USask remembers: Tribute to one of Dieppe’s fallen heroes – archyde


Helen Woolard McPhail holds a plaque in honor of her late uncle, Lieutenant Robert Woolard, who died in Dieppe during World War II. A lake north of Meadow Lake is named in his honor. (Photo: Courtesy of Helen Woolard McPhail)

“There is a sense of pride, but more just sadness for what could have been, because so many lives were lost that day,” said Helen, who made the pilgrimage 330 kilometers north- west of Saskatoon to visit Lake Saskatchewan named in his honor. late uncle – woolard lake. “My brother and I have always been proud of him. And that’s why we researched to find the lake named after our uncle, and I went there years ago. It was a quiet moment, and it was memorable just to find it and just to be there.

Lt. Woolard is also memorialized at Woodlawn Cemetery in Saskatoon, where a service and tree dedication was held in 1948 to honor the fallen members of the South Saskatchewan Regiment at Dieppe. He is also commemorated at the Brookwood Memorial in Surrey near London, England, in honor of soldiers whose bodies were never found or whose graves were not marked in the scene of battle. There are 187 Canadian soldiers buried at Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery whose identity and precise final resting place have never been determined, including Lieutenant Woolard.

Woolard was one of 2,500 USask students, staff, and faculty who served in World War II, and one of 202 who never returned. Like so many of his generation, Woolard felt compelled to serve, joining the Canadian Officer Training Corps contingent at the University of Saskatchewan shortly after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1940 and entering to law school before volunteering to serve overseas.

During World War II, the Dean of the College of Law, Frederick Cronkite, claimed that 26% of the college’s living students and graduates answered the call to serve – as noted in the former Dean of the Law School of USask and current Acting Dean of the College of Education, Dr. Beth Bilson Paper (PhD) 2017 Saskatchewan Law Review Refiner’s Fire: The University of Saskatchewan College of Law in times of depression and war.

“It was definitely a different time and Canada was definitely a different country than it is now,” said Bob Woolard. “People like my uncle had tremendous pride and desire to serve their country. So there is pride and sadness, of course. And I have pretty strong feelings about him, considering I’ve never even met the man.

For Bob and Helen, questions remain, as well as frustration over the decision to go ahead with the disastrous raid on Dieppe. In just nine hours of that fateful day, 907 Canadians were killed, 2,450 wounded and 1,946 captured, out of a total Allied force of nearly 6,000 soldiers.

While many military historians have written that the lessons learned at Dieppe helped save lives on D-Day two years later, Dieppe raid planners have long been criticized for sending so many soldiers to their deaths without the support air and naval appropriate.

“Certainly there were lessons learned, but what a dear price to pay for those lessons learned,” said Bob Woolard. “I certainly wouldn’t say Dieppe led to victory on D-Day. It was a valuable lesson, but the raid should have been called off, and there was no way they went.

For the Woolard family there remains a solemn pride in the service and sacrifice of the relative they never knew, along with treasured photos, records and memorials of remembrance, at home and abroad. There is also the cherished watch and letter the family received from Commander Merritt, the Victoria Cross recipient whose heroism in Dieppe that day helped half the soldiers of the South Saskatchewan Regiment who landed on the beach that day to escape to England, while he was taken prisoner. .

The commandant’s letter to Lieutenant Woolard’s parents – written while he was interned as a prisoner of war – remains as poignant today as it was all those years ago:

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