Summerland veteran recalls days of war and peace

Remembrance Day is not a celebration, but rather a time to remember the horrors and human cost of war.

Veteran Dick Norris sits with memories from his time serving in the Royal Marines during the Second World War.

Remembrance Day is not a celebration, but rather a time to remember the horrors and human cost of war.

Dick Norris, who served in the Navy during the Second World War, remembers it all too well.

Norris was raised on the B.C. coast in Desolation Sound, the fifth child in a family of ten. He took his schooling by correspondence and says he “grew up wild.”

“Dad moved us up there just before the depression and we never even knew there was one on,” said Norris. “We had everything we wanted. We lived off the land and water with salmon, fish, deer and moose.”

In 1942 Norris received a brown envelope from his Majesty, the King, instructing him to report to HMCS Discovery in Vancouver.

“I should never have been drafted because I was only 17, but I was a commercial fisherman and they wanted men who could handle boats in rough water,” Norris said. “They called us the Fishermen’s Reserve.”

After months of training with the Royal Marines, he was ready for a special naval assault force called Combined Operations.

Norris has pictures of some of the 30 ships unloading troops on the beaches of France, with barrage balloons floating all around them in the sky overhead. He can point to his position “number one gun, right on the bow.”

“We had to get 150,000 men on that beach, bringing them from South Hampton, England,” said Norris. “Our ship would run right up on the beach if possible. If it was too shallow, they had to wade in amid all the gunfire. Then we’d drag ourselves off the beach and get the hell out of there.”

Norris explained that many of the ships didn’t make it because of the coastal defenses with the shores being mined.

“We were expendable. They never thought we’d make it,” he said. “We were lucky.”

After the war, Norris threw himself into his work as a carpenter. He worked twelve to fourteen hours a day all in an attempt to forget the past and build his future.

In 1946, Norris met his wife Kathleen, who served in the Canadian Women’s Army Corp. They married in 1947.

In 1951 Norris was appointed special representative of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and he travelled all over the B.C. Interior and Yukon, settling disputes, negotiating and signing agreements.

With six growing children, Norris decided to settle in the Okanagan and the family moved to Summerland in 1960.

After retiring in 1982, Norris soon found himself stepping up to rebuild the Summerland Yacht Club.

“I was commodore for two years during all that construction,” he said. “We had a crew of about 20 volunteers. We worked seven days a week. As fast as they got done the dredging and driving piles, we put in the moorage. It was fun and we enjoyed doing it.”

The north berm of the yacht club is marked “Norris Island” in his honour.

Today Norris describes himself as “chief cook and bottle washer.” Along with the help of four daughters, he is caring for his wife of 69 years.

“We’re staying at home as long as possible,” he said.

The couple have 13 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren and Norris is now passing on his knowledge of the water to his eldest great grandson, by taking him out fishing.

In 1999, Norris represented the Royal Canadian Naval Association and returned to France and to Juno Beach.

“That was a very hard trip to take,” he said as his voice cracked with emotion. “I know now in graphic detail what happened to those men we put ashore.”

As he stood among the thousands of headstones he was filled with guilt and moved to angry tears, because of the crushing loss and man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.

“We are all the same on each end of the gun,” he said.

Norris doesn’t think much has changed over time and feels man’s drive to rule over others and his greed are still what is killing us today.

“We’ve learned nothing,” he said. “All we’ve learned is horror and grief.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prolific South Okanagan criminal will be freed for time served

Afshin Ighani pleads guilty to assault charges but will be set free for time served

Three dogs found wandering West Kelowna returned to owners

Two of the three dogs were found to be severely injured

Two-month-old Kelowna boy diagnosed with rare heart disorder returns home from treatment

Arel spent two weeks at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver after suffering multiple cardiac arrests

Controlled burning taking place in Summerland

Locals are advised that smoke may be present east of Sunset Place near the Deer Ridge subdivision

Australia Day fundraiser at Penticton’s Slackwater Brewing a success

Money raised at Australia day party donated directly to Victoria Bushfire Relief Fund

WATCH: Cougar caught on doorbell cam in Vernon

Glenn Gorham shares footage of late-night visit from wild cat

Missing Vernon man possibly sighted in Lower Mainland

Information leads family, friends to believe Jay Rosenberger near Lower Mainland Saturday

House fire quickly knocked down in South Kelowna

According to Kelowna Fire Department, the house sustained interior damage during the blaze

Sap thief taps Saanich park maple trees, faces hefty fine

One tree found with four taps in Mount Doug Park

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Shuswap man given six months jail time for possession of child pornography

Forty-six-year-old will be on National Sex Offender Registry for 20 years

Museum digs up history for ’60s Vernon Winter Carnival

Get Groovin’ with the Grandkids or flashback to the ’60s with tunes, trivia and costumes

Power outage at Big White

It’s unknown why the power went out Tuesday afternoon

Uber threatens legal action to ‘defend its right’ to operate in Surrey

‘I have no concerns,’ Mayor Doug McCallum replies

Most Read