By Mallorie Rast
This afternoon, Kindersley and Dignitaries celebrated the 100th birthday of veteran Sir Herbert Strutt.
With Mayor Rod Perkins, MLA Ken Francis, and members of the RCMP, Fire Department and Royal Canadian Legion in attendance, along with family and friends, Sir Strutt was recognized for not only turning 100-years-old but also for his service to his country.
The event kicked off with a socially distanced parade by members of the RCMP, Fire Department, Royal Canadian Legion, EMS and other members of the community. Several dignitaries attended the event and gave not only personal congratulations, but also read letters from those who were not able to attend, such as MP Jeremy Patzer, and the President of the Royal Canadian Legion.
MLA Ken Francis read a letter from Premier Scott Moe. “Krista and I offer congratulations to you…may this coming year be one that is filled with peace, love and family.”
Mayor Rod Perkins also offered, on behalf of the Town of Kindersley, his “congratulations on this momentous occasion” and thanked Strutt on behalf of his community, province and country for Strutt’s WWII service.
Strutt was born on a farm just south of D’Arcy, to an English immigrant family. Before his 8th birthday, the family moved just north and east of Brock, SK where Strutt was raised during the troubled times known as the “dirty 30s.”
Once he reached military age, Strutt signed up for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1941. World War II had already embroiled nearly 30 countries of the world for 2 years, and the Battle of Britain had just ended. With his farming background and experience with engines, Strutt expressed interest in the mechanic side of the RCAF and so was sent for mechanics training in Saskatoon before being sent to Brandon, Ontario for additional army training. A bout of German Measles contracted in Saskatoon changed the training season for Strutt, as he was removed from the heavy army training to the lighter duties of the post office clerk.
With his training completed, Strutt was sent overseas on the Queen Elizabeth, crowded together with some 16,000 troops. The five-day journey across the Atlantic Ocean was no picnic as the large amount of troops meant sleeping in bunks stacked four high, crowded mess rooms, long lines waiting for food, and kitchen crews grumbling from the continual workload to keep the masses fed. Strutt luckily missed the seasickness that seemed to attack several others during the voyage.
Upon reaching England, Strutt was soon busy as an engine mechanic for the British-built Spitfire aircraft. In this position, Strutt participated in several battles, including acting as cover at Juno Beach on D-Day, the famous Allied Offensive on June 6, 1944. Among Strutt’s many memories is painting white stripes on aircraft the night before D-Day and then landing on a hastily constructed airstrip in a wheat field just outside of Juno Beach the day after D-Day.
As a crew member in the Second Tactical Air Force (TAF), Strutt saw action in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and ultimately Germany. With today’s technology and overnight mail, it is hard to comprehend the strain of living so far from home. The family recalled sending care packages during Strutt’s service, one time Strutt’s grandmother sent him a luscious cake to enjoy, but when it finally reached Strutt the cake was reduced to little more than dust. Strutt served until Germany surrendered, arriving back home on September 15, 1945, during a frigid snowstorm.
Strutt married in 1951 and purchased a farm straight across from his father’s in order to raise his family. He ultimately raised five children, and now is the proud grandfather of 12 and great-grandfather of 12 with number 13 on the way.
In 2014, the French Government celebrated the 70th anniversary of D-Day and invited Canadian veterans to attend. Strutt, accompanied by his son Roger, Roger’s wife Cathy, and two grandsons, returned to France for the first time since serving in one of the bloodiest wars in history. The family’s trip included touring three military cemeteries and participating in the ceremony conducted on Juno Beach. Strutt was also added to the French Legion of Honour and by right earned the title of Sir Herbert Strutt.
The Strutts described the whole experience as awe-inspiring, and humbling. “It was amazing to see the outpouring of gratitude the people had towards our veterans.” Cathy recalled one particularly moving experience when a French woman approached the Strutts after noticing Herb’s veteran hat. “Was he here?” the woman asked, pointing to Strutt. The family explained Strutt’s role in D-Day and the following action; the woman beamed and said, “He helped to liberate my village when I was a child, tell him ‘thank-you.’”
Now, over 76 years later, Strutt is still proud to have served his country. “It was my duty to go, and without that service, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to learn so much or see as many countries and cultures that I did.”
Thank you, Strutt, for your service.
Photo Credits: Mallorie Rast
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