March 4th, 1943

March 4th, 1943

Dear Mom + Dad

Just a line to let you know that I got the box + registered letter and was I glad.

I won’t be getting my week-end this week because there was 4 Ptn so they tossed for it and I lost so we get ours next week. But I may go home on Sat, but I don’t know for sure.

I’m having lots of fun it’s getting to be a better camp every day.

We went into the gas chambers to-day at 2 o’clock and it’s now 6:30 and I’m still crying.

Boy is it cold here, our rifles were froze this morning. We had our first exam today in first aid and I passed. We have our Bren Gun test to-morrow I think I’ll pass because I had it when I was in the R.C.E.

How is Marg getting along? I hope she is being a good girl, does she come over very often?

You say Mill moved up, when you see her tell her to write, the time goes fast when you get lots of letters. Marg writes nearly every day. Well I can’t think of anything else to say. Write soon.


[Shannan note – this letter threw me for a loop initially…the mention of “gas chambers” had me a little confused because all other things point to Gord not only still being in training of sorts, but likely still being in Canada (the mailing address he provides for return mail to this letter is in Brampton, Ontario and there was a Royal Air Force base there, RAF Wyton). A little bit of research leads me to believe that he’s talking about mustard gas training.

In doing the research for this post, I found a great interview documented on The Memory Project website where a WWII veteran speaks about his experience with mustard gas training. You can listen to that here: . If you find Gord’s story interesting, I strongly suggest spending some time on The Memory Project website.

The Bren Gun that Gord mentions being tested on was the primary light infantry machine gun used by the British and Commonwealth in WWII and the Korean War. Gord also mentions using the Bren Gun when he was in the R.C.E, and all investigation suggests that he is talking about the Royal Canadian Engineers.

Lastly, I’m fairly certain that Gord is kidding when signs his next few letters “Major” unless he somehow managed to climb military ladder faster than anyone in history, also he signs a few future letters as General… 🙂 ]

February 28th, 1943 – Coat Hangers…

February 28th, 1943 – Brampton

Dear Mom, Dad,

Just a line to let yous know I got back okay. Boy am I getting it easy this morning, my boy friends and I had to sweep and scrub the orderly room. It took us about an hour and now we’re through for the day but still C.B. if we weren’t I’d get home but I’ll stay and catch up with my sleep and writing and washing. It’s pretty hard to write here there is 2 guys playing the pianos it sounds alright to.

Don’t forget to send the box because I’ll be looking for it and send me a couple of coat hangers that’s what I need the most.

Well I can’t think of much more to say so good-bye for now, see yous all soon. Will write to-morrow.

Lots of Love,
Your Son,


[Shannan note – The photo above is the whole gang – brothers Gerald (Pork), Ray, Gord, and dad Edward… Also, no blog post tomorrow, I’ve got a full day of family ahead. The Oakwood Kid will be back on Monday – see you then! 🙂 ]


The who’s who…

Last year, when I made the decision to really dig into my family history, specifically into Gord and his letters, I didn’t really have any idea of the scale of work I was in for or how much of a challenge it would be. There are so many little details and facts that I am starting to uncover and finding the best method for managing everything has been a bit of a process – I’m a list maker, a note taker, and a lover of all things Excel. I like things to be organized and neat, and to sit right where they belong. This project has been an exercise in flexibility if anything. I very quickly learned that not everything will fit into a neat little box, there will be portions of this puzzle that might always be missing a piece, and I’ve come to accept that.

As I wind up the tail end of my mini holiday vacation, I’ve really been diving into all of the random scraps of paper and unlabeled photos that accompanied the letters. I’ve spent the last couple of days lost in photos, notes, and research. It’s become apparent that with the first letter post coming up in a couple of days, a cast of characters could be a useful thing for everyone.

I expect this list to grow with time, but these are a few of the key folks that we’ll be introduced too early on.

Gord – the man himself. He’s young, from Peterborough area originally. I have heard a few different things on his age when he joined the military, but official paperwork shows him as 19 in 1943 so we’ll go with that. Later letters are signed as The Oakwood Kid, which is where the blog name was born from. Oakwood, Ontario is where (I believe) his parents moved to around 1944, and possibly where they were originally from – Oakwood is in the Kawartha Lakes area (like I said, pieces are still missing).

Gord’s Mom – Amy – everything I’ve found in all my dives into the family history, and from everyone I have spoken to, suggest that Amy was a wonderful woman. Gord certainly seems enamored with his mom, and I can’t wait to learn even more about her.

Gord’s Dad – Edward – I’m still digging through bits and pieces to try and learn more about Edward. He passed away when my mom and her siblings we’re very young, so there’s not much first-hand knowledge about him around.

Bin – Gord’s sister, and my Grandmother. I didn’t know Bin very well, she passed away when I was quite young, but my mother adored her, and my brother had an incredible relationship with her. Gord was very clearly quite close to his sister, and the rest of his family.

Marg – a friend of Bin’s, and possibly a love interest of Gord’s.

Sweetipie – Gord’s little sister Geraldine (Gerry)

Pork – Gord’s brother Gerald.

Waugh – A friend of Gord’s from back home that he meets up with in the military.