Jack A. Poolton, from Kapuskasing Ontario, found himself in the prairie town of Watson Saskatchewan when the War broke out. At 21 years old, he went on to sign up as a private soldier in the "D" Company of the Royal Regiment of Canada. The year was 1940.
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By the end of his first week, Jack had been issued a uniform, a rifle, a bayonet, and the other equipment he'd need. By June, Jack would travel to Reykjavik, Iceland - before his company took to the rough North Sea headed for Scotland. From there Jack and the rest of the Royal Regiment would travel to England, where they would spend the next two years in arduous training.
On the ill-fated morning of August 19th, 1942 - Jack would be among those storming the "Blue" Beach at Puys during the Dieppe Raid. Up against heavy gun and mortar fire and without even knowing how to swim - against all odds - Jack would survive. But, being surrounded by the Germany Army - and with the rough waters of the English Channel at his back - Jack and those who survived with him had no choice but to surrender.
Jack would spend the remainder of the Second World War in Europe as a prisoner of the German Army - forced to live in the most unbearable conditions. Towards the end of the war - as a last ditch effort - German authorities would evacuate all POW camps in an attempt to delay the liberation of their prisoners. Again - Jack would be among the 80,000 POWs who were forced to march westward. For upwards of 4 torturous months these men would march, exposed to the harsh elements of the extreme winter weather. Today, history calls this March "The Death March Across Germany" - an event so atrocious that even the Canadian Encyclopedia dubs the event simply as "The March."
Despite all of this - against all the odds imaginable - Jack would be one of the very lucky few to make it home. Left with only with his experiences - he had to start anew. The years would pass, and he would eventually have a family - an attempt at settling down, and leaving the hellish life he had experienced. After 53 years of suffering in silence however, Jack decided that it was time to share his story.
In 1998, with the help of his daughter Jayne Poolton-Turvey, Jack wrote and published his story, aptly entitled "Destined to Survive". His story takes the reader on a journey through our history - exposing but one man's heart-wrenchingly exhilarating experience which leaves the reader at a loss for words.
With this book, Jack shows us everything that he saw - what he felt - what he ate - what he did - and with every honest and shocking detail, our history comes to light. You begin to feel the sense of adventure, the anxiety, the bitterness, the pain - the feeling of hope - the surge of emotions, yet unrelenting determination to press on. All of this can be felt in his words.
Jack's story is just one of thousands - some were lucky enough to survive, but many others were not so fortunate. Nevertheless, each man involved in the conflict left behind a saga to tell. For the men who fought here - their story must be remembered and their massive sacrifice honoured. For not only was Jack's sacrifice great, so was his remarkable determination to survive - his account being yet another incredible example of humanity standing up time after time, against all odds, and persevering.
I hadn't been lucky enough to meet Jack A Poolton, who sadly passed away a few years ago, but perhaps it was destiny that we got to meet Jayne, Jack's daughter.
When we first met on a cold winter morning at our head office, we weren't expecting the story she had in store for us. She began to provide us with some background on her father - a private soldier who had lived to tell the tale of the harrowing experiences he saw in his three years during the Second World War. Not only that, but she had the book that she and her father had written and published - and it provided a detailed account of his experiences at Dieppe, as a Prisoner of War in Germany, and his time during the Death March across Europe.
The book contains a thorough day-to-day of Jack's experiences throughout the Second World War - including descriptions of where he trained - and what he had seen. The story is made complete with scanned newspaper clippings, badges, and old photographs related to his involvement.
Jack's story, although a shocking experience, provides an incredible wartime account that has carried on to reverberate through generations of Canadians, touching the many hearts of the battlefield community and the family members connected to events that took place on that fateful morning.
But again, Jack's story was just but one of many, and Jayne was in front of us today because she not only wanted to keep her father's story alive, but was willing to shine the light on others like him.
Over the past few years, Jayne had regularly conducted talks that followed in her father's footsteps, but she wanted to do more.
Although a difficult task, with today's latest technological advances it has been possible for Jayne to retrace the steps of the men who were involved in the Dieppe Raid. With the full support of organizations such as Ancestry.ca, and the Royal Regiment of Canada, Jayne has been working alongside the grandson of a Puys veteran, and two other daughters of a Dieppe veteran, compiling accounts of every soldier in the Royal Regiment of Canada who would land on the shores of Dieppe's coastline on that ill-fated morning.
With the research they have discovered so far, Jayne has been inspired to do even more for all of the families that each Puy veterans of Dieppe leave behind.
August 19th - 2017 will mark the 75th Anniversary at Dieppe, and in its honour, Jayne is inviting the relatives of Dieppe veterans, as well as friends, and fellow Canadians everywhere to take the physical journey with us as we walk in the footsteps of our brave forefathers, following their story of where so much was sacrificed for us.
On August 13th, 2017 - we will arrive in London to begin on an epic adventure that takes into account several narrative histories of the Canadian family members who were here before us. With a somber reflection and a clearer understanding of our extraordinary history, we will tour along Europe's most breathtaking landscapes, until we find ourselves at the Blue Beach of Puys to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Dieppe Raid together.
Join Jayne, and our team - as we aim to retell the remarkable stories of the 5,000 men who would land on the beaches at Dieppe on that fateful morning.
PLEASE SEE SOME OF OUR RELATED POSTS TO THIS ARTICLE
The Treatment of POWs from Dieppe
Dieppe, Normandy, and the Daily Telegraph Mystery
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