I went to a high school reunion recently, a fabulous opportunity for reflecting on the meaning of life and all that jazz. I was even called upon to host a couple of events.
Kelvin High School in Winnipeg has been around for a hundred years. I graduated in 1965. My daughter used to say “that must have been when dinosaurs roamed the earth”.
Us grads from the 1960’s were definitely the largest group at the reunion, but I was sorry that Kelvin’s greatest hero was not able to attend.
If you have a little finder tag on your car keys, you might be familiar with the name Cliff Chadderton. Until he finally retired at the age of 92, Cliff was CEO of the War Amps of Canada.
He graduated from Kelvin in 1936 and became a journalist. He was also a promising hockey player, but he gave it all up in 1939 to join the Royal Winnipeg Rifles.
Cliff’s war ended near the Leopold Canal in Holland in 1944, when a German grenade cost him his right leg below the knee. He has been in constant chronic pain now for 67 years, but he could almost never be described as disabled.
He has been a tireless campaigner for the rights of Canada’s veterans, and he turned the War Amps in a whole new direction helping children adjust to the loss of a limb.
In recent years, Cliff Chadderton the journalist also resurfaced as producer of some memorable documentaries about Canada’s wartime heros.
The series was appropriately titled Never Again. One of the programs was The Boys of Kelvin High. It told the story of his classmates who served in Bomber Command, and never came home.
I used to have the pleasure of talking to Cliff fairly often on the radio, sometimes directly from the battlefields of Europe on November 11th.
I will be forever grateful that my dad came home from that horrible war in one piece, and that I never had to face such a challenge, thanks to genuine heroes like Cliff Chadderton.
It was thanks to Cliff that I was honoured to receive the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal. He nominated me, and a number of other journalists, for helping to tell the stories of Canada’s veterans
They are stories that we must never forget.
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Roger Currie is a writer and broadcaster living in Winnipeg.