Abbotsford veteran: ‘No glory in war’

Donald Stevenson is humble about his role in the Second World War.

  • Nov. 11, 2011 4:00 p.m.
Donald Stevenson of Abbotsford is the master of ceremonies at this year’s Remembrance Day ceremonies

Donald Stevenson of Abbotsford is the master of ceremonies at this year’s Remembrance Day ceremonies

Donald Stevenson is humble about his role in the Second World War.

He shakes his head as he recalls the stories of other veterans, and sighs deeply.

A pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), Stevenson mentions how men had to escape burning aircraft, parachuting to supposed safety, only to be captured in enemy lands.

He modestly states he didn’t do that. Stevenson, like thousands of other trained pilots, never went overseas.

After receiving his certification in 1943, the Kingston, Ontario native was sent with two other men to a training station in Dauphin, Manitoba.

There, he flew planes while students learned how to drop bombs, navigate, or become “wireless air gunners” in the back of his aircraft.

Every six months Stevenson hoped that he would be sent to Europe.

“It was sort of incumbent on us, that this was our duty, that we have to go help Britain defeat the Germans as they did in the First World War,” Stevenson said.

“But we didn’t realize what getting overseas would lead to.”

Nine thousand Royal Canadian Air Force personnel were killed during World War II.

Nine hundred died during training in Canada.

Some of those tragedies are still vivid for Stevenson.

Sitting on the tarmac waiting to fly back to Dauphin from the MacDonald base, Stevenson and another man saw a plane crash. The aircraft streamed a heavy cloud of black smoke, taking a nosedive into the flatlands.

Nearly 15 months later, he saw the surname Stevenson on the daily routine orders posted in the morning. It had the initials A.T.

He made an effort to meet the pilot who coincidentally had his name.

Alan Stevenson had just returned from hospital. Thirty-two skin grafts covered his face.

On fire, his Fairey Battle bomber had gone down, and the burning fuel engulfed his body.

Alan had been in the crash his namesake had witnessed just months ago.

“Things happened on training stations. That could have been me,” he said.

The incident conjures up other memories for Stevenson.

During one landing, Stevenson could not get his wheels down. They jammed partway, enough for a safe landing. Looking under the plane later, Stevenson saw that bombs hanging under the aircraft had caused the jam. He would have cleared them over a lake, but he didn’t know they were there.

“If those wheels had collapsed, I wouldn’t be here today,” he says.

Another time, a landing in a muddy field flipped his aircraft, the tail coming over the nose of the plane.

“But I wasn’t hurt. The Lord was looking out for me.”

After two years in Dauphin, the war was over and Stevenson was sent home.

A painful expression comes over his face when he thinks about the men who didn’t come back.

Visiting his old high school in Kingston, Ontario, 20 years ago, Stevenson read the names of 60 men on bronze plaques hanging in the hallway.

They died in the army, navy and air force.

“I knew them all. It sort of gets to you. There is no glory in war.”

This Remembrance Day will be Stevenson’s fourth year as master of ceremonies for the cenotaph service in Abbotsford.

He will read the names of fallen military men. He will think of those who died for their country overseas.

And he will think of those who died for their country at home.

“I think of that sacrifice, that terrible loss and what contributions they could have made to this country.”

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Abbotsford residents gather in the Clearbrook area on Monday to demonstrate against what they say is unfairt treatment by the Indian government to farmers in the Punjab region of that country. (Maan Sidhu photo)
Abbotsford residents gather to protest unfair treatment of India farmers

Locals believe new bills will devastate small farms, demand farmers be allowed to protest peacefully

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
32 family members respond to Abbotsford care home’s plea for staffing help during COVID-19 outbreak

Menno Home asks for relief workers for food service, laundry and housekeeping

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Fatty Legs co-author responds to Abbotsford class assignment on residential schools

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

The UFV Cascades men’s volleyball team added Nimo Benne (left) and Jonas Van Huizen for the 2021 season. (Submitted)
Langley’s Van Huizen, Netherlands native Benne signed by UFV Cascades

Men’s volleyball team picks up two strong pieces to prepare for 2021 Canada West season

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is also the minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

A criminal trial for Robert Boule (inset), the owner of the Smuggler’s Inn, is to begin in August 2021, following a failed application to strike down immigration-act provisions that he is charged under. (Photo courtesy of The Northern Light newspaper)
Charter challenge quashed in case of U.S. man accused of human smuggling at his inn

Robert Boule’s criminal trial set to begin August 2021

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Business groups have been advocating for years that local approvals for construction in B.C. are too long and restricted, and that B.C.’s outdates sales tax deter business investment. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents worried about COVID-19 deficit, business survey finds

Respondents support faster local approvals, value added tax

The first of two earthquakes near Alaska on the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, is shown in blue. (USGS)
No tsunami risk after two earthquakes near Alaska

Both earthquakes hit near the U.S. state on Dec. 1

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Most Read