A son remembers

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November 10, 2016 12:00 AM

Unfortunately Clement Wakefield isn’t around to share his story anymore, but through conversations with his son Darrel, and a dig through a bin of wartime memorabilia Darrel graciously brought into the Source, we’ve tried to put together a picture of his life and time in the Second World War.
Firstly, Wakefield was born in Lashburn and grew up on a farm south of Maidstone where he eventually became a farmer as well as an electrician.
By the time he enlisted in the army, with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry to be specific, his wife was pregnant with their first child, but it wouldn’t be until he got back from battle that he’d see his new son for the first time.
When Wakefield went to Europe, Darrel said he was all over, from Germany to Holland to Belgium, among other countries, where his main job was a radio technician, working on radios in the tanks, jeeps and other military vehicles, eventually gaining the rank of corporal.
He even went through the nightmare of storming the beaches in Normandy.
“(He was on the boat to Normandy) when the tanks and stuff were supposed to head off the barge and float along to the beach, well the tanks weighed heavier than anything and, of course, they went down and everything went, he said it was just complete chaos,” Darrel recalls.
“And as you know, the Germans were waiting for them and they started picking them off like flies, so he was one of the lucky ones who actually made it through that.”
Wakefield’s discharge certificate states he was 26 when he left the war on Dec. 7, 1945, making him roughly 22 when he enlisted in September 1941.
As anyone can imagine, going through that many years of war can leave a person haunted by the violence, but Darrel considers his father one of the lucky ones who came back in relatively normal shape.
He mentioned a lot of vets returned as bad alcoholics or just plain old shell-shocked.
“I knew a few people like that, our neighbours, their uncle was shell-shocked and he was just never the same,” Darrel said.
That being said, Wakefield didn’t tell many stories of the war after it was over, though once in a while he’d share some experiences and they often weren’t pretty.
One such story involved a bomb going off nearby that left his arm and leg riddled with shrapnel.
The doctors decided it would be safer to leave the shrapnel in to avoid further damage to his veins and nerves and Wakefield lived with the metal under his skin until the day he died.
“I believe it was the same time he’d got his shrapnel in, he remembered his friend—they’d bum smokes off each other in the war—he come around the corner after this bomb exploded, basically holding his entrails, and of course he didn’t make it,” said Darrel.
“He was like, ‘Help me, help me,’ but his side was split wide open.”
When Wakefield’s time in service was finally up, he returned home to his wife, and a son he’d never met before, taking over the family farm and continuing a bit of electrical work on the side.
After all the violence and miserable experiences four years of war can put on a person, Darrel said his father remained a good man right up until the end.
“He was great,” Darrel said. 
“A great Dad, no doubt about it; he had jokingly said one time, ‘Let’s not be father and son, let’s just be best friends.’ And that’s what we were through life, absolutely.”

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