Ex-World War II POW teaches kids value of remembrance
dave buston for metro calgary
Remembrance Day is a time most pay their respects to those who served to protect the liberties Canadians enjoy today, but for 86-year-old veteran Ernie Bagstad, remembrance takes on a whole different meaning.
Bagstad, now retired and living in Calgary, served with the Seaforth Highlanders Regiment out of Vancouver, and despite his advanced age the active veteran says his powers of recall seem to get better each year — especially when it comes to the war.
“I find the older I get, the more it takes me back,” Bagstad said of each passing Remembrance Day.
The former prisoner of war vividly recalls a fierce battle in the Lyra Valley, Italy, after which he was captured along with others in his company and marched for days to a POW camp outside Munich, Germany.
“Food was scant and terrible. We were pretty much jammed in there, the showers were few and far between…” Bagstad recalled, noting that at one point nearly the entire prisoner group had lice.
Bagstad still has a letter his mother sent to him after she received a telegraph from the government informing her he was missing in action. It’s a letter Bagstad was able to recover after the war, because it had been returned to her when he couldn’t be tracked down.
These are the sometimes-painful recollections he shares throughout the school year with Calgary students.
“I tell them the whole thing. Quite often they go away with tears in their eyes. I share with them my hurt — and they in turn, hurt for me,” Bagstad said.
“I think it’s really important to share it with them because if they don’t understand and see the follies of their fathers then they’re bound to repeat them. So I think they ought to know about it,” said Bagstad.
in their memory