On Being Twenty

Journal Entry. Toronto.
Sunday, May 4th, 2008.

Sad to say but playoff hockey is probably the great cultural unifier in this large and snowy country of ours.

I'm pretty sure that if the Habs had made it past Philly the ghosts of Lionel Groulx and Mordechai Richler would have been singing a boozy Oh Canada somewhere on St. Denis.

But Carey Price let in a couple of Raycrofts and Les Glorieux were toast.

Over and over again the TV guys kept pointing to his youth, his inexperience, and his inability to handle pressure. After all, they said - he's only 20 years old.

"You can't expect a kid to deal with pressure at that age", chirped Cherry.

All of this brought to mind another 20 year old - JOE ENGLISH.

In 1943 Joe was eighteen months out of a Calgary high school and flying a Lancaster over Germany. He finished his tour of operations before he learned how to drive a car.

(Note to CBC documentary department - Bomber Command called them Operations; Americans called them Missions).

Berlin. The Ruhr. Nuremberg. Joe flew them all.

A couple of years ago I did a doc series (Bomber Boys) with Joe; this is how he described flying his Lanc in the middle of a thousand-aircraft bomber stream while being hunted by radar-guided night fighters -:

"...it's like walking blindfold across a large room full of other blindfolded guys all heading the same way knowing that if you bumped into someone - you were going to die; if you turned at the wrong time - you were going to die; if you got lost - you were going to die ----- and all the time the bad guys are trying to sneak up and shoot you in the back".

Joe and his crew crossed that room THIRTY times.

Only 1 in 8 Bomber Command crews made it through their tour of duty without being killed, captured or wounded. Most were posted missing before their fifth operation.

Joe was part of that fortunate few who came home alive. He was lucky and good and handled pressure pretty well.

Did I mention that he was twenty years old ?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dudley "Red" Garrett from Toronto was just 18 when he was traded by the Leafs to New York Rangers in 1942-43, where he played in 23 games. Season over, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy and saw active convoy service in the 'Battle of the Atlantic.' Garrett died from exposure in November of 1944 when his ship was sunk. He was 20 years and four months old.