In 1939, at the outbreak of WWII and seven years after having been ordained to the priesthood, Rev. Michael Joseph Dalton (May 5, 1902 - April 6, 2009) volunteered to join the Essex Scottish Regiment of the Canadian Army.

Although he could have avoided front line service due to his age and position, he insisted that it was his duty to serve. Father Mike saw active duty in England, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany.

Father Mike was known to work on the front lines of military combat and often marched with his men, carrying their weapons when they grew fatigued. He was known to drive his jeep, often against orders, to the front lines of combat in order to hear confessions

Saying Mass until his death - just one month shy of his 107th birthday - Father Mike was believed to have been the oldest Catholic priest in Canada and Canada's oldest surviving serviceman from World War II. Father Mike kept a war diary documenting his service during the years 1939-1946. In 1979 he donated it to the National Archives of Canada.

Please join me as I transcribe his writings online.

March 11, 1942

Study Club meeting at St. Thomas Church, St. Leonards.  Attended Hockey finals at Brighton.  2nd Division Camerons of Winnipeg defeat RCAMC.

March 10, 1942

2nd Division Chaplains meet at Healthfield.  Visited R. Reg. C. at Eastbourne.  Heard confessions of RCE at Battle, where William the Conqueror fought decisive battle over Harold 1066.

March 9, 1942

Gave HQ Company Lucky Strikes, American Cigarettes - are rare - so one to each.  I have now given to men of brigade over 50,000 ($1117.50 in Canadian money).  These cigarettes came from friends in Windsor and elsewhere.

Evening about 9:30:

I was answering mail accompanied by the roar of the channel.  Suddenly windows shake violently, siren hadn’t sounded.  It must be a sea battle.  Concussion travels many miles.  It reminded us of the noisy days at Aldershot during Battle of Britain.  It’s a good thing to hear these bombs.  Some never hear them and will never again hear with mortal ears.

“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave.
Await alike the inevitable hour,
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”
 ~ General Wolf

Sunday, March 8, 1942

Easter Duty Communion.
All companies parade to St. Thomas Church - St. Leonards for Mass and Communion.  About 120 Essex Scots attend.  About half went to Communion.  Two priests hear confessions during Mass.  Father O’Donahue preaches on confession.  “Fools who came to scoff, remained to pray.”  - Holy Name Pledge repeated.

Tea and cakes served by ladies.  Pamphlets distributed, such as Atlantic Charter and God and the War.

Many a  Prodigal Son made a home run on this historic day.  Many a lost sheep strayed into the confessional.  “RCs” in every platoon helped to get them out.  At the end of a perfect day the Padre breaths a fervent “Deo Gratias.”

March 7, 1942

“C” Company Party - Roll out the barrel.  Snow drops, and crocuses bloom in spite of the frost.

March 6, 1942

Many officers and NCO’s go home to instruct.  Young blokes get lonesome.  Big scheme Friday near Horam - weather cold - Manoeuvres hot.

March 5, 1942

All officers of Brigade and many of Division meet at RHLI to pay tribute to Brigadeer Topp who is going home.  He expressed thanks for loyalty of officers.  Brigade Lett replaces him.