Langley soldier, 101, receives service medals nearly 75 years after Second World War

John Andrew McLellan hold his World War II service medals. The 101-year-old received his medals 74 years after the end of the war. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)
John Andrew McLellan’s World War II Soldier’s Pay Book. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)
Scott MacMillan, Cloverdale Legion president, pins medals on John Andrew McLellan’s chest Oct. 23. When the 101-year-old received the medals everyone in the Legion gave him a standing ovation. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)
John Andrew McLellan’s World War II service medals: the France and Germany Star (left) and the 1939-1945 War Service Medal. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)
John Andrew McLellan hold his World War II service medals. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)
John Andrew McLellan was an elite athlete in his day. Here McLellan is seen (at right) after he was crowned the Inter Services Boxing Champ for 1941. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)
John Andrew McLellan poses for a photo in the early ’40s when he was stationed in Winnipeg. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)
Scott MacMillan, Cloverdale Legion president, pins medals on John Andrew McLellan’s chest Oct. 23. When the 101-year-old received the medals everyone in the Legion gave him a standing ovation. (Photo Courtesy Don McLellan)

It took 74 years, but John Andrew “Dutch” McLellan finally received his World War II medals.

McLellan was awarded his hardware at a ceremony Oct. 23 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Cloverdale.

“Dad was feeling really great that night,” said Don McLellan, John’s son.

Don said his dad appreciated that so many family members and others showed up to witness a ceremony 74 years in the making.

“He was pretty proud to receive the medals and he has them on his coffee table,” said Don. “Someone asked him after the ceremony what he thought about all this and he said, ‘I wonder why it all happened.’ They asked, ‘do you mean the ceremony?’ He answered ‘no, why the war had to happen?’”

Don was also glad to see so many people there, both family and others. “A lot of times the veterans get forgotten.”

But it was no clerical error that prevented John from receiving his medals, he just never applied for them.

“He’s just that type of person,” Don said. “He said to me when I asked him, ‘I never applied for them because I was just doing my job.’”

John may not have received his medals at all had the family not inquired to see if John was eligible for a veteran’s pension.

Don said his dad was in the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. “He suffered some hearing loss because of his (service), so we thought he would definitely qualify for a veteran’s pension.”

As they inquired about the pension, they contacted the Cloverdale Legion. That’s when Earl Fraser, the Legion’s service officer, paid John a visit.

“I went to his house to visit him and see if we could get him a disability pension from Veterans Affairs Canada.”

Fraser asked John where his war medals were.

“Awe, I never got them,” John said. “But it doesn’t matter.”

Fraser then told John he should apply for them, even if it was just something John’s children would appreciate.

“I don’t want you to leave today,” Fraser told John, “but when you do go, your boys can have them.”

John agreed. “He said, ‘Okay, that sounds pretty good.’”

So Fraser and Don looked through John’s old WWII Soldier’s Service and Pay Book.

“It said in the book that he qualified for some medals,” said Don.

That’s when things got interesting for Fraser. He called Veterans Affairs Canada in Ottawa and spoke to someone in the Honour & Awards Section.

“I gave him all John’s info and he got back to us later saying John was eligible for two medals,” said Fraser.

Don said his dad was surprised he would be receiving medals 74 years after the war.

Fraser said the ceremony at the Cloverdale Legion was well-attended.

“It was awesome,” said Fraser. “John was very proud of those medals. He earned them.”

Fraser also said John looks great for being a centenarian.

“Nobody could believe his age. At 101, he looks like he could be 80.”

When Scott MacMillan, Legion president, pinned the medals on John’s chest everyone in the Legion gave John a standing ovation.

“I got goosebumps,” said Fraser. “There were tears. It was amazing. Not only was there a lot of his family members, but there was also a lot of members in the Legion that night.”

Thirty-one family members attended the ceremony, which included John’s children and their spouses, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

In total, John has nine children, 24 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren.

John was born in Antigonish, Nova Scotia in 1918, less than six weeks before the guns in Europe fell silent for the world’s first Armistice Day.

John was the youngest of five children and his mother passed away of pulmonary tuberculosis when John was two years old.

“Dad was sent to live in Vancouver when he was six,” said Don. “He went to St. Patrick’s until he finished Grade 9, then he was off to work.”

John was a sports enthusiast, according to Don, participating in lacrosse, football, and boxing. “He lost his spleen to the butt end of a lacrosse stick.”

Don said his dad then signed up with the army and was sent to Vernon for basic training.

“That’s where he met my mother. She waited for three years for him to come back [from the war]. They had six boys and then adopted a girl who was a foster child. They then had two more girls. Mom passed away five years ago this November 12.”

John served in Operation Cottage, part of the Aleutian Islands campaign, in 1943. Both Canadian and American forces landed on Kiska Island only to find the Japanese had already left. But due to mines, vehicle accidents, and friendly fire—both Canadian and American forces mistook each other for Japanese troops—the landing accrued 313 casualties, 92 dead and 221 wounded.

John then went to Europe and was part of the force that invaded the German-held Netherlands.

The two medals John received are the France and Germany Star and the 1939-1945 War Service Medal.

“He is like a lot of soldiers,” said Don. “They don’t want to talk about (the war) much. In the past he talked a bit about the people of (The Netherlands). He said they were very good to the Canadian soldiers. He would have liked to have gone back and visited them, but it never happened.”

The Cloverdale Legion invited John to lay a wreath at the cenotaph in Veterans’ Square on Remembrance Day, but John declined. He lives in Langley and has been attending the Remembrance Day ceremony in Fort Langley for the last six years. John plans to continue on with that tradition again this year with his family.

“He said, ‘Thank you for the honour, but I just want to be with my family again this year.’”

Don’s brother Terry lives in Fort Langley and John likes the town and the Remembrance Day service there.

“It’s a smaller community,” Don said. “The service is very well attended and feels more like a family atmosphere.”

Don said the McLellans always head out for lunch afterwards.

“My brother Terry has been phoning ahead this year to try to confirm numbers. Last year, he made a reservation for lunch for 24 people, but 28 showed up.”

Don said it’s going to be another big year for a big family. He said John can’t wait.

“He loves being with his family, going to the ceremony, and then going out with everyone after.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Black History Month: Documentary sheds light on black pioneers’ role in Victoria

Secret Victoria: Rush to Freedom looks at how a mass migration shaped the capital

Hundreds of wax figures find new life in Saanich man’s home

Former director of Victoria’s Royal London Wax Museum still hopes to revive wax figure tourism

Oak Bay wins Vancouver Island basketball championship

Third-place NDSS will get to challenge second place Claremont for a berth in provincials

Peninsula Eagles will host Midget T2 provincial championships

Provincial championships will take place at Panorama Recreation March 15 to 19

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

Stecher, Miller each add three points for Vancouver

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay Victoria man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

Most Read