Alexandar Kovar: Remembering the 8th RECCE

The legacy of those who saw action for the Canadian forces in various conflicts around the world is one worthy of remembrance.

Particularly remembered are the selfless acts of those soldiers, known and unknown, who gave their lives in combat so we could enjoy our freedoms today.

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But it is not just generations of Canadians who are thankful for the sacrifice of those who fought in the Second World War. It is also the sentiment of the surviving veterans who gave of themselves and were lucky enough to return home from that conflict and who realize others were not as fortunate.

One of those is Alexander Kovar, a member of Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 9 in Battleford, though he resides in North Battleford. He is a veteran of the Second World War and a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

His unit was the 8th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment of the 14th Canadian Hussars. Their mission was to provide reconnaissance for the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division during that conflict.

Their unit stayed behind and "loaded up for all the rest," with ammunition and other materials for other infantry regiments, with Kovar mentioning the Regina Johns or Regina Rifles who were active in combat in the war.

Kovar himself enlisted in the army at just 16 years of age in 1942 and was soon posted to England. The 8th RECCE, or VIII RECCE, were situated in southern England for much of the early part of the war, but entered into a combat role in 1944, just weeks after the D-Day invasions.

They crossed the English Channel and landed in Normandy and participated in the ongoing Battle of Normandy and were involved actively from that point on.

"We were just a little late because we couldn't get a lot of our equipment onto the beach," Kovar said.

"But later on we had the problem because the Germans had whole places dug out already along the shore, and also they had cemented cannons and machine guns. We used to catch that every now and again."

Kovar's own involvement was as "just a trooper," he said.

"We'd done everything. We didn't have 'this guy who does this and this guy who does that.' We all did what was necessary."

They did have "captains and lieutenants," Kovar notes, but those titles meant little, everyone did what was needed.

They were involved in the liberation of Holland and the invasion of Germany, and were involved in some costly battles that killed a lot of men.

According to military histories, the Battle Honours for the 8th RECCE included Caen, Falaise, the Seine 1944, Antwerp-Turnhout Canal, the Scheldt, South Beveland, Twente Canal, Groningen, Oldenberg and North West Europe 1944-45.

The regiment disbanded in Swift Current Dec. 15, 1945, though it would continue on as a militia regiment afterwards for many years.

The veterans of VIII RECCE - 14th Canadian Hussars continued to stay in touch long after the war was over.

"Every so often, since the end of the war, our regiment used to get together," said Kovar. This used to happen every three or four months at different towns.

At one of those they came across a poem from one of their own regiment members, Florence Noble.

Her role with the regiment was to keep track of the men and the motor equipment and other duties, Kovar said.

Noble had written a piece for Remembrance Day in 1974 entitled "They Gave Up Their Tomorrow So We Could Have Today."

She had presented the poem at one of their gatherings, and Kovar noted it would later be passed along to different towns and shared with people.

George "Junior" Gains took the poem back to Ontario and had it recited in all the schools in Hamilton on Nov. 11 1982. It was also recited on local television in Hamilton in 1983.

While he knew a copy of the poem was around, Kovar said he didn't put his hands on one until last year. After he did, he provided a copy to be recited at the ceremony for unmarked graves at the cemetery earlier this year.

Kovar said he had a copy of the poem at home for lying around with his "junk papers", but he discovered it again and thought it should be shared with the local readers.

He says the poem tells the story of "what was happening as it was going along," and pays tribute to those who died in the war, including those who died whose names are not known or who went missing in combat.

"There's an awful lot of them dead and buried. There's about 200 still missing that we don't know anything about them."

They Gave Up Their Tomorrow

So We Could Have Today

I heard a voice just the other day,

A radio announcer was heard to say:

Buy a poppy, that symbol of red,

To help the living and honour the dead.

They gave up their tomorrow

So we could have today.

You marched this morning, side by side,

With heads held, hearts full of pride;

You recalled the Comrades whose blood was shed,

And silently you remembered the sleeping dead.

They gave up their tomorrow

So we could have today.

You've met with old Comrades and shared a drink,

Did you take time to pause and think?

Tonight many families will shed a tear

In memory of those who cannot be here.

They gave up their tomorrow

So we could have today.

Many lads left home with an aching heart

Afraid of killing, but doing their part;

So much horror and suffering and pain,

Their sacrifice must not be in vain.

The gave up their tomorrow

So we could have today.

They cringed in the fox holes as shells went by

Wondering who would be next to die;

Oft times they prayed to an unknown God

But many now rest under foreign sod.

They gave up their tomorrow

So we could have today.

There are Mums and Dads with hair turned grey -

They've no grandchildren to watch at play;

There's no son's footstep along the hall,

There's only a photo that hangs on the wall.

They gave up their tomorrow

So we could have today.

To you folks too young to know

About that long famed "Sunset Glow,"

You are the ones to heed their cry

Yours is that torch to hold on high.

They gave up their tomorrow

So we could have today.

We can smell the rain, and feel the snow,

We can see the stars at midnight glow;

We have the chance to see the sun

And we can choose our path to run.

They gave up their tomorrow

So we could have today.

Until the strife and struggles cease,

And we achieve a lasting peace

When the war drum throbs no longer

And the battle flags are furled -

In the Parliament of Man

We'll have Confederation of the World.

They gave up their tomorrow

So we could have today.

© Copyright Battlefords News Optimist