Terra View Homes is grateful to have the opportunity to share the story of Guelph local Fred A. Lovett, a 97 year-old veteran from the Second World War. This Remembrance Day, we are proud to honour Fred’s legacy by officially dedicating the naming of the street Lovett Lane in our Hart Village community to him and his family.
Fred A. Lovett was born in Guelph, Ontario on March 9, 1923. He has graciously shared details of his remarkable experiences before, during and after the war ahead of Remembrance Day.
Before the War
Q: What was your childhood like? What do you remember about your town/city during the time you were growing up/ before you enlisted?
A: My childhood was good. We were allowed to gather and play in the street (very few vehicles) until Mom called. Although buses ran up Grange St. the pavement only went as far as Jane St.
When I reached my teens, my first job was on that corner — Clough Grocery. I lived next door.
Before we moved to Grange Street, we lived on Palmer Street. I can remember huge snow falls. From our front door to the street looked like a WWI trench because the snow was halfway up the telephone poles.
Q: What motivated you to enlist?
A: When the war came I was only 16 years old, so when some of my older friends enlisted or were drafted I worked other jobs. I ended up working at Upsdell’s grocery as a meat cutter. Dad didn’t want to argue with the truant officer when I didn’t show up to school, and even though I knew I wanted to be a sign writer Dad wouldn’t hire me.
Work for the next two years went slow, then one Sunday my friends and I were hanging out at a taxi stand across from the CNR station when this fellow walked up to us and said he was going to Windsor to form a band. We all looked at each other… they were all good musicians and I wasn’t but I did play the drums at the time in the Red Chevron band, so we all decided to go!
We only had a couple of hours to get ready so I went home to tell my family. As it turned out they weren’t there, they were on a picnic in Rockwood. So I just took my brother’s suit and left a note telling them I was leaving. It was that day I was listed in the “Essex Scottish”. We came home the next Tuesday in full uniform.
Q: Did you have any siblings? If so, what were their names and did any of them also serve in World War II? If they did, what branches did they serve in?
A: I have four siblings Phyllis, Harry, Jean and Pat. At this date, only Pat and I survive. Harry was an active volunteer also in the army.
Time at War
Q: What do you remember about your first days in the military?
A: My first days in the army, being only 18, it felt strange being responsible for yourself and making friends, etc., but after the tough part it became fun and we did a lot of parades where I was the only drummer.
After a couple of years real drummers showed up and I was made L-CPL and sent to the parade square to train recruits.
Q: Where did you go during the war? Did you travel to other places?
A: When they decided to close the barracks, I was sent to London, Ontario then to Stratford. After a month I was sent to Windsor, NS. This is the only place I finally got a bit of training. They just opened a new obstacle course and we worked at shooting and training.
I don’t remember how long I stayed there but the next move was to Halifax and onboard the Queen Elizabeth for our trip to England. We travelled alone, no convoy, and changed course every four minutes to avoid submarines. After landing in England, we were stationed in barracks at Aldershot. The next surprise was that the bunk beds were originally built for children and the top bunk was only 4 feet off the ground!
We were stationed there long enough that I was able to get leave and go to London to meet my paternal grandfather and to Hastings to meet my maternal grandmother. I remember she had a huge iron table which she got under during the air raids, even though there was a shelter in the backyard.
I also visited the church Mom and Dad were married in. We had roll calls each morning and one day the Sergeant Major announced he needed 50 men to volunteer to go to Italy. Not too savvy on what was going on there, I stepped forward and that day I was no longer an Essex Scottish but a member of the Perth regiment. When the day came to start our new experience we were put on an Indian boat that took seven days to get to Italy. We landed in Naples and I still remember the kids fighting over the tins we had eaten from, using their fingers to scrape up any remains.
Q: What jobs or assignments did you have? Did you see combat?
A: As reinforcements, we were not sent immediately to the regiment who at that time were busy taking care of the Hitler line. When that finished, the regiment was given a much-needed rest so at this time we were able to join them. I was assigned to 8 platoon, A company, and we were in a field of tents, two in each. We were there quite a long time until then the day came that we were ordered back to action.
It was the Gothic Line. The first thing I saw was a man’s foot severed from the leg; then, reality really set in and the nerves became active. There were a lot of small skirmishes but when the big advance came that was the time to be nervous. There were 200 artillery guns firing over our heads and as we tried to advance you couldn’t hear your own voice.
At one point, I remember we were sleeping in a barn and, unknown to us, the RCAF had been given that corner and the barn was to be in their bombing run. My platoon escaped with success but the words friendly fire had a greater meaning — that’s for sure!
Another thing we saw moving forward was a live horse straddling a rooftop. I don’t know how it got there. If we only had cameras like the models available today!
After the Gothic Line came the Coriano Ridge which was much of the same thing. One engagement I haven’t mentioned yet was one day when we were all in our slit trenches, a few at a time were allowed to go to the food truck when all of a sudden we were attacked by 88 guns. Running back to our trenches, there were mess tins flying and we were jumping grapevines (they are always planted in the direction you’re not going) and during this action Cec Milson was killed. He was also a Guelph boy and he has a street named after him, too.
Before the pandemic, I had the good fortune of taking my family on a trip through Italy, complete with guides and interpreters who followed the trip my regiment had taken during the war. “In your Footsteps” was the company who provided the most amazing tour. During this trip, I was able to visit the well-kept cemetery that holds Cec Milson’s body along with many others including other “Perths”. I was able to find his grave and place a Canadian flag on it. Things look quite different now. This all happened with my daughter Nancy’s organizing — well done!
Q: Can you tell us about your most memorable experiences?
A: Back to war time, memories seem mixed.
I remember one morning feeling very sick and was sent to the sick bay where the doctor said I had NYD (not yet diagnosed) fever. I still think it was malaria. Somewhere around this time, we were moved to the South of France and when fighting finished we were onto Belgium where I fell sick again and this time was hospitalized, again with fever.
I spoke to a doctor one day about hemorrhoids and he took a look and said, “oh boy these need to be bored and punched.” I was in there almost a month during which the war in Europe ended and I was stuck in the hospital.
By this time the unit had been sent to Sneek in the Netherlands and were billeted in private homes. Luckily, one day a major from my unit was going back to the unit and he took me with him. Back in Sneek, I was able to join my friends and had a job in the canteen where dances, table tennis and good times were always had.
When it was time to go home we were sent back to England to wait until the ship was available. We were not in any quarters but given some of our money and told to come back in a week. This happened to be about 3 weeks.
Q: Did you receive any medals?
A: I have six medals: 1939 to 45 star, Italy Star, France Star, Germany Star, Defence Medal Volunteer and Volunteer for Overseas Action.
Q: What was it like after the war? What are your first memories of going home?
A: Finally, we were on our way once again and it was back on the Queen Elizabeth. We landed in New York and then jumped straight onto a train. We crossed at Niagara and all the way to Stratford. At each stop, ladies were there with goodies like fruits, like bananas, and drinks which we hadn’t seen since leaving.
When we got to Stratford, my Mom and Dad were there with Mr. Upsdell. Dad didn’t have a car and maybe he (Mr. Upsdell) figured I was going to go back to work for him, but I always knew that my hope was to become a sign painter.
Upon discharge, I was given my credits that amounted to $600 and I contacted veteran services. I was enrolled in a six-month course for sign writing, hoping to join my dad in the business. Funny how things work, the trade school I attended was formerly the exact same building in Windsor that I had enlisted in 5 years earlier! I had come full circle.
I brought the graduation certificate home and was eager to start my four-year apprenticeship and that didn’t go down well with my dad. He said, “I’ll tell you when you’re worth four years”.
In the meantime, I had to run into a girl that I knew through the church. She had just finished work at Woolworth’s and I asked where she was headed. She said she was going to the dance above Ryan’s Department Store and I told her to save me a dance because I would be up later.
We started dating and while I was in trade school in Windsor at the time I managed to get home by hitchhiking every weekend. This was January and we were married that August (1946) and the balance of the $600 was spent on furniture.
My dear wife died four years ago on November 16, 2016, 3 months after we celebrated our 70th anniversary. We had four children, three girls and a boy. Lynn is the first, Carol came next and sadly we lost her to cancer in 2015, Tim is next and lives in Leduc Alberta and works in the mines at Fort McMurray then last but not least came Nancy.
As a family we always had fun and made sure we were together on each other’s birthdays and on Christmas. This picture epitomizes the fun and laughter we enjoyed as a family.
I live alone in a house and while I get recurring phone calls from each, Nancy gets all the work. Although I still drive she does all my shopping, takes me to my appointments, doctors clinics, etc. and never complains.
Q: What does it mean to you and your family to have this street named after you?
A: I am honoured to have a street named after me and I thank everyone involved. What started over 20 years ago as a Christmas present for me, getting my name added to the city list has now come to fruition.
Lovett Lane will be here for a long time, a street with fine homes, and a place to make my kids proud. I won’t go on forever but “Lovett Lane” will.
Q: Coming from a veteran, what does Remembrance Day mean to you?
A: Every year I attend the Remembrance Day service and up until a few years ago I even took part in the parade. Now, we are bussed to the arena from the Legion for the service. Of course, memories, faces and names of boys you knew before the war appear and you wonder sometimes… why them and not me?
Thank you Fred and all of our veterans for your sacrifices and bravery in serving our country and protecting the freedoms we are so lucky to have today. Lest we forget.