We will remember them – Nanton’s boy next door

This Saturday morning, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, you might notice people in the streets and shops across the country stopping to observe a moment of silence.  They are honouring the memory of those whose ultimate sacrifice has allowed us to call our Cool Little Towns home. 

In honour of Remembrance Day this year, we asked the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton to share the story of one of our community’s local sons, who fought with the bomber command in World War II.  We are honored to share it with you now…

By Karl Kjarsgaard – If you visit Nanton, Alberta and amble down the main street visiting the antique shops or maybe just are intent on getting some ice cream or candy along the way, you will see a sign for the Willow Creek Forge Shop.

But you may miss the faded printing on the red bricks behind that sign that says “Fetherston Grocery”. This was once the grocery store of Thomas and Anne Fetherston who had a son, their only child, Thomas Fetherston Jr. born in Nanton in 1922.

For us in Nanton, Alberta, the home of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada, the story of Thomas Jr. is one filled with great sacrifice and most worthy of a poignant and heart touching story for Remembrance Day. For you see, Thomas is one of OUR boys next door who grew up in Nanton, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, went to war, and never came home.

Photo of Thomas Fetherston Jr.

Meet Flt. Sgt. Thomas Fetherston Jr. as he went to war. So young and full of life, looking so proud in his RCAF pilot’s uniform.

Thomas was assigned to a bomber squadron in England and was just starting his combat tour in 1942 on Halifax bombers when his aircraft was shot down by German nightfighter into the North Sea off of the Dutch coast. All of the crew were killed and to this day they are still listed as missing-in-action with no known grave.

But for the most astounding factors of time and chance, this would have been the final fate of Thomas Fetherston and his bomber crew. Missing and forgotten to all except to his own family, his war bride Helen and the infant daughter Sharon he never met.

For you see, 57 years later in 1999 Henk De Jong was walking along the beach at Wijk aan Zee, Holland and discovered a rust covered bracelet in the sand, which to his amazement when cleaned, revealed that this was Thomas Jr. personal ID bracelet with his full name and RCAF regimental number!

Thomas Fetherston’s personal ID bracelet, found in the sand on the beach at Wiik aan Zee, Holland in 1999.

Imagine how you would feel if you were a bride of an airman missing-in-action, a new bride with infant child who received, as thousands of families did, the darkest news of their airman MIA and then KIA. This was the heavy burden of Helen Fetherston and her daughter Sharon, who never knew her father as she was only 8 months old when he was declared missing-in-action.

 Imagine this lightning bolt out of the blue when Helen and Sharon received the news of Thomas bracelet discovery and then it was returned to them, along with a special memorial which was built and dedicated to Thomas in Holland in 2000.

 

The memorial built and dedicated to Flt Sgt Thomas Fetherston in Holland in 2000.

Thomas Fetherston Jr’s name is now on THE WALL at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada. His granddaughter Daana, with his bracelet in hand, was there in 2015 at the Museum on behalf of all Thomas’ family and laid a wreath for him.

You can  read more about Thomas’ story on the Bomber Command Museum of Canada’s website 

They say if you remember the names of the fallen, say them, honour and enshrine them, they will not be forgotten and will be remembered forever.  Remember also, FREEDOM is not free.

—–

— Karl Kjarsgaard is a Director at Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada), and the Bomber Command Museum of Canada.  He and his group, Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) are searching worldwide to recover Handley Page Halifax bombers to restore them as a tribute to all the bomber crews who flew them in WW2. 

Remembrance Day Services in the Cool Little Towns

This year, special Remembrance Day services will be taking place across our region, in the following communities:

BLACK DIAMOND/TURNER VALLEY – The public is invited to attend a Remembrance Day service at Oilfields High School beginning at 10:30am on Saturday, November 11 followed by a laying of wreaths at the Turner Valley Legion Cenotaph beginning at 12:30pm.
http://turnervalley.ca/news/remembran…

HIGH RIVER – The High River Legion will organize their annual parade of veterans at 9:30AM. The parade will begin at the High River Legion located at 25 8 Ave. S.E., and proceed to the Highwood Memorial Centre located at 128-5 Ave. W.
The parade will not involve any complete road closures, but drivers and pedestrians may experience a traffic disruption and are asked to use caution when travelling through the area.
Regular Remembrance Day services will continue at the Memorial Centre and then the parade participants will follow the same route in reverse back to the Legion. http://www.highriver.ca/remembrance-d…

NANTON – Nanton’s Remembrance Day Service is being led by the Nanton Royal Canadian Legion,Branch 80.
Please gather at the cenotaph in the park directly south of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada by 10:45 a.m. on November 11th. Once the outdoor program is completed around 11:20 the program will move into the Nanton Memorial Community Centre for another hour.
Please come pay tribute to our veterans and wear a poppy. https://www.nanton.ca/

OKOTOKS – The annual Okotoks Remembrance Day Service will take place at Pason Centennial Arena.  The arena is wheelchair accessible and seats 2,400 people, with additional standing room for 500 attendees. All are welcome to attend.
With an expected increase in attendees, those who can are encouraged to carpool or walk to the service. Please note, there is construction happening next to Pason Centennial Arena due to the expansion project.
The service is organized by the Okotoks Branch #291 of the Royal Canadian Legion in coordination with the Town of Okotoks. https://www.okotoks.ca/municipal-gove…