By Lucie Roy
Jake’s Gift is the story of a Second World War veteran on his return to Normandy on the 60th anniversary of D-Day. The story tells of how Jake came home and joined a Legion. Many of the young men who were in the war and fortunate to come home joined a Legion.
Jake’s Gift is the story of one of three brothers from the Canadian prairies who took part in the conflict and one of two who returned home. The emotional play will echo with memories for many veterans and their loved ones who lived through the experience.
For Morinville, one of those veterans was Charles Pelletier. Born in 1915, Charles is Morinville’s oldest veteran. He joined the army in 1942 attached to the Royal Canadian Ordinance Corp (RCOC) and was then transferred to Barryfield as a driver instructor. From there he was shipped overseas in 1943 assigned to 34 Light Aid Detachment (LAD), part of the Royal Canadian Electrical mechanical Engineers(RCEME) attached to 14 Field Artillery Regiment. He took part in the Normandy invasion landing and served in France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
Charles said he drove a wrecker tow truck affectionately named Babe and recovered damaged vehicles and equipment from the battlefield before the enemy could get them. One night he was recovering a 25-pounder gun. His helper crawled over the gun in the dark and hooked up the winch. They started winching in the gun but found it was getting heavier and heavier. But they finally pulled it in smoothly. When they got the gun back to the shop they discovered a hook and cable dragging behind it. An enemy wrecker had hooked the gun at the same time but Charles’s winch had more power. Rather than lose their truck they cut the cable.
Holland has always been a special memory for Charlie, as it has for many Canadian soldiers. The people of Holland were very grateful to the Allies, welcoming them into their homes to share their meals even though they had very little. The Canadian soldiers were very good to the people. Holland homemakers had learned to use whatever came their way to the fullest. A family that he knew had two little girls and they had acquired some blankets. The mother made snowsuits for the children from them.
At the end of the war Charlie was shipped back to Canada on the Queen Mary and returned to Morinville in 1946. He joined the Legion and was a Charter member along with his sister Evelyn, Leo Brochu, Gilbert, Lawrence and Louis MacDonald and many others. The Legion was chartered Feb.7, 1946 and Charlie served as President in 1949, 1951 and 1957.He was President in 1949, the year the original Legion hall was built. The ‘hut’ was opened that year in time for the November 11 Remembrance Day ceremonies. Charles is still an active member of the Morinville Legion and has missed only one Remembrance Day service since he joined the Branch. He currently resides in Edmonton with his wife Dorothy.
At the end of the performance Julia Mackey, who wrote and performs the play, will present a print to the Morinville Legion and sell Jake’s Gift buttons, with the proceeds going to the local Legion’s Poppy Fund. The play takes place Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 general admission, $20 for seniors and $10 for students with valid student ID.
Above: 1978 photo of WWII veteran Charles Pelletier