What did you do at 21 to make your country a better place?
Seventy-five years ago, Cliff Espetveidt made the ultimate sacrifice, by enlisting in the Canadian military, along with his brothers from Marwayne, Alta., to fight in a war that was raging in Europe.
Espetveidt, who was a farmer, signed up for the Canadian military to fight in the Second World War, because of pride in country and the evil that was happening in Europe.
He began his basic training in Calgary before leaving for Ontario where he would be stationed for the last time before heading over to Europe where he spent the next four years.
“There was a few reasons why we enlisted, by the sense of pride and friends that were enlisting, as well. But overall, what was happening in Europe was not nice at all.”
Leaving on the voyage that would see him leave the dominion of Canada to England, Espetveidt said that when he arrived in England in 1942, he was one of the soldiers who were called to reinforce the Battle of Dieppe.
“We were supposed to go to Dieppe as reinforcements, and we didn’t end up going. We sat around on our kick-bags, out on the pavement from six in the morning,” he said.
The Battle of Dieppe saw the loss of 907 Canadian men, with 586 wounded, and just under 2,000 men captured by enemy combatants.
“They wound up not needing us, I was only in England a week prior to learning that we were on track to being the reinforcements for the Battle of Dieppe,” Espetveidt said.
After England, Sicily, Italy, was the next stop for Espetveidt and his battalion.
“We got there and started our own camp, and we had to scrounge around for the kitchen supplies and everything,” he said. “We were just a group of men, some who men had come from as far away as Africa.”
According to Espetveidt, there were up to 1,500 men in the new camp stationed in Sicily.
During the four years, Espetveidt saw numerous casualties, one of which was his brother who had been shot through the arm by enemy fire.
“He was shot thought the arm, which made his hand useless,” Espetveidt said that the same brother was shot across the butt, by a sniper.
When news broke that the war had ended, Espetveidt and the men he was serving with were in Holland.
“We had civilians coming up to the convoy going through the town, and hanging onto the trucks thanking us,” he said.
“Everyone was so happy, from the military men, to civilians we were happy about the word that the war had ended.”
Four years after arriving to England, and Europe, Espetveidt would have to come back to Marwayne and restart his life.
“Initially, it was pretty nice to come back to Canada,” he said, adding that he and the people of his hometown, Marwayne, were happy to see him back in the small Alberta town.
The town of Marwayne lost brave men in the Second World War, and for Espetveidt coming back to the town when some of his fellow town members weren’t as fortunate the homecoming back was somewhat bittersweet for the returning solider.
“I sure felt lucky to get back to the community, and I knew that I was one of the lucky ones that was able to return home,” he said.
When asked if he ever felt as though family members who had lost someone in the qar were upset of his homecoming over their sons, Espetveidt said that he never felt any anger towards him.
“I didn’t notice any negative feelings towards me, life basically went on after we got home,” he said.
Life returned to normal for Espetveidt after returning to Marwayne.
He lived for many years in Marwayne and is now in Pioneer Lodge in Lloydminster with his wife, Marion.