(Victoria Tronina/Unsplash photo)

(Victoria Tronina/Unsplash photo)

COLUMN: Remembering the civilians who served

Columnist ML Burke remembers her father’s contribution to the war effort, inventing the walkie-talkie

Ten thousand military planes were flown from Canada to Britain during the Second World War. Civilian pilots, many of them women, were paid $500 to $1,000 to deliver these planes over the war-torn Atlantic, with 20 per cent dying en route. There were firefighters, doctors, nurses and “Rosie Riveters” working at the front and in the war factories here at home. My father was one of these Canadian civilians who contributed to the war effort and I would like to honour him and the others in this Remembrance Day column.

In a special to the Globe and Mail on dad’s death in 2004, Tom Hawthorn wrote a detailed obituary, saying, “Don Hings was a self-taught electronics wizard who modified his two-way radio into the walkie-talkie that saved the lives of untold Allied soldiers in the Second World war. A Toronto newspaper’s headline captured the awe: ‘Miraculous walkie-talkie like quarterback to army.’ To radio men it is a ‘midget miracle… A tiny but tough combined broadcasting and receiving set, easier to operate than a hand-telephone set, light but tough enough for paratroopers to take along in aerial assaults on enemy airfields, versatile enough so, in combination, they become a military network of broadcasting and receiving stations for attacking troops.’”

Dad used a Dictaphone for his reports and correspondence when I worked as his secretary in the 1960s. He also dictated stories of his adventures, which I transcribed.

Here is a small excerpt from his War Stories: “On the British Home Front — 1941: On the train going to London a large group of Navy Sailors squeezed in with an assortment of passengers. They were mostly common Naval Seamen, youngsters who had been in a naval skirmish and their cockney banter was hard to follow. They apparently were on a leave home authorized by their medic after they had spent time in the sea.

“One said to another, ‘I thought I was goin’ to bloody well freeze and I kep’ wavin’ so som’un might see me. I figured I was fish chuck. I don’ know if the ol’ place still has a roof on it.’ Then one leaned over and said, ‘The birds will be there,’ and they all laughed and slapped each other while cigarettes were handed around.

“I checked in at Canadian Military Headquarters at Canada House. Upon being escorted to my room I noticed a large bomb hole existed where the neighbouring room should have been, but I was too weary to care (after a 22-hour flight) and was soon asleep.”

Dad’s contribution to the war effort was major, and despite being made a lifetime honorary member of the Canadian Signal Corp, he did not qualify for any veterans’ benefits. He even had to sue the government for the rights to his patent in the case of Hings versus the King, which he won. The settlement was $5,000, which only covered his legal fees. No matter, he remained patriotic and continued his life of invention, acquiring over 50 patents in electronics and geophysics.

Here’s a gigantic thank you to all the civilians who contributed their blood, sweat and tears, and many, their lives. While we remember and honour the sacrifices of our uniformed soldiers let us also not forget the huge contribution made by civilians.

ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing. She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team, the City of Delta’s Community Liveability Advisory Committee and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

Delta city hall in Ladner. (James Smith photo)
Delta launches Phase 2 of Housing Action Plan consultation

City seeking input on strategies and actions over the next five years to address local housing needs

Tom Jackson and bassist Kirby Barber in a trailer for "The Huron Carole," from video posted to youtube.com.
Tom Jackson’s ‘Huron Carole’ concert in White Rock goes virtual to feed hungry Canadians

Surrey broadcast date of Blue Frog-recorded show is Friday, Dec. 11, to benefit Surrey Food Bank

Pastry chef Eric Fernandez stands alongside some of his many creations at Popup Patisserie, a pop-up pastry shop on 176th Street that will be open until the end of December. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Popup Patisserie opens in Cloverdale

Handmade holiday pastries shop located on 176th Street

The COVID-19 test centre at Peace Arch Hospital is located on the building’s south side. (Tracy Holmes photo)
South Surrey woman calls for consistency in COVID-19 post-test messaging

‘Could we just get one thing straight?’ asks Deb Antifaev

File photo
Surrey RCMP investigating death threat against councillor Hundial

‘On Monday morning I received a threat on messenger that basically said to put a bullet in me,’ Councillor Jack Hundial told the Now-Leader

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Barrels pictured outside Oliver winery, Quinta Ferreira, in May. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

An employee of the Adventure Hotel was taken to hospital on Nov. 20 after she confronted a customer of Empire Coffee about not wearing a mask. File photo.
Nelson hotel employee suffers heart attack after being assaulted in anti-mask incident

An accountant at the Adventure Hotel is in hospital in Kelowna

Most Read