A few years ago, I lived in Italy. I received a letter from a gentleman from my community back home, who heard I was in Rome. Cecil Elliott had fought with the Canadian Army in the Italian Campaign (see also CBC archive), and wanted to know if I could find out for him the burial place for two of his friends, who had fought with him. I contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and when I came home that Christmas, I was able to pass the information along.
Cecil didn’t really want to talk about the war; but he did want to talk about Italy, and Italians – he had a love of Italy that shone through. He recounted how once, as his platoon walked into a hill-top town, and Italian man came walking along towards them. Behind him, his black-clad wife, carrying a tub of potatoes on her back. Cecil’s comrades picked the tub up from his wife, and held the man until he picked up the tub, and carried it himself.
We talked for a couple of hours. Cecil told me how after the war, while he was at the creamery at Stark’s Corners one day, the men were all puzzled by what a ‘DP’ was trying to tell them – a displaced person. Cecil recognized the language as Italian, and began speaking with the man, forming a fast friendship that lasted for the next couple of years, until the man moved on.
Cecil was typical of the men around here, loving a practical joke. When they were forming up in England, he and ‘some other Pontiac lads’ used to tell the rest of the men how it took them three days by dogsled and canoe, just to get to the recruiting office!
Cecil passed away a few years ago, but on this Remembrance Day, I remember him.