Memories linger: ‘It never leaves you,’ says Second World War veteran

Emerson Barden has a photo album filled with memories of his four years in the army during the Second World War.

Emerson Barden was 19 when he enlisted in the Army. He fought four years in the Aleutian Islands

Emerson Barden has a photo album filled with memories of his four years in the army during the Second World War.

From the remote western edge of Alaska to the liberation of German-occupied Europe, Barden’s years in the army took him across the globe: Heady stuff for a kid who grew up on farms in Saskatchewan and Surrey, his hometown from the age of 10.

On Remembrance Day, he won’t be on parade from the Cloverdale Legion to the Cenotaph – he turns 92 on Nov. 23 – but he’ll be thinking of his army days, and the job the Canadians did.

He signed up at 19. After training in Victoria, he was sent to Kiska, a windswept, volcanic island in Alaska’s

Aleutians, 600 miles from Japan.

His photos show a snow-capped volcano, sod-covered canvas army tents bracing against the wind, men getting haircuts on the tundra – or posing in deep shell craters.

A Japanese postcard is preserved in its pages, along with poems written by fellow servicemen – their creativity sparked by the harsh conditions. Kiska was invaded in 1942. When 34,400 U.S. and Canadian forces landed in August, 1943, they were expecting to meet resistance, but soon realized the island had been abandoned. A booby trap killed one of the commanding officers.

From Alaska, he was sent to Liverpool, then to Normandy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany, as the Allies pushed the Germans back.http://webpapersadmin.bcnewsgroup.com/portals/uploads/cloverdale/.DIR288/wEmersonBarden.jpg

His pictures show Dutch homes and bridges reduced to rubble, a downed German plane in a field.

Barden was a medic, a job that brought him close to danger – but never more so than the day the Germans blew a hole in a dyke.

“When they hollered, you went,” he says. “It didn’t matter if there were bullets flying or not.”

Carrying out his duties, he’d paused without knowing exactly why, and felt two bullets shoot past his forehead.

He remembers his first impression of Holland as a soldier – a woman wearing wooden shoes who was using a rope to pull a barge down a canal. Other, darker memories linger as well.

“Well, it never leaves you.”

He has returned to the Netherlands since then, as a tourist and as a veteran, and is touched by the depth of feeling shown for the Canadians who helped end the occupation.

In 2005, he went back for the 50th anniversary of the liberation, forging new memories of cemeteries filled with foreign dead that are tended with devotion by Dutch school children – and of grateful citizens. One man picked up a bar tab for a huge assembly of Canadian veterans, exclaiming their money was no good.

A friend in the Netherlands mailed him news clippings from the 70th anniversary celebrations in June. “Liberators from a distant land,” reads one headline. “We follow the Canadian veterans during what is possibly their last visit to the Netherlands.”

He and his wife Pat, an air force veteran, had four children. He lives in Cloverdale and is a member of Branch 6.http://webpapersadmin.bcnewsgroup.com/portals/uploads/cloverdale/.DIR288/wAlbum.jpg

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lord Tweedsmuir tops Tamanawis in all-cat fight for Surrey RCMP Classic title

Panthers’ Jaeden Reid was named MVP at all-Surrey boys tournament

Surrey students donate 2,000 pairs of socks

Initiative part of the Leo Club program

Surrey hosts grand-opening ceremony of North Surrey arena complex

‘Accessible’ facility features three sheets of ice

Trade to hometown team a ‘blessing in disguise’ for Surrey Eagles defenceman

Kieran O’Hearn gets to play in front of family, who live just minutes from South Surrey Arena

White Rock solid waste open house scheduled

Event to take place next month

After cashing in on QB gambles, Chiefs and 49ers to clash in Super Bowl

KC beats Tennessee, San Francisco dispatches Green Bay to reach NFL title game

VIDEO: SPCA and RCMP remove several animals, including pig, at private animal rescue in Langley

Home at 5500 block of 216th Street has undergone multiple seizures over the past five years

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

Victoria family focuses on ‘letting go, enjoying time together’ after dad gets dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in downtown Smithers

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

Vancouver police probe second homicide in less than 24 hours

Woman was found dead in her Gastown home

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Most Read