World War II veteran shares his story through pictures, letters home, and a rescued diary

Cloverdale's Art Heming, now 94, was a commercial artist before he signed up in 1941, taking a camera along on his five-year army stint.

Art Haming is a Cloverdale veteran of the Second World War. In the photo

Art Heming spent five years in the army during the Second World War.

He was born in Moose Jaw, Sask., to a family of seven boys –  four served overseas.

The youngest was shot down over the French/German border.

“I never did see him anymore,” says Heming, 94, pausing at a memory that still stings, bringing a rush of emotions to the surface all these years later.

They’d been close; sleeping in the same bed as kids.

Heming enlisted in 1941 at the age of 21, and served with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, the administrative and transport corps of the army.

His first posting was Victoria, and he went overseas in 1943, first to England, then Europe.

“We were on the beaches a month after D-Day,” he says, landing at Normandy just behind the initial invasion of June 1944, following the troops through France and Belgium.

“I was in charge of vehicles, dispatching them and that sort of thing.”

In Normandy, there was bombing every night. Daytime, too, because Germans were still flying squads over the Allies in France. He recalls the time some shrapnel whistled past his ear. It was so close, he could feel its heat.

They slept in slip trenches they dug themselves. “There was dirt, dust and worms.”

They slept in their uniforms and when they got to shower, which was rarely, it was with cold water.

Heming had a camera, and today has a stack of photos he took during the war, including a http://webpapersadmin.bcnewsgroup.com/portals/uploads/cloverdale/.DIR288/wWarPhotos.jpgpicture of the Bailey bridge they constructed at Nijmegen, in the Netherlands.

Others show Heming and other smiling young men relaxing beside rubble, or taking in a show performed for the troops, the stage a platform between two army trucks.

“I had a lot of buddies who were killed in the war,” he muses as he flips through the stack.

“It was all censored,” he says. “I had to be careful.”

His pictures show German villages that were utterly destroyed, and scenes of everyday life in Holland, where civilians had no choice but to carry on.

Heming points out a photo of a young Dutch girl who had a toothache. He had a full bottle of Aspirin and handed it to the girl’s mother, who put a tablet directly on the afflicted tooth.

A street in Amsterdam shows a horse harnessed to an automobile – there was no gasoline to fill the tank.

Letters home were also censored.

They wrote on cards that were a few inches wide, smaller than postcards.

The messages were photographed and the film flown home to Canada, where the messages were developed before they could be sent to their destinations.

Hemming sent dozens home – one a week. A commercial sign painter at Eton’s in Moose Jaw before the war, Heming drew detailed illustrations showing his folks back home what he was up to.http://webpapersadmin.bcnewsgroup.com/portals/uploads/cloverdale/.DIR288/wWarMessages.jpg

“I had to watch what I was sketching,” he said.

He kept a diary, too, but nearly lost it forever when he was ordered to throw it out.

He ripped the pages in half and tossed them in the bin, carefully retrieving the precious fragments when the superior’s back was turned.

He was able to smuggle the pages back home, and reassemble his war diary using Scotch tape.

A sample: “Jul 44. After travelling all night, passing the straits of Dover with no enemy action, we anchored off the French coast at approx 2000 hours the following evening, after passing a very quiet day. There was nothing exceptional to report except that on [illegible] 231 28 bottles of liquor vanished from the offrs mess lorry.”

When the war ended, he waited months for a transport ship home. He didn’t get home until February, 1945.

“They sent hockey equipment over to us. Can you imagine?” A game in Amsterdam stands out. He was skating off the rink as new teams were taking the ice, when he recognized a familiar face.

“It was my brother, right there on the ice,” he says. The reunion briefly held things up. “We hadn’t seen each other in over a year and a half.”

He married his wife, Fay, in 1948 and they have three grown children. The Hemings moved to Cloverdale afthttp://webpapersadmin.bcnewsgroup.com/portals/uploads/cloverdale/.DIR288/wWarDiary-Front.jpger living in North Surrey for 25 years, and in North Vancouver for 35 years.

“Remembrance Day,” he says, “is for those who have served and who have given their life.”

On Nov. 11, he will be thinking of his brother, who lost his life in service so long ago.

“These are the people we should remember.”

Follow the Cloverdale Reporter on Twitter and Facebook. View our print edition online.

Just Posted

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

‘New’ truck, trailer donated to the BC Vintage Truck Museum

Ownership of 1928 Graham truck, 1949 Langford trailer officially transferred on Saturday

Plan to redevelop former Surrey motel site too dense, says Coun. Pettigrew

Pettigrew: ‘We need to build liveable community with green spaces… not massive zones that are densified’

Former North Delta pastor, son ‘preyed upon shared spirituality’ to defraud investors of $450K: BCSC

BCSC panel publishes financial sanctions against Alan and Jerry Braun, Steven Maxwell

Snowfall warning: 5-10 cm expected in Lower Mainland

The snowfall will start Tuesday and carry on into the evening, before tapering off Wednesday

‘Our entire municipality is heartbroken’: Seven children die in Halifax house fire

A man and woman remained in hospital Tuesday afternoon, the man with life-threatening injuries

Kelowna raises concerns over safety, policing with Centre of Gravity organizers

The mayor said it was a mutual decision between organizers and the city to postpone the festival

VIDEO: Lower Mainland barn fire kills three sheep

The Langley Township fire department was called to a site in the 4100 block of 240th Street.

Stock trading allegations dismissed against former Lower Mainland spiritual leader

Investors allegedly lost $740,000 investing through a local religious organization.

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

B.C. BUDGET: Indigenous communities promised billions from gambling

Extended family caregiver pay up 75 per cent to keep kids with relatives

B.C. BUDGET: New benefit increases family tax credits up to 96 per cent

BC Child Opportunity Benefit part of province’s efforts to reduce child poverty

B.C. BUDGET: Carbon tax boosts low-income credits, electric vehicle subsidies

Homeowners can get up to $14,000 for heating, insulation upgrades

Most Read