AMHERST – A fifty-year medal for being a member of the legion is quite the thing. A fifty-five year bar to go with that medal is quite extraordinary, but so are George Evans’s experiences in World War II.
World War II veteran George Evans (seated) received his 55-year bar to add to his fifty-year medal as a member of the legion. Here (from left) Amherst Legion branch No. 10’s membership chairperson Donna Knight – branch president Steve Ridgway and branch treasurer Josephine Vandernburghe presented Evans with his bar and certificate of appreciation during a celebration that coincided with his 88th birthday.
Evans received his fifty-five year bar this month after joining the legion in 1959, first in St. John’s, Nfld., then transferring to his adopted home of Amherst, N.S.
“I transferred to Amherst with Customs Canada and worked here for 35 years, retiring as inspector,” Evans said. “It was where the old Post Office was, but it was phased out.”
Sitting with friends in the Laplanche Street legion, wisecracks and jokes pass back and forth at the table where Evans can be found most afternoons. Retiring from the military when he was 33 years old, the humour is all in good fun. Sometimes its at Evans expense for his Newfoundland heritage, other times its at his colleagues’ due to Evans pride in Newfoundland resisting the urge to join Canada until 1949.
Doing things a little different just so happens to be Evans forte.
“I went overseas when I was15 years old,” he said. “I lied about my age – I had to get away. I joined the merchant navy on the food line, then the Royal Navy.”
Evans had swindled his way onto the merchant ship after getting rejected outright the first time when he was told he was too young. Drumming up some documents – including his parents consent – some of his paperwork might have come back to haunt him as he entered the Royal Navy if a German submarine hadn’t sunk his ship and its contents.
“I was in the back of the ship talking to a fireman about seeing something dark in the water. I had said ‘You got to be kidding me.’ Then at 3:30 in the morning we got torpedoed by U051, a German U-boat.”
Just seven days on the merchant ship, Evans would jump the sinking ship to spend nine days in open waters on a lifeboat before being rescued.
And so the story of Evans in World War II began.
He’s written books about his experiences, and has the good company of friends to make light of life with, with everyone at the table quietly understanding the high cost behind the freedom they have to enjoy a drink and make a joke together.
And he has a legion that remembers every year those who served are with us are special years to be remembered.