Okotoks WWII Veterans:

William (Bill) Reid, Royal Winnipeg Rifles, 3rd Division, South-Saskatchewan Regiment. 2nd Div.  photo right

Edward Bishton, British Engineer Special Services, 7th Armoured Division. (Desart Rats)  photo left

Vern Pippus, the 4th Division, Armoured Support

Liberators of the Netherlands


They treated us like kings
One of the most outstanding legacies of WW II was that people with the least in life, often gave the most. Okotoks Veteran Bill Reid joined the army at 16. Raised on the prairies in a family with 13 children, his area was hit hard by the depression.  “We had nothing,” Bill said. “We had no money. There was no work.”  So, Bill jumped a freight train with his older brother, Jim, in 1940 and enlisted with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, 3rd Division, after convincing them he was 19. Four years later, the young rifleman from Onanole, Manitoba found himself wading ashore at Juno Beach for the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Bill was later transferred to the  South  Saskatchewan  Regiment,  2nd Division,
          and there he learned his brother was killed in
               Caen. He credits his own survival to good
                     fortune. “It was just luck when you’re
                     not shot.” Bill fought on the front lines in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, at times working behind enemy lines. “We never thought we’d get back home. It was bad,” Bill said of the war in general. The troops often slept on the ground with only their blankets and ponchos for protection, so the weather-weary soldiers were grateful when the Hollanders opened their homes. The people showed great kindness, even though Holland was occupied and endured food rationing and much shelling, Bill said.  “The houses were all busted… It was sad. They were hungry, too.” Veteran Vern Pippus, 83, also remembers the generosity of the Netherlanders.  “People gave us their master bedroom so we could sleep…they treated us like kings,” said Pippus who fought with the 4th Division, Armoured Support and was injured while guarding the dikes along the Rhine River. Okotokian, Ted Bishton, 80, recalls the instant repoire with his hosts. “I was treated like one of the family. It was wonderful,” said Bishton, who was with the British Engineer Special Services, 7th Armoured Division. After retiring from the British Forces, Bishton moved to Okotoks in the late 1960s. Both Reid and Pippus retired from the Canadian military in the early 1970s after a lifetime of service. After the Second World War, Bill received the Bronze Lion from the government of Netherlands and it is one of his most cherished medals.  In 1960, Bill, and his wife, Janet, were traveling near Nijmegen, Netherlands when he recognized two distinct church steeples. After asking locals if they knew a family with twin girls, he knocked on a door that was as familiar as it was a distant memory.  “Bill!” The woman at the door instantly recognized the Canadian rifleman who had billeted there more than 15 years earlier. “Where’s Harry?” she inquired about Bill’s former combat partner.  The entire family converged for a joyous reunion and the twins, now adults, arrived with their families. “We had a wonderful, wonderful visit,” Janet said. The friendship exists to this day and is a reminder of what can be accomplished when people with very little are still willing to open their hearts and give to others. There are 400 Dutch tulips planted at Fredrick Price Memorial Park, the prize for a 1995 contest commemorating the 50th anniversary of the initial Dutch donation. In 1945, Canada received 100,000 bulbs for its role in the liberation of the Netherlands and for housing the Dutch Royal family during the war.

  photo: June 19th, 2005 - Okotoks