War Stories

by Diana Ellis

November 11 2020.

The 7 year-old-grandboy has questions about war – his first ones. We are at Iona Beach today – one of our favourite spots to hang. He calls it Jetty Beach because of…well, the jetty. Samuel starts to draw in the sand (who needs paper and paints!?).

Charlotte and I are conversing about the war and my Dad – her Grandpa. Samuel is interested. “How does war start?” he asks. We think “Aha – an opportunity to talk about how one thing leads to another...” and start to explain. “No no” he says. “How does it start…like who SAYS it is time for war…and who says what TIME and DAY it is to start?“. “That’s a very good question” we say, somewhat mollified to have nearly gone philosophical rather than staying with our practical little guy’s mind. We didn’t actually know the answer! Do you?

Then he starts to draw a figure in the sand and, of course, it turns into a soldier, with rifle and bullets. We name him Bob. Then we get into weaponry discussions. He draws a tank (looks remarkably like an excavator actually), with a big bullet zapping out of it, and people lying on the ground.

We talk of his Great Grandpa Bill’s wartime service on the HMCS Athabaskan on the North Atlantic convoy run (his ship was sunk off the coast of France April 29 1944, Dad was on leave at the time, one of the only war stories he ever told). Samuel becomes intrigued by the thought of torpedoes. Has many ideas of how they are released from the ship. We then go to the shore and he aims many pieces of torpedo shaped driftwood into the water. About 50 end up floating offshore. Then everything changes and he builds a high tide sculpture.

We have our tea and cookies and eventually head home. On the way there is one more discussion, about how war-like thoughts can start between just two people. He gets it. A good afternoon – family history, remembering, social studies and art. All out there on a high cloud, five degree, no wind afternoon at high tide. Thinking of you Dad.


  1. Very tender, Diana. What a powerful legacy between your four generations, and what poignant questions too!

  2. My favourite Remembrance Day story! Wouldn’t it be nice if those who do wage war would lose interest so quickly and move from launching the torpedoes to building sculptures?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *