vecchio.
The Canadians left Italy in 1945 to join the Canadian Army in Northwestern Europe. The war was now slowly coming to and end and the 1st Brigade and the 48th Highlanders participated in the liberation of the Netherlands. Steve Chamula was in Holland at the end of the war and volunteered for the Occupational Forces in Germany, where he served with the Queens Own Rifles, for six months, until his return to Canada, in 1946. Steve then became, finally, a Canadian citizen.
Steve returned to doing auto body repair, at a garage, in Toronto and in 1948, he married Antoinette. The couple had three sons. Steve continued to work as a bodyman, until he retired. The couple lived on a farm near Shelburne where Steve built a house and made a home, for his family. His wife passed away 12 years ago, from complications from Alzheimers disease and Steve now lives in Shelburne, where he is active in the community and in particular, the Legion.
Although he did not remain in touch with his war comrades, Steve has vivid memories of his time in the Second World War and of the changes it exacted upon the world. Today, we are facing many of the same dangers that led to the what was supposed to be, “the last great war” and we are fast losing the men and women who could best remind us, of the results, of steps mistaken. As their numbers dwindle at each passing Remembrance Day Celebration, we are best served by remembering their sacrifices and their heroism for our freedoms and their reminder, Lest We Forget!
Post date: 2018-11-08 14:51:05
Post date GMT: 2018-11-08 19:51:05
Post modified date: 2018-11-15 12:11:27
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