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.

In The Service - Of God

Total War Diary: Introduction to Service
Father Mike Dalton was stretching his long limbs, down Goyeau Street, in a very brisk walk.  As he approached the Windsor-Detroit tunnel his thoughts were soaring along on his recent decisions, and at times, he was already on a ship bound for England.

Listening daily to radio reports, the Germans concentrated on Poland’s border, August of 1939, he realized these were not just war games.  When England declared War September 1, 1939, he waited a few days until Canada declared War and then shot off a note to Bishop Kidd.

September 1, 1939

Your Excellency,

If you are called upon to furnish Chaplains for the Service, I shall be ready - on land or sea or air.

Yours in Christ,
Mike Dalton

As he strode along to keep an appointment he turned over his decision.

For these demanding times, life as an assistant of St. Alphonsus, Windsor, Ontario, Canada, was too comfortable.  Under the shadow of the brilliant flame of truth of the red sanctuary lamp, he volunteered his own sacrifice, little or big.

Very busy with his thoughts, he ran into his brother Walter who was hurrying out of the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel.  With no preliminaries, no nonsense about him, Walter blurted out:

“Don’t you know that War is near?  Why don’t you enlist?”

Father Mike answered: “My father at eighty-two years may not like my running away from him.”

Walter Retorted, testily: “Live your own life.”

Father Mike’s decision had been made but he wanted his brother’s reaction before he told his Dad.

In a few weeks Major Rev. T. McCarthy of Sarnia took him to Colonel Art Pearson to pledge loyalty to go anywhere on earth as a Chaplain.

No comments:

Post a Comment