So join his grieving nephew and bid a thankful farewell to the brave Canadian soldier who passed away on May 9 at the age of 94

Bid a Thankful Farewell to a Canadian Hero


By —— Bio and Archives May 12, 2017

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On May 9, Canada lost a hero when James Richard Billingsley passed away at his home in Vancouver at the age of 94. This is a man all Canadians should get to know, because he played a role in securing the peace, freedom and prosperity Canada has enjoyed for decades.

His father Lorne Henry Billingsley was a veteran of World War I and one of the first victims of German gas attacks. James Richard Billingsley was the second of his eight children, raised in Saskatchewan in difficult conditions. Through the Depression of the 1930s, the family pulled together and prevailed.

James Billingsley enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan but in the spring of 1942 he left his studies to enlist in the Canadian Army. He served with the Eighth Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment, which saw plenty of action.

On April 12, 1945, troops of the Eighth Canadian Reconnaissance “B” squadron liberated Camp Westerbork in Holland, a Nazi transit station for Jews en route to extermination camps such as Auschwitz and Sobibor. The Canadians liberated 876 inmates and their actions surely saved many other lives.

James Billingsley’s major engagements included the Battles of Groningen and Oldenburg, on the enemy’s home turf. He was wounded in action twice, once by a German sniper. Army brass wanted to steer him into intelligence work but he returned to his unit and fought on.

When the government pushed him, he pushed back, and he had earned the right to do so

When discharged in the spring of 1946, he held the rank of Captain. That fall he enrolled in the University of British Columbia, where he earned a degree in geology, moving on to a long and productive career in the mining industry. He contributed to the prosperity of the province and the nation, but he never forgot the lessons he learned fighting Hitler’s National Socialist forces. 

Years later, a letter from a socialist provincial government said “You shall appear” at a certain building on some trivial matter related to automobile insurance. 

“I shall not be appearing,” was his immediate response and he made good on it. When the government pushed him, he pushed back, and he had earned the right to do so. 

“Even if you don’t have any bread,” he once told me, “you should know what side you like it buttered on.”

James Billingsley knew what side he liked it buttered on. He knew that freedom is the basis of our civilization and the flywheel of our prosperity. He risked life and limb to fight for freedom on battlefields far away.

As it happens, the last Canadian Prime Minister to do anything comparable was Lester Pearson, who took office in 1963. Pierre Trudeau, elected in 1968, was an officer cadet during World War II, but he never served.

Prime Ministers Joe Clark, John Turner, Brian Mulroney, Kim Campbell, Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Stephen Harper rendered no military service of any kind. Neither did current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Trudeau fils is not exactly a fan of Canada’s military.

One also thinks of former Defense Minister John McCallum, who did not know the difference between Vimy Ridge, a WWI battle, and Vichy, seat of the French government that collaborated with the Nazis during WWII.

As it happens, Lorne Henry Billingsley was with the Canadian forces at Vimy Ridge. His son James Richard Billingsley fought the Nazis all over Europe and played a role in securing the peace, freedom and prosperity Canadians have enjoyed for decades. 

So join his grieving nephew and bid a thankful farewell to the brave Canadian soldier who passed away on May 9 at the age of 94.


Lloyd Billingsley -- Bio and Archives | Click to view Comments

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Our Time After a While: Reflections of a Borderline Baby Boomer, a memoir about growing up in Windsor, Ontario.