George Wastle would like to have returned to some of the places he served in as a private with the Canadian army in the Second World War.
While travelling overseas as a civilian has not materialized, the 93-year-old Colwood resident was reacquainted with France recently at the Prince Edward branch 91 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Langford.
Wastle was awarded a medal as recipient of the Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour for his contribution to the liberation of France during the war. All surviving Canadian veterans of the Allied campaign in the European country are being given the Legion of Honour.
“This is a very nice honour,” he told the Gazette in an interview. “I think it’s very good of France to do this. The French are good people.”
Wastle would have received his medal last year at the Langford Legion along with three other West Shore residents, but missed the notice requesting veterans to come forward.
Legion Branch 91 president Norm Scott said the organization is thrilled that Wastle was finally able to receive his award, one of five now received by veterans living on the West Shore.
“I would just like to congratulate George. It’s a great honour that all veterans of that campaign should have received a long time ago,” Scott said, adding that the awards have been “well-received” by those honoured.
A member of the 4th Infantry Brigade, Headquarters during the Second World War, Wastle was a driver given the important duty of getting officers where they needed to go. While he admitted he doesn’t think too much about his wartime experience these days, when asked to look back at Canada’s contributions he said, “I think we did very well; we did our part. Canadians were known as good fighters. We went over and did what we had to.”
He recalled that Canada’s force was known as a “volunteer army,” in that servicemen and women volunteered to go overseas. Wastle did so as a young man largely, “to see the world, really.”
While serving, his unit “fought right through France and Holland and Belgium, and at the end we finished off in Germany. That felt good.”
He returned to his hometown of Winnipeg and kept in touch with some of the people he served with, but quickly lost contact, especially after moving to Victoria in 1973.
He worked for 15 years as a crane operator with Victoria Shipyards before retiring. While he likes Winnipeg as a city, he said, he has no regrets being where he is now.
“I like what my neighbour says, and he’s from Edmonton, ‘if you’re going to live in Canada this is the place to do it,’” Wastle said.
As for a desire to revisit some of the places he spent time in as a soldier, he said, “I would have liked to, but never had the money. Everything would be different now.”
Wastle received his medal on the same day that a handful of Legion members were recognized for years of service ranging from five up to 70 years.