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PHOTOS: First poppy presented to West Shore WWII veteran

Ceremony signifies start to Royal Canadian Legion poppy campaign

The Langford branch of the Royal Canadian Legion commemorated the start of their poppy campaign Friday morning, presenting the first pin to Second World War naval veteran Fred Seeley.

On the 97-year-old’s drive over to the Branch #91, he told his daughter, Laurie Mundt, receiving the first poppy was an honour, but it was really about representing all the soldiers who couldn’t be there.

Seeley served in the navy from age 21 in 1941 through to the end of the war in 1945. He still dreams about parts of it.

In particular, Seeley remembers March 17, 1945 awaking to a German submarine torpedoing his ship in the Bay of Biscay, off Ushant Island in the English Channel. He said those who survived the attack spent 19 hours in inflatable lifeboats, their legs dangling in the freezing cold water. Of the 83 crew members on board, 51 lost their lives to injuries or hypothermia, according to the Government of Canada website.

Seeley was seriously injured with a broken ankle and swollen arm, but still pulled several fellow sailors into lifeboats before climbing into one himself, a scenario relayed by Mundt. Seeley spent six months recovering in an English hospital after that night.

READ ALSO: Fred Seeley recalls harrowing experience during Second World War

Nearly 80 years later, Seeley is one of increasingly few world war veterans left to their share stories.

“He’s really hoping our generation will learn the lessons,” Mundt said. “We need to remember the sacrifice.”

Langford Legion sergeant-at-arms Bob Bourdage, an Order of Military Merit recipient, was also at the ceremony Friday to raise the Remembrance Day flag. He, too, stressed the importance of remembering even when those who lived through the wars firsthand are gone.

“That’s the reason the Legion exists,” he said. “That’s our main priority, to keep this alive, to keep people remembering.”

Volunteers will be collecting donations and giving out poppies at locations throughout the West Shore until Nov. 10.

READ ALSO: Legion marks 100th anniversary of poppy symbol during campaign launch

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About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media after starting as a community reporter in Greater Victoria.
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