From Maidstone to Stalag VIIIB

…and in the setting of the sun we will remember them…

Arthur Edward Buckley 

October 19, 1920 – May 27, 2011

Dieppe to Stalag VIIIB to Maidstone

Arthur Buckley, a farm boy from  Maidstone, Saskatchewan joined the Canadian army in the fall of 1941, started training in Dundurn and Borden, Ontario and continued training in England in May, 1942. Allied plans to invade northern France in July were cancelled due to inclement weather. Operation Jubilee, the landing at Dieppe, was planned for 19 August, 1942. The day before the invasion, Art Buckley volunteered to join the Calgary Tanks Regiment due to the illness of one of their soldiers. 


Red beach was the location where he landed that fateful morning. He was in a “scout car” which managed to successfully maneuver through the pebbled beach, however the jeep was hit by artillery, and flipped so that he and the other soldier landed on the seaside of the vehicle, protected from artillery shells. 


By 1 PM, August 19, he was one of 1900 soldiers captured. Prisoners were triaged and then shipped by rail car to the prisoner of war camp, Stalag VIIIB in Poland. He was incarcerated in POW camps until the end of the war, approximately 3 1/2 years later.


Escape from the prison camp is always a focus for a soldier. Art had one opportunity for freedom. He exchanged identity with a Welsh soldier, who was assigned to work in a rock quarry. He and another soldier escaped from the quarry and were free for approximately 3 weeks. They travelled by night and slept during the day in rural  Poland, attempting to find their way to the Baltic Sea. Art had a silk map of Europe which had been supplied by the Canadian Army. He stowed it in his boot and used it for navigation. Their freedom ended one night when they were walking along a road and two German officers on bicycles rode up behind them, capturing them. They were held in the local police station and then transferred back to Stalag VIIIB, where they endured days of solitary confinement as their punishment. 


Art described the prisoner of war  experience as boring and a waste of 3 1/2 years of his life. He committed to himself that if he ever was free, he would never have any idle time. He returned home to the family farm, married his sweetheart, raised a family and lived his life as he promised — without waste, volunteering in his community whenever opportunity arose. 

Fast forward 50 years to 1992, which was the 50th anniversary of the Dieppe raid. Art, his wife, daughter and son-in-law attended. They also visited relatives in England. Upon returning home, Art received a letter from Veterans Affairs, telling him there had been an inquiry from a person in Wales, and would he approve being contacted by this person. It turns out the inquiry was from the soldier with whom he had exchanged identity. It was regrettable that they did not meet, given the fact they were so close. They did, however, correspond for a few years. A couple of decades later Arthur’s adult children traced his footsteps across Europe. 

The story goes even deeper than what his son Alan submitted to me at this time. I know from previous correspondence that Arthur’s father Herbert Buckley served in the First World War. His letters home are an incredible first hand look at life in the trenches that bring the history books to life. 


Both men returned home to the family farm in Maidstone and resumed living their lives quietly. Neither spoke openly about their war experiences. Father and son were instrumental in first the building of (Herbert) and maintaining the Maidstone Legion Branch (Arthur). Their legacy lives on; gone but not forgotten by those that loved them. For those that didn’t know them, we appreciate their commitment to their country.

11 days — 11 stories 

Acts of Remembrance 

 

Bernie

With special thanks to Allan and Pat Buckley for the inside story.

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