Dogged persistence

Mr. Alex Colville from Wolfville.
WWII Veteran
War Artist

Liberator of the Netherlands


I was with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division
and Nijmegen was one of the places where the paratroopers landed in mid-September of 1944.  That was the 82nd Airborne Division and also the 3rd Canadian that I served with to relieve the 82nd Airborne.
Once the action is over, the parachute people tend to go someplace else.  We were in Nijmegen from some time in November, until, I think early February, so it was quite a long time.  We were actually quartered right in the small village.  That was the longest period of my stay in Holland. I was in the army for 2 years, and because I had been a fine-arts student, I am now a professional painter; I was made a war-artist in May of 1944, and flown rather dramatically to London.  I was only a lieutenant, and to be flown to London....I couldn’t imagine what as happening.  When I got to London I was told by a colonel that I had been made a war-artist, and I took it from there. I had been trained as an infantry officer, the bottom of the army, in the sense that they are on foot and have comparatively light weapons and I did a painting, when the war ended, it was based upon numerous drawings, it was called "Infantry."  It is now in the Canadian War Museum.  It simply represents about a platoon of Canadian soldiers marching along, not in formal, marching order, with one section on one side of the road, and the other on the other side of the road, spread out in a typical way of moving across the country.  They would be scattered, so that they would not be all killed at once with one shell. This painting has been reproduced a lot for things having to do with WWII in Canada.  I think that expressed in a way my sense of feeling about war, not so much a melodramatic and heroic thing, although it was that too, but it was a question of persistence, of walking in the rain and the melting snow and the cold and the constant element of danger and so on....the endurance factor.  Particularly admirable in the infantry, and characteristic of the war which wasn’t, it seems to me, melodramatic so much, as it was dogged persistence.

 Photo: September 11th, 2005,  Acadia University, Wolfville.