When Ted Paisley walked into an army recruiting office in Watford in 1941, he had no idea he would end up hurdling through the darkness of the French countryside.
The Petrolia man could also not have predicted that country’s gratitude over 70 years later.
Paisley, who served as a Lance Corporal with the 4th Division’s motorcycle brigade, was given the French government’s highest honour – the National Order of the Legion of Honour first established by Napoleon Bonaparte in a ceremony April 1 at Branch 216 in Petrolia before about 150 family members and friends.
Paisley first joined the army as a volunteer but two days later he would sign up with the First Hussars in London. By 1944, after years of training in Canada and the United Kingdom, the 20-year-old was one of thousands who stormed the beaches of Normandy.
Paisley was incharge of 10 men as part of the Dispatch Riders. Their job was to guide truckloads of ammunition to units which moved almost daily. Paisley’ son, David, who gave a brief history of Paisley’s war service, says most of the travel had to be done in the dark in France since the roads were chalk and kicked up a lot of dust giving away the location of the convoys.
Paisley found his brother several times while in service and had a chance to visit with him about five times. “He will tell you that they were always on the move and seemed to be at the front, so he never got one parcel from home or any Red Cross packages (no chocolate or cigarettes),” says Paisley.
Paisley moved with the Canadian army through Europe and was in Rastad, German on May 4th when he overheard the BBC News from a nearby radio declaring the war was over.
“Ted doesn’t talk much about the war, other than some stories of the good times and funny things that happened and friendships made and retained. But he will tell you he will always remember being cold, wet, hungry and tired most of the time,” says David. “They were not always sure were they were or where they were going, but did what they were ask to do and what had to be done.”
David, who has traveled with Paisley several times back to Europe to mark significant milestones since World War Two, moderated the ceremony, reading from a letter from the Ambassador of France to Canada. It said in part, “Through you, France remembers the sacrifice of all your compatriots who came to liberate French soil, often losing their lives in the process.”
Major Bernard Scheid, the Deputy Commanding Officer of the 1st Hussars who pinned the Legion of Honour on Paisley, was emotional about the event. “Canada would not be the great country it is today without people like Ted,” he said, fighting back tears.
The 92 year-old veteran had little to say about the honour. “I just want to thank everyone for coming,” he says “it’s a surprise there are so many people here.”
Paisley becomes the second Petrolia veteran to receive the Legion of Honour which comes with the title of Sir. Sid McLean received the same honour in January.