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 29, 1940

Moving on to Brighton on the English Channel in the South, the company replaced a British front line guard duty for a few weeks.  The Colonel in charge requested Bob Paton, Protestant Chaplain, to be “Duty Officer” on night.

The Colonel’s office was connected to the Sea Coast by telephone.  Just before dawn he received a message.  “There ships were invading.”  He awoke all of 2nd Division, Eighteen thousand men to “Stand - By.”

It was daylight before they discovered the ships were three clouds on the horizon.  Was he embarrassed!

Next night Rev Dalton slept by the phone.  Two P.M. - Voice on the phone says: “Visibility less than two miles.”  The Padre’s reply: “My bed less than two feet.”  And he crawled back out of the bitter, damp cold.  There was not enough coal, the miners were in the army.

Father often said Mass in a vacant Brewery.  At Rye he said Mass in a Convent Chapel.  After Mass a big Irish Mother Superior called him out of the Sanctuary.  “That’s enough prayers.  The breakfast eggs were laid yesterday.” (As eggs were seldom in their rations, here words were a blessing.)

No comments:

Post a Comment