The Hamlets at Deer Park has some amazing family members and we would like you to have a chance to get to know them. We are going to introduce a new family member each month by sharing their story with you. November is dedicated to Tom Baker. Tom is one of the last two surviving members of the 14th Calgary Armoured Corp, the armoured division of the King’s Own Calgary Regiment.
Here at the Hamlets, we are a community and even more so a family who has chosen to live under the same roof. In an effort to get better acquainted with each of our residents, we’d like to share with you a glimpse into a variety of our residents’ lives; starting this week with Tom Baker.
If we could turn back the clock by just a few decades, you would meet a young man who at the age of sixteen, as a former cadet, felt compelled to enlist in The King’s Own Calgary Regiment (KOCR), as war was imminent.
Despite his father being successful in thwarting his enlistment on two different occasions, it wasn’t until February 14, 1939, that Tom finally managed to get to the local Recruitment Office and enlisted into The King’s Own Calgary Regiment. After spending 18 months gaining experience with arms and ammunition and enduring rigorous physical fitness training, he signed on as a Trooper into the 14th Calgary Armoured Corp (14th CAR); the armoured division of the KOCR. It was in mid-1941, that Tom was two of his best friends set sail for England, where they would spend countless hours over the next many months learning how to drive the Churchill Tanks, rifle practice, and ride the “snorting Norton” motorcycles as ammunition Dispatch Riders.
Little did Tom and his friends know that, despite all the required training, nothing would prepare them for their first tour of duty, which saw them landing on the shores of Dieppe on that fateful day of August 19, 1942. Out of the tanks that managed to reach land, all were lost, as none could make their way up the rocky shore and cliffside to the town site. Thirteen of the KOCR landing party were killed in action and 157 were taken prisoner of war. Tom managed to make it back to the U-boat, as did his friends, to fight another day (so to speak).
It was in his duties at the age of 20, as a Dispatch Rider in Motta, Italy in 1943, whereby he was couriering information up to the front line (as radio transmissions were near impossible, given the mountainous terrain), that Tom was blown off his bike after being shelled by a “screaming Meanie”, or an 88 shell. He was shipped to North Africa to recover over a six-month time frame and then returned to the front lines once again. The KOCR saw the most frontline action of any armoured corps, having fought in all major areas of France, Holland, Italy, and Sicily until 1946, when the war finally ended and Tom returned home to Calgary.
Upon his return, employment opportunities were minimal, so Tom decided to relocate to Ontario. Eventually, he hired on and had a 25-year career with Canadian General Electric. It wasn’t until 1999 that Tom and his with Ruth moved back to Alberta, to be closer to their daughter Sandee and granddaughters Janet and Candra. As luck would have it, Candra then moved to Ontario in 2001 for her engineering degree at Waterloo University. Next July, Tom is very excited to see her get married in Canmore and he gets to share that spectacular day with her and her fiancee Jesse. Janet is employed as an Environmental Engineer, overseeing the Landfill operations with the City of Red Deer.
Since 2004, Tom has returned to Europe on a number of WWII historic tours: France twice, Italy three times and Holland twice. In 2014, as an honoured guest of the KOCR and also as one of the three remaining Dieppe survivors, Tom and the current regiment returned to the actual shelling sit in Motta, Italy. Throughout his travels, Tom has met some of the families in the towns that the KOCR liberated. It was truly an amazing and emotional time for all!
Since December 2016, when Tom joined us, we at the Hamlets at Deer Park have been honoured to have Tom as part of our community and family. We will never forget the brave sacrifices that Tom and his fellow veterans have made, so that we can enjoy the freedom we have today.