Considered one of final dwelling Black Canadian WWII veterans is from Sask.

Alvie Burden is among the final surviving Black Canadian veterans who served within the Second World Struggle. A historian says tales like Burden’s have to be advised.

Alvie’s youngest son Kelly sat beside his father in Armstrong, B.C., the place Alvie now lives, prompting a few of Alvie’s tales and filling in some blanks. The dialog was sometimes punctuated by Alvie’s hearty laughs. 

“Do not ever return to warfare, is not that what you mentioned earlier than?” Kelly mentioned.

Alvie chuckled. “Yeah. Individuals [have] to study to get alongside.”

Alvie was dwelling in B.C. when he joined the Canadian navy at 19 years previous, however since he was born in Tisdale, Sask., in 1922, he was despatched off to the Prairies to hitch the Saskatoon Mild Infantry division as a dispatch rider.

Alvie Burden in 1946, following the warfare. Years later, he would re-enlist in B.C. (Submitted by Renee Legg)

Reuniting with greatest buddy from the navy

Alvie was reunited this June with one in all his closest associates from the warfare, Artwork McKim. 

“I met him in Montreal, the place we went on the boat to England after which to Sicily,” Alvie mentioned.

The 2 have been in Quebec to coach on machine weapons. Alvie mentioned they’d go downtown and meet French ladies on their off time. He spent lots of time in England with McKim on guard responsibility, in line with Kelly.

Each associates ended up assembly girlfriends in Paisley, Scotland.

“We met them on the road,” Alvie mentioned.

“You have been going to marry one weren’t you?” Kelly requested him.


Kelly recounted how Alvie gave the lady a hoop, however then later modified his thoughts. She gave the ring again, and it later ended up on the finger of Kelly’s mom.

Alvie and McKim have been ready for a ferry in Sicily once they began “messing round” with gunpowder that had been left on the seaside.

“The rattling stuff went up in smoke,” Alvie mentioned. “Artwork, he had his eyes all filled with sand.”

McKim was quickly blinded. Alvie needed to lead him out of the world and assist him to the hospital. It was the final time the lads noticed one another for many years.

Alvie Burden, left, reunited along with his greatest buddy from the navy, Artwork McKim, many years after the 2 have been separated when McKim was injured in a blast. (Kelly Burden)

Alvie spent years in search of McKim, even driving to the place he thought Artwork was from.

They have been lastly in a position to monitor him down. 

“It was a fairly large deal,” Alvie mentioned.

They did not discover out till they reunited that McKim’s half-brother lived inside an hour drive of Alvie, and his family performed hockey with Kelly’s son.

Injured in warfare

Alvie was driving over a ridge when an enemy tank shell landed behind him and despatched him flying into the air.

In keeping with Kelly, an allied tank straddled him to guard him as troopers pulled him to security.

He ended up with shrapnel in his head and wrists, and the embedded lead continued to fester.

Regardless of that, Alvie returned and began carrying machine weapons on a half-track as the driving force of a Bren gun provider.

LISTEN | CBC’s Dayne Patterson talks about his dialog with one of many final dwelling Black Canadian Second World Struggle veterans:

Saskatoon Morning8:12Considered one of final dwelling Black Canadian WWII veterans is from Sask.

CBC’s Dayne Patterson spoke with one of many final dwelling Black Canadian Second World Struggle veterans, and the historian trying to doc tales like his. He joins visitor host Heather Morrison.

Black Canadian tales vital to recollect

Kathy Grant based the web site and Fb web page Black Canadian Veterans Stories as a part of a promise to her father, a Second World Struggle veteran, to honour the contributions of Canada’s Black troopers. 

Since then, dozens of tales from Black veterans of varied wars have been posted on-line.

Grant mentioned she’s been in conditions the place Black Canadians have been conflicted on Remembrance Day, asking what they needed to rejoice. She would present them tales and footage.

“We served,” Grant mentioned. “By placing these examples and displaying we served … [even] after the warfare, it humanizes the troopers by displaying examples of us and never solely displaying examples of victims of racism.”

Grant mentioned there have been about 1,300 Black Canadians who both enlisted or have been conscripted to the navy within the First World Struggle, however within the early levels many have been turned away by the commanding officer, who had the ultimate say.

“There have been a whole lot that have been turned away due to the commanding officer, however not due to coverage,” she mentioned.

Kathy Grant has been researching the historical past of Canada’s Black veterans for years. (Submitted by Kathy Grant)

Issues modified within the Second World Struggle, and whereas some commanders nonetheless turned away candidates, Black Canadians joined the navy far more simply.

“The vast majority of Black World Struggle II veterans that I’ve interviewed indicated the racism … wasn’t rampant, it was the odd event,” she mentioned.

“The racism that they might expertise can be once they returned house from abroad, or additionally once they have been stationed in sure cities throughout coaching, once they would go into bars or dancing or no matter.”

She mentioned her father was kicked out of a bar in Edmonton due to his pores and skin color, regardless that he was in uniform. 

Grant believes Alvie is amongst fewer than 5 dwelling Black Canadian Second World Struggle veterans within the nation.

Whereas Alvie’s uncle, Roy Burden, was in a segregated unit in the USA, Alvie mentioned that in his time within the navy, from 1941 till the top of the warfare in 1945, he did not face race-related points regardless of being the one Black Canadian in his firm.

It was “all proper, no issues,” he mentioned.

For extra tales concerning the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success tales inside the Black group — try Being Black in Canada, a CBC venture Black Canadians may be pleased with. You can read more stories here.


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