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.

March 3, 1942

Mass at 6:30 - Many attend these weekday Masses voluntarily in vestry of Anglican Church.  Some receive Communion.

Contacted many regarding Easter Duty.

March 2, 1942

Mass at 6:30 for men - Helped gardener at Grosvenor Gardens, St. Leonards.
Billeted in summer hotel - Grosvenor House Hostel, Roaring of Channel waves rocks us to sleep nightly.  One mile away is Hastings where William the Conqueror in 1066 made a successful invasion.  This was the last time, and it will be the last due to presence of the Flower of Canada’s gallant manhood.

March 1, 1942

Mass in vestry of Anglican Church for Essex Scottish.  Sweet strains of pipe organ at Protestant service assists our devotion.

Second Mass at St. Thomas Church - St. Leonards, for rally of all Catholics RHLI.  Two priests hear confessions during Mass.  Sermon on Prodigal son bears fruit.  RCAF also attend.  Tea and cakes served by ladies.  Dinner in men’s kitchen.  RHLI after giving smokes to Transport Section.

Benediction at “Chapel of Ease” - March comes in like a lamb - Weather mild - No bombs; no runs, no hits, no errors.

Canadian mail and parcels arrive today.

Total War

September 1939 -- till now, too busy making history to write about it.  This was during Battle of Britain and Battle of Atlantic.

Locations Since Enlistment

- Wrote to Bishop Kidd to enlist
- Commissioned as Captain of spiritual.  Called up dad to notify of my new field of labour.  My first funeral mass after ordination was mother in 1932.  My first funeral mass in uniform was Father R.I.P.
- Moved into East Windsor Barracks after Dad’s funeral, remained at St. Alphonsus Rectory previously.
- To Camp Borden tents
- Appointed Chaplain of 4th Brigade, including Essex Scottish, Royal Regiment of Canada Hamilton Light Infantry
- Embarked on S.S. “Empress of Austrailia”
- To Clyde, near Glasgow
- Brighton
- Back to Aldershot
- To Rye, Sussex
- Mountfield
- Camberley
- Suningdale near Ascot - Home of Count John McCormack, who sang for us often.
- Back to Rye, Sussex
- St. Leondard’s adjoining Hastings, scene of last enemy invasion of William Conqueror in 1066
- Uckfield
- Horam, in tents, cold
- Ashington near Horsham
- Isle of Wright - for special training in A.L.C. (Assault Landing Craft) - we found out later to perpare for Dieppe
- Fishbourne
- Fort Victoria at Yarmouth (Queen Victoria died here)
- Savoy amp near Fredwater, summer home of Tennyson.  Billeted in home of donator of Harmsworth Trophy.
- Back to Ashington
- Middleton at Bognor Regis, S. Sussex, Horsham, E. Grinstead, Billingshurst, Tillmanstone near Dover.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

I bind to myself today
The Power of God to guide me
The Wisdom of God to each me
The Eye of God to watch over me
The Ear of God to hear me
The Word of God to give me speech
The Hand of God to protect me
The Way of God to lie before me
The Shield of God to shelter me
the Host of God to defend me
Christ be with me, Christ in the front
Christ in the rear, Christ within me
Christ below me, Christ above me
Christ at my right hand
Christ at my left hand
Christ in the front
Christ in the chariot seat Christ at the helm
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me
Christ in every eye that sees me
Christ in every ear that hears me

Page 1 - Beginning of Diary

Major Michael Joseph Dalton, B.A, M.B.E
R.C. Chaplain to

4th Canadian Infantry Brigade - Comprising

4th Brigade Headquarters
Essex Scottish Infantry
Royal Regiment of Canada
Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
2nd Field Company Engineers R.C.E.
“B” Company Toronto Scots (Machine Gunners)
4th Brigade Workshop R.C.O.C.
No. 3 Laundry & Mobile Bath
11th Field Ambulance
No. 3 F. O. S.
Attached Troops
And Troops in Area

Note from Father Dalton

Pardon repetition of the personal pronoun I:

I didn’t know this would be published or I would have written “we” as the pope and others do.  But even then it would have been inaccurate description at times.

This is really not my Diary - I was just a spokesman or reporter of events.

Look up the Bible - Lots of I’s abound.

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.

October 16, 1941

Back to Rye again, flame throwers were on the beaches, ready to burn the blazes out of the enemy.  Bill Mills, non-Catholic lad found an abandoned bed spring here at a deserted summer beach site.  Father used it in the truck intil Germany; a bit more comfotable than his old canvas cot.

He visited daily the lads on guard duty on the cliffs and beaches.  It was cold and so were the barracks and makeshift shelters.

August 11, 1941

“Our stay at Camberly introduced us to the largest Officer Military training school in the Sanhurst Empire”, Father related later.

Sunningdale was close to Camberly, the 4th Bde. H.Q. and Ascot was a twenty minute walk.

Father Mike said “I bumped into Count John McCormack in a Franciscan Church.  He often sang for us.”  Later he was to add, “Just heard last week twenty five years later that Protestant soldiers galore were outside of that packed Church to hear him sing “Panis Angelicus” and “Sweet Sacrament Divine”, as we all assembled for Mass.

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.)

August 1, 1940 - England

The over night trip on the train down to Aldershot Military Barracks initiated the young men to reality.  The new Padre got under the seat to try and sleep on the dirty, cold floor but of course he couldn’t and wound up depressed and tired, with the rest of his lads as they marched with full packs from the train the next morning.  One bright spot is remembered.  The preschool children cheered them up along the road by saying: “Look at the Soldiers!”  A wee tot gave them a second look and said “Dem ain’t soldiers - dem’s Canadian.”  All in all the Canadian were accepted gratefully as saviours of the brave little fortress Isle.

July 31, 1940

To the voyager land is always a welcome sight, and as the boat docked at Clyde, glasgow, the Sergeants, men and officers joined in singing:
“I belong to Glasgow
Dear old Glasgow town.”


There was an air of anticipation.  Something exciting and adventurous was about to take place in their lives.  These young men had strange new feelings coursing through their veins.  One moment they were busy with longing thoughts of home, already it was - of Canada.  The next moment the feeling changed to anticipatory tingling, an anxiousness to get moving.  This is live, this is adventure, this is life - or death.  To be part of the big adventure was enough to make an eye wander over the horizon dreaming as many different thoughts as there were many different young men.  The new Army Chaplain’s thoughts were not too far off from the rest of his lads.  His thoughts too were more of the adventure than of the War peril.  For a farm boy who had never heard a train whistle until he took the train to Assumption College, Windsor 1916 at fourteen years of age, he could understand and enjoy the adventure and romance that a Regiment of one thousand young men of around twenty years were holding close to their hearts under their spanking new service jackets, and it gave them something to write home about.

Even the married soldiers, although more lonesome, bravely recorded glowing words of optimism, that their arrival would end war, as 2nd, Canadian Division was the only fully equipped Division that could travel on wheels in England.  England had more soldiers but their equipment was at Dunkirk, France.

No sub-marines appeared enroute but they were there.  Father said, “We were too green then to realize the danger we were in.”  German sub-marines did some good.  There was a good attendance at daily Mass on deck.  At one Sunday Mass he noticed Private Dave Croll ex-Mayor of Windsor a Jew who is now a Canadian Senator.  The battle of the Atlantic was almost lost later as ships were going down faster than the ship yards of Allies could replace them.

July 16, 1940

Embarking in broad daylight on the Empress of Austrailia (the ship that had brought the King and Queen of England to Canada in 1939) the new Chaplain and Company sailed out of Halifax harbour.  The Convoy of approximately fifty ships was well escorted by the huge battleship “Revenge”, and destroyers and cruisers, to guard against sub-marines.

Seated at the table that evening for dinner, Officers were optimistic and predited an early end to the War.  Farther Mike said later - “Majors J. Willis and L. Wakefield and Don McKenzie were at our table.  Each wrote the date of the end of the War on a wine bottle.  I don’t know who has the empty bottle.  Major John Willis was killed at Dieppe.”

June 1, 1940

He was appointed Chaplain of the 4th Brigade, including R.R.C. and R.H.L.I. and Essex Scottish Reg.  In July off by train to Halifax, N.S.  Walking down the aisles of the long troop train he found the lads (as he always called them) in good spirits but lonesome.

May 25, 1940

Then they were off to sleep, on the sandy grounds, in tents at Camp Borden.


Father’s first funeral Mass after ordination had been for his Mother: his first in Military uniform was for his Father.  He spent the first cold winter in St. Luke’s Barracks with the Essex Scottish Regiment.  “Catholic Women’s League of Rosary Parish often gave breakfast to our lads after Mass, to encourage Communion, when we marched to their Church”, he related.  The ladies then volunteered to come to our Barracks to serve breakfast each Sunday.  It was cheaper for them too.  We drew from Army Rations for this.

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.

Preface from Father Dalton

One of many talented friends who encouraged the publishing of my personal War Diary opened up with a few impersonal pages garnered from a few notes.  Then the author writes:

“How better to get an accurate feeling of the time and place and the spiritual climate than to quote directly from his words, without any change in these long 25 years”

And I possibly would not have consented even after all these years, if Veterans of Windsor Area had not elected me - June 1967, “Veteran Of The Year” courtesy of CKWW Radio.  I owe them something too in the Centennial Year.  For they are the ones who helped Canada Celebrate in Peace, and who honored the Chaplain Service.

I dedicate this Diary to Total War to all those Jews - non-Catholics and Catholics who helped make my War years as livable as possible, and I hope useful.

Please excuse any typist errors from my rough notes.