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Hon Col. John Leefe DCL
West Nova Scotia Regiment

How often it is forgotten that ordinary men and women are called upon to do extraordinary things in extraordinary times. Such a person was Joseph Cyrs Glode, a Mi’kmaw warrior of the West Nova Scotia Regiment and one of the fallen of the Second World War.

Joseph was born somewhere in Lunenburg County on July 15, 1914. We know nothing of his parents, Mary Catherine and James Nibby except that his mother died while Joseph was still a small child. His father later remarried and had four children with his second wife. Perhaps there was no room in this new family for the little boy who had lost his mother for the modest information available tells us that Joseph’s uncle, Peter Glode, became his guardian and that they shortly thereafter they moved to Shubenacadie. From this time on, Joseph used his mother’s maiden name and that of his uncle as his own surname.

Joseph left school after having completed grade six, a not unusual circumstance in 1926. The post- First World War economy of Nova Scotia tended to be recessionary and went further downhill with the crash of the stock market and the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929. Like so many Nova Scotia youth he took work where he could get it, often in lumber camps and in other seasonal employments around the province.

In 1938 he reverted to his legal surname for the purpose of marrying a young woman named Morris who was from Kentville. She brought three illegitimate children into the marriage, one that would last only a year or so. Infidelity seemed to be her long suit so Joseph kicked over the traces, left her and never had contact with her again. The events of 1939, both personal and international with the beginning of the Second World War, would change Joseph Glode’s life in so many ways.

On May 5th 1940 Joseph made his way to Camp Aldershot on the outskirts of Kentville. Here hundreds of Canadian youth were being prepared for deployment overseas in the war against the fascism of Hitler. His documentation is on a Canadian Government web site so it is possible to trace his military career from beginning to end. Here he was “attested”, to use the proper army term, taken on Strength (TOS) and joined the West Nova Scotia Regiment, Service Number F40729. The official documentation stated his trade as carpenter, his religion as Roman Catholic, his marital state as single and his next of kin, his Uncle Peter Glode. He was fingerprinted, took the Oath of Allegiance to King and Country and set out on his soldier journey. We know that he was five feet seven inches tall, weighed 137 pounds, had a 37 inch chest measurement, brown eyes, black hair and was of dark complexion, had 20/20 vision, excellent hearing and was in good health. Regrettably there is no known photograph of Joseph, but we have a pretty good idea of how he looked overall.

The West Nova Scotia Regiment was part of the First Canadian Division that left Canada in November 1939, arriving in Scotland a few days after the beginning of the New Year. Joseph followed in their footsteps, arriving in England as a reinforcement in 1940.

Joseph completed basic training at Camp Aldershot as an infanteer and went on to Camp Borden for more advanced instruction. He embarked at Halifax on August 23 arriving in Greenock, Scotland on September 4th where he joined the First Canadian Division who were training there and in England. He was taken on strength by the West Nova Scotia Regiment on June 20, 1941 just 10 days after Mussolini declared war of Britain and France.

In Canada and Great Britain Joseph followed the well established path of soldiers who had preceded him. He trained hard, passed successfully, was granted furloughs and from time to time got into minor difficulties. On more than one occasion he was AWL (Absent Without Leave), he was charged with drunkenness and he was found guilty of destroying government property to the value of ₤ 1.0.0. He was CB (Confined to Barracks), received pay stoppages and on one occasion, was fined $6.00. The consequences of these misdemeanours appear fairly modest so we can assume his indiscretions were not deemed intolerable or indeed out of the usual for a Canadian soldier an ocean away from home...

Rigorous training continued in both Scotland and England including live fire and amphibious exercises. The Regiment was briefly considered for deployment in the Dieppe Raid of 1942, but that angel of death passed them by. Like all troops, Joseph had regular inoculations to keep him healthy and safe from disease and infection. Despite precautions, he was in and out of hospital on a number of occasions which really was not unusual for a soldier of that time. On May 16, 1942 his record noted “this soldier completed two years service”. Soldiering was no get rich scheme, but it did offer regular remuneration, free room and board and sturdy clothing. On January 1, 1943 his daily pay was raised to $1.50.

The Japanese had attacked British, French and Dutch colonies in the Far East in 1941 and on December 7th they struck the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour. America which had already become the arsenal of democracy was now a full fighting ally in the war effort. By 1942 the Germans were being pushed back in North Africa and on the Eastern Front in Russia. Still, the British American leadership was not able to consider mounting an assault on Western Europe even though they were being berated by their hard pressed Soviet ally. They did agree however, that pressure had to be brought to bear on Germany. Consequently Sicily and Italy were chosen as the targets. It was a strategic decision intended to force the Germans to divert troops from the Russian Front and prevent re-inforcements from reaching Northwest Europe when the time came to attack across the English Channel. The Canadian First Division was cited for deployment to the Mediterranean and the assault on Italy. Pte. Joseph Glode and his comrades in the West Nova Scotia Regiment were now to put into bloody practice the lessons learned over the preceding 3 years of training.

On June 15th 1943 Joseph Glode, the West Novas the Carleton and York Regiment of New Brunswick were ferried out into the Clyde River to board the Polish liner Batory which lay at anchor at Gourock, Scotland. These young Canadian soldiers were embarking on a voyage which for them had, as yet, no known destination. One thing was clear however: this was the commencement of a journey into the real thing. No more training, no more comfortable barracks, no more leave among the Scottish and English girls, just the promise of battle, for some, grievous injury, for others a grave in an unknown land.

The Allies were successful in deluding the enemy into believing the armada approaching the Mediterranean was going to attack in the east, most probably Greece. The real target as we know was Sicily and then across the Strait of Messina to the Italian boot itself. This was the largest invasion force in history with hundreds of merchant ships, landing craft and warships carrying and supporting 150,000 Canadian, British and American soldiers under cover of a massive naval barrage and pounding aerial attack. Joseph and the West Novas were in the reserve and landed on July 10th at 17:00 hrs (5:00 PM). They moved out at midnight with San Fornata Ridge as their objective. Shortly after daylight they made contact with the enemy, 25 Italians who were only too happy to surrender. Their war was over. Still, the regiment had experienced its first three casualties. For Pte. Joseph Glode and the West Novas, war was just beginning.

July 15th broke bright, hot and sunny. It was Joseph Glode’s 29th birthday. It was also his last. In the evening the Regiment passed though the Vizinni and the on the 16th they were in Caltigirone. They reached San Michele that night. It was sometime during this day that Pte. Joseph Glode Service Number F/40720 gave his life in the struggle to free Europe from the brutality of Nazi and Italian Fascism. The circumstances of his death are not known. Was he one of the three casualties of July 15th? Was he killed in a firefight on his birthday plus one? Was he shot by a sniper? Did he step on a land mine? Did he succumb to earlier wounds? Did he die instantly? The fact is, we simply do not know. All we do know is that for this brave Mi’kmaw Canadian soldier, war was over. He had been “Killed in Action”.

Joseph Glode’s remains were collected by those whose task it was to ensure he had a decent Christian burial in this land so far from his own Nova Scotia, his Mi’kma’ki as his people called it. His belongings at the time of his death were logged by Pte. Cathcart, a Medical Orderly. As one would expect, much of it consists of uniform and issued kit. The only personal items were a flashlight, razor, a damaged match box and a wallet. Later there would be added an address book, a medallion and snapshots. I wonder whose names were listed in that little book: his Uncle Peter perhaps? friends from home? acquaintances made in Britain, possibly some girl friends? The medallion was surely religious, perhaps St. Anne who is the Patron Saint of the Mi’kmaw people or possibly St. Christopher the protector of travellers. Who was in the snapshots? Uncle Peter? His mother? Who knows? Well, no one today. What these modest items do tell us is that like all soldiers, home was never far from his mind, a home he would never again see, where he would never again find joy in the smell of the pine woods, of sunlight dancing on a Nova Scotia lake, the warm welcome of Uncle Peter’s home in Shubenacadie or the close embrace of someone whom he loved.

In August Peter Glode received a letter from Major General Letson notifying him of his nephew’s death. In part it reads:

The Minister of National Defence and the members of the Army Council have asked me to express to you and your family their sincere sympathy in your bereavement. We pay tribute to the sacrifice he so bravely made.

Today Pte. Joseph Glode Service Number F/40729, Canadian soldier, Mi’kmaw warrior, rests in the Commonwealth Cemetery at Agira, Sicily surrounded by comrades who like him, made the supreme sacrifice. Posthumously he was awarded the 1939 Star, the Volunteer Service Medal, the Italy Star, the Defence Medal and the War Medal. Presumably they were sent to Joseph’s Uncle Peter in Shubenacadie. He rests there not forgotten, but remembered and mourned by those who knew him in life and by those who today serve in the West Nova Scotia Regiment whose Regimental Colour bears the names of so many far off places, among them “Landing in Sicily”.

In 2014 the West Nova Scotia Regiment created a special coin as a “Memory of Those Served in War and Peace. On the obverse is the badge of the West Nova Scotia Regiment. On the reverse is a likeness of the West Nova Memorial at Camp Aldershot. When the project is complete, each of 359 coins will bear the single engraved name one of the West Novas who made the supreme sacrifice. As I sit at my desk, I can reach out and pick up the coin on which is inscribed:

Pte. J. C. Glode

As I turn it over in my hand, I think of Joseph and wonder if my search for a surviving family member will meet with success. One can only hope and be “Always Faithful” in pursuit of that goal.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them