The Family of William Warner and Sarah Leitch

Remembering Private Joseph Price Warner

He Would Have Been Ninety-Five on Remembrance Day This Year

Joe Warner, my father, was born on Armistice Day of 1926. It was the eighth anniversary of the end of World War I. Exactly eighteen years and five months later, on April 11, 1945, he enlisted in the Canadian Infantry Corps.

He was scheduled to finish his fourth year of high school (Malvern Collegiate in the east end of Toronto) that June, but left a few months early to sign up. My impression is that, under the circumstances, he was credited with graduating with his junior matriculation.

Twenty-seven days later, on May 8, 1945, the war in Europe was over. Two weeks after that – on May 23 – Joe volunteered to serve in the Pacific, but the fighting there would end on August 15.

With his training finished and the war over, Private Warner was honourably discharged on September 20, 1945, having served his country for five months and nine days.

I only have five photographs of my father in uniform. Three are snapshots of him alone; one is with my mother; and the other is a group portrait with his platoon. I’m sharing all five of them with you here.

Private Joseph Warner in the backyard of his home at 9 Glen Stewart Avenue (click to enlarge)
Private Joseph Warner (click to enlarge)
Private Joseph Warner (click to enlarge)
Joe Warner and Lorraine Parker, my mother and father, in the spring of 1945 (click to enlarge)

Service in the Reserves: Queen’s Own Rifles

Although he was just eighteen when he enlisted in the regular army, Joe’s military service went back two and half years, to November 1942. He was sixteen when he signed up for training with the Queen’s Own Rifles.

That training, even though it was only a month and half, put him on the path to becoming an excellent marksman.

Service in the Reserves: The Irish Regiment of Canada

With his training with the Queen’s Own Rifles complete, Joe joined the Irish Regiment of Canada at the end of January, 1943.

Then designated as “the 2nd (Reserve) Battalion, the Irish Regiment of Canada,” the unit was authorized in 1915 and made its home in Toronto (it is now Sudbury-based).

The regiment’s motto is “Fior go bás (Faithful until Death)” and it was – at the time – the only kilted Irish regiment in the world. I remember my mother telling me, many decades later, how good my dad looked marching in his kilt. I’ll never forget her face when she said it. The kilts were a saffron-coloured tartan.

The Scottish Register of Tartans, fair use, https://www.tartanregister.gov.uk/tartanDetails?ref=548

This is the paper that Joe signed the day he took the oath.

Joe’s attestation paper for the Irish Regiment of Canada (click to enlarge)

Joe needed a parent’s consent to join. Here is the letter that his mother – my grandmother – wrote for him.

(click to enlarge)

From the Reserves to the Army

Here is what Joe signed on April 11, 1945:

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“Definitely a Superior Type”

Joe scored a perfect mark on his physical and mental fitness test and was highly praised by the officer who did his induction interview.

5’10”; 168 lbs. Will be 19 on 11 Nov 45.

Warner is a well-built, strong and husky single recruit with maximum pullems. Of pleasing personality, frank and open manner, he speaks well and gives the impression of being a dependable conscientious youth with plenty of initiative and ambition. Is considerably above average in intelligence and ability.

One of a family of two boys and one girl, he lives a happy normal home life, taking an active interest in outdoor team sports, doing woodworking as a hobby and reading newspapers, good fiction and magazines on construction work.

Warner is well-motivated towards the Army and anxious to become a paratrooper. He should make excellent material for that branch of the service and do well. He also has the makings of a good N.C.O.

This young man is definitely a superior type. It is recommended that he be allocated to the Infantry Corps.

Lieut. F. R. Dickinson, in Private Warner’s Personnel Selection Record, April 11, 1945

Joe was the son of an abusive alcoholic, so that part about “a happy normal home life” wasn’t correct. The other parts – about his personality, dependability, initiative, intelligence, and ability – are completely accurate.

Training in Newmarket

Private Warner began his basic training about a week after signing up, It was at Canadian Infantry (Basic) Training Centre #23 in Newmarket, Ontario, and he completed it, ten weeks later, on June 27. His examiner was very complimentary about his time there.

This is a well set up young lad who has made rapid progress in training, and is well liked by the men. With more experience, he will undoubtedly make a good N.C.O.

Captain F.D. Murdoch, Army Examiner, in Private Warner’s Personnel Selection Record, June 6, 1945
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Rifle training was a central part of the program at the camp in Newmarket. Joe scored consistently well and his instructor spoke highly of him.

Interested, excellent knowledge. Sociable. With experience should make an NCO.

Remarks on Individual Training Record, June 15, 1945

Training in Farnham

On June 28, Joe arrived at Canadian Infantry Training Centre #A12, in Farnham, Quebec, ready to begin his “corps training.” Again, it went well (at least at first).

In the photo below, taken about three weeks into the training, Private Warner sits cross-legged in the first row, third from the left. He had been assigned to F Company, 6th Platoon.

F Company, 6th Platoon, Farnham, Quebec, July 19, 1945 (click to enlarge)

He is wearing a uniform designed for tropical warfare, with shorts and puttees, and holds his pith helmet and rifle on his lap. By now the fighting in Europe has stopped, and the war he and his comrades are preparing for is in the Pacific.

The Only Blemish on Private Warner’s Record

The one and only negative comment on Joe’s training record appears in an entry dated August 25. Even that apparent reprimand is couched in language that softens the criticism.

Learns quickly & shows ability. At times he does not use the good common sense he possesses.

Remarks on Individual Training Record, August 25, 1945

What was that all about?

The instructor is almost certainly referring to something that happened on August 8. It was a Wednesday night and Joe and some of his mates had been given permission to go into town. The Americans had bombed Hiroshima two days before, and maybe the boys were celebrating what looked like the final step toward a victory over Japan.

Whatever they were celebrating, Joe – who was still three months short of his nineteenth birthday – drank way too much.

Versions of the story have come to me from my father’s own telling and that of his younger brother, my late uncle, Harley Warner. Here’s what happened.

Private Warner and his buddies got back to the barracks just before lights-out but, with his common sense muddled by alcohol, he decided that he didn’t feel like going to bed. Not only that, he decided that he didn’t want the lights out.

He was prepared to stand his ground.

The drunken Joe stationed himself in front of the light switch and defended it against all comers. After a lengthy standoff, he was overcome and taken to the brig, where he would remain for seven days (168 hours). His punishment also included being docked seven days pay.

On 8 Aug 45 awarde[d] 168 hrs detn. for indiscipline.

Total forf: 7 days pay.

Notation in Personnel Record, August 9, 1945

It all went in his file. The page below shows the entry.

(click to enlarge)

As you might expect, this extraordinary show of bad judgment had a negative impact on how Joe’s superiors regarded him. His rifle instructor, for example, decided to exact what seems to me a petty additional punishment for the offence.

Back in Newmarket, Joe’s rifle training grades had been consistently outstanding. Of twenty-one scores, he was rated “Very Good” (85% or better) nine times, “Good” (70% to 84%) ten times, and “Average” (50% to 69%) only twice. For his training in Farnham, his instructor rated him “Average” twenty-three times out of twenty-three.

Here’s the training record:

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It’s unlikely that Private Warner’s marksmanship had deteriorated so drastically and consistently. What’s more likely is that his superiors wanted to teach him a lesson about discipline.

With the War Over, Private Warner Goes Home

One of the final entries in Private Warner’s military file is this one:

Corps training completed. Being underage as of VJ day and desirous to return to civilian status, he is proceeding to his Home Depot pending demobilization.

Lieutenant J. H. R. Goyette, September 12, 1945

He boarded the train in Farnham on September 15 and reported to the District Depot in Toronto the next day.

“An Unusually Fine Personality”

On September 18, Joe was interviewed by Lieutenant J. A. McNeil, a counsellor whose job it was to provide career advice to demobilized soldiers. Here is what he had to say about young Joe Warner.

Pte. Warner is a bright, clean-cut, robust lad of 18 with an unusually fine personality. For some years he has planned on going to Ontario Agricultural College, Guelph. In taking his junior matric. he chose the necessary pre-requisite subjects, and has worked on farms both Ontario and Western, for 3 summers, to satisfy the practical requirements. He joined the Army directly from school in Apr 45, but in going back this fall he is continuing his education without a break.

Pte. Warner appears to have the intelligence and stamina to be highly successful in his chosen career. He has been advised to discuss his future with a D.V.A. Counsellor. Although he has only 6 months service, this is obviously due to his age. He was marked as N.C.O. material and is a Pacific Volunteer. His attitude to the service has been excellent, and he is recommended for consideration by D.V.A.

Lieutenant J. A. McNeil, September 18, 1945

My father’s agricultural aspirations were soon abandoned, by the way, and he never went to Guelph. He would instead go on to learn carpentry from his future father-in-law, Orville Parker, and later become a successful home builder. Not once, in my presence, did my he ever mention that he had at one time intended to become a farmer. I never knew until I read it in his service file.

Private Warner’s discharge was effective two days later, on September 20, 1945.

(click to enlarge)

6 Comments

  1. Carol Warner

    wonderful job, Paul!

    • Paul Warner

      Thank you, Carol.

  2. Mary Benson

    Wonderful Paul! I enjoyed reading this.

    • Paul Warner

      Thank you so much, Mary. I enjoyed writing it.

  3. Jesse

    Very warming to read. Brought back fond memories of your family and our times together.

    • Paul Warner

      Thank you so much, Jesse. My dad thought very highly of you and your family.

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