Lewis Duddridge has spent almost his entire life serving his country. Now it’s his turn to be served.
The 97-year-old Second World War veteran will receive a very special award on Remembrance Day, marking more than 70 years of continuous membership in the Royal Canadian Legion.
Born in Hanley, Sask., Duddridge and his brother, Len, traded the fields of their family farm for their wings and headed overseas to fly in the war.
While in Great Britain, Duddridge flew a Lancaster bomber and his brother flew a fighter plane. “He was a fantastic Spitfire pilot,” Duddridge said of Len.
There’s another reason to celebrate this year: Duddridge’s 71st wedding anniversary with his wife, Hilda, whom he met during the war.
He was forced down in a small airport and while he was waiting to be cleared to fly out again, a group of girls caught his attention. “I was able to talk with this one I admired and made a date for that Friday night … Six months later we were married.”
A twist of fate, he said, was that “she was bombed out of her home a few days before I met her.”
The honeymoon was short-lived for the two, as Duddridge was assigned to begin training to fight in the Japanese campaign. He didn’t see her for almost a year and while he was away she gave birth to their first child.
“They wouldn’t allow her passage (to Canada) until the baby was a certain age,” he said. But once they had all settled back in Saskatchewan after the war their little family grew to three sons and one daughter.
It was back in Saskatchewan, that Duddridge started really getting involved with the Royal Canadian Legion and even established Hanley’s first branch, serving as its president.
He helped establish a number of branches in the Prairies before moving to Vancouver Island about 20 years ago.
“That was my major accomplishment, helping to form new branches,” he said.
After a brief stay in Sidney, the two put down roots in Langford, where they still live today.
While he said he isn’t as active in his role at the Langford Branch of the Legion, due to his age, his presence has been noticed. He said he has always donned his uniform and marched with the local branch when the opportunity presented itself.
He is proud to be a member and even more so with the contributions Canada made to the First and Second World Wars.
“I am a proud, proud Canadian,” he said.