It was early afternoon on a quiet fall day. I was sitting at the kitchen table having a strong cup of tea and one of my favourite sweets - chocolate chip cookies.
Then the doorbell woke me out of my daydreaming. To my surprise I welcomed a complete stranger. It turned out he had an unusual request. He knew I wrote articles for the Truro Daily News and he was very anxious for me to write about his uncle, Clayton Moss, a former Truro resident. This visiting gentleman was Reg Boudreau and he wanted the people of Truro to know what kind of a man Moss, a veteran of the Second World War, is and what had happened to him.
It’s so sad when the men who left home and family, offering up their lives for King and country are soon forgotten. I’ve heard a saying, probably you heard it too, and it goes “old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” We must never let this happen.
So, this is the reason I accepted Boudreau’s challenge, promising to write about his uncle and that endeared him to me immediately.
My difficulty, that in writing about Moss was I didn’t know enough about his past. I didn’t know him personally, but I knew of him. I often saw him running along the streets of Truro with a determined and purposeful look on his face. At the time I was told he was training to be a boxer. He was in the welter-weight class, weighed around 145 pounds. I was lucky that Boudreau was able to put me in contact with Moss’s daughter Judy.
Judy told me all the things she knew about her dad’s past. Moss was born in Tracadie, N.S., in the year 1919. He had two brothers, Harold, and Percy, also a sister, Leona.
The family eventually moved to Truro and lived on Young Street. In younger years, Moss worked for the Canadian National Railway as a redcap. He worked at the Truro Railway Station. He went to the Truro school and completed his Grade 9. Moss joined the Canadian army in New Brunswick in 1940. He was assigned to a very respectable unit - The Royal Canadian Engineers. Most times when we speak of war the infantryman comes to the fore. People need to realize the infantry is only part of the composition of our fighting force.
We have our navy, army and air force. They too are broken into different segments. The army has the armoured unit (tanks), they also have infantry and artillery. One of the most important and most necessary army units is the engineers. They must repair bridges, roads and airfields. Without the engineers, often times an attack cannot get started, and is at a stand still. So, by being an engineer you have to endure their hardships. Can you imagine climbing up the portion of a half-destroyed bridge? You have to repair this bridge while being exposed to enemy fire? That’s what these engineers had to do. That’s what Moss had to do. Talk about bravery! I think that’s the bravest thing I ever saw, the engineers at work while under fire.
Without the engineers the rest of the army just couldn’t do their jobs. When I think of the Royal Canadian Engineers I always think of heroes.
Judy, a resident of Windsor, Ont., connected me with her brother, Richie, who has lived in Brisbane, Australia, for more than 20 years. He is now 72 years of age. He has retired from mining and other jobs, but he’s still working, and you’ll never guess the job he does now. He’s a personal trainer. He’s showing much younger people the benefit of physical training long into their golden years.
As Richie talked about his father, I could tell by the tone of his voice he had a great deal of respect for him.
He told me a humourous story, which happened while his father was serving overseas, but it must have been terrifying to Moss.
Apparently they went into a town in France. I think he said the town was deserted. They found a building and used it as a shelter. The Germans bombed this town that night. The strange thing about a bomb exploding is that it creates a great suction of air and this suction of air would draw everything to where the bomb exploded. The sad thing was Moss was close to where the explosion occurred. When things quieted down Moss found himself devoid of all his clothing. He was completely naked! Maybe the incident was humorous to some of his buddies but it wasn’t humorous to Moss. In spite of suffering from embarrassment, he was fortunate no to have had any physical injuries.
However, his brother, Harold, was not so lucky. He suffered two wounds, two different times, and was confined to army hospital twice.
Moss returned home in 1945.
When I talked with Richie, I caught something very important when he spoke of his dad.
I could feel the love and respect he has for his Dad. Moss now resides in the Veteran’s Hospital in Toronto, the Sunnybrook Hospital.
Moss was willing to sacrifice his life in service to his country and he’s still serving his comrades at the Royal Canadian Legion by selling poppies. A man like Moss we can never forget.
We will remember him.
Herb Peppard is a longtime Truro resident. His column appears regularly in the Truro Daily News.