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.

December 10, 1941

Off to St. Leonard’s twin city adjoining Hastings.  Scene of last enemy invasion by William the Conquerer 1066.

He also noted at this time that there was real danger in these sea areas of encountering German invaders.  As he said: “We trusted in God and kept the powder dry.”

Ecumenical spirit was unavoidable and natural; “To meet our lads, had to mingle with thousands of non-Catholics because of the lack of privacy.  Had to sit on an army cot and read my Breviary prayers and non-Catholics were reverently silent.  I would tell non-Catholics hours of Service in Protestant Churches.  Attendance at Mass and the Sacrements better than at Camp Borden.”

Settling in at St. Leonard’s Father Mike kept a detailed journal.  How better to get an accurate feeling of the time and place and the spiritual climate than to quote directly from his words.

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