Colchester Historeum plans special night

The Littlest Soldier: A child's eye view of World War II

Published on January 20, 2014
Collecting scrap metal for the war effort involved these students and teachers at the Willow Street School in Truro in 1943.

By Lyle Carter

You might want to circle Thursday on your calendar, as a public lecture by Dr. Malcolm MacLeod promises to be interesting.

You might want to circle Thursday on your calendar, as a public lecture by Dr. Malcolm MacLeod promises to be interesting.

Taking place at 7.30 p.m. at the Colchester Historeum at 29 Young St., Truro, it will entail The Littlest Soldier: A child's eye view of World War II.

"I remember certain things about World War II from back when I was a young boy," MacLeod, 77, of Truro, said. "I remember the war savings stamps we bought for a few pennies in school. There were also ration coupons my mother took to the store to buy groceries."

MacLeod seemed in awe of a photo taken at Willow Street School in Truro during 1943. The photo features children, teachers and lots of pots and pans.

"Collecting scrap metal for the war effort was a way schools helped during the war," MacLeod said. "I have a memory of going to the movies and the price of admission was a metal pot. By collecting scrap metal from the public, the government recycled such things as pots and pans into military hardware to be used wherever necessary."

MacLeod recalled growing up in the Armdale area on the outskirts of Halifax.

"We lived in Melville Cove near the Dingle," He said. "It was a popular place during the war for soldiers and sailors who were on leave. They would go to the Dingle to relax. I would have been eight or nine and it was a long time ago but I can still visualize the wartime activities around the Dingle."

MacLeod recalled a dramatic series that ran once a week on CBC radio.

"It was titled L For Lanky," he said. "The reference was to the Lancaster Bomber flown by the Royal Canadian Air Force to bomb Germany. There was always a happy ending to each weekly episode and the crew would come through a serious crisis and manage to limp home. It was very exciting for a young boy to listen to."

It was during April of 1944 that MacLeod's grandmother, who lived in Sydney, received a very painful letter.

The letter was from the R.C.A.F. Casualty Officer I.E. Todd regarding Mrs. MacLeod's step-son Malcolm Hinds MacLeod, who would also have been Dr. MacLeod's uncle.

The first paragraph of the letter confirmed what had been received by telegram that her step-son is reported missing on active service.

"This does not necessarily mean your step-son has been killed or wounded," Officer Todd wrote. "He may have landed in enemy territory and might be a prisoner of war.

"May I join with you and the members of your family in the hope that better news will be forthcoming in the near future."

On March 24, 1944, a night raid on Berlin was carried out by 811 aircraft flying from Britain.

"My uncle, a bomb aimer, did not survive that bombing mission." MacLeod said. "The raid on Berlin was successful but of the total 654 allied planes that made the attack, 72 failed to return, a loss of 11 per cent. My uncle Mac's plane was one of those. He is buried in Europe."

Elinor Maher, of the Colchester Historeum, said she is looking forward to MacLeod's lecture Thursday night.

"Malcolm will be very interesting as he brings us a look back at what life was like for a young person during the Second World War. He remembers lots of facts and will share his own experiences as a young boy when the war was taking place."

MacLeod, who taught mainly Canadian history at Memorial University in St. Johns, N.L. for 25 years, retired in 2003.

MacLeod and his wife Heather moved to Truro the same year.

Remaining very active, he teaches 12 students Canadian history in a part-time capacity at Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in Bible Hill. He also takes three shifts weekly driving a taxi.

In late 2013, MacLeod wrote his sixth book. It is titled Hydrostone, Murder and Mystery in Nova Scotia.

Lyle Carter's column appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 673-2857.