The memories are still fresh inside the mind of Harold “Bud” Freeston, a man who went to war to protect freedom an ocean away.
Freeston recently celebrated his 100th birthday, one of the few Second World War veterans left to tell their stories in their own voice.
His service saw him on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, including in North Africa, where he was wounded.
“One day firing into the Mediterranean a bomb exploded in the barrel of the gun I was next to and wounded me in my left leg and up my back.”
After he recovered, his regiment, the Black Watch — formally known as the Royal Highland Regiment of Canada — was sent to France. He lived through some of the most vicious fighting of the war.
“Maybe I was lucky, maybe in some cases I was a bit smart,” he said. “I don’t know.”
From Normandy, Freeston and his comrades fought their way through northern France and Belgium and helped with the liberation of the Netherlands, where the Black Watch paid a heavy price.
“I left lots of friends behind,” he said. “We had 2,000 casualties in the Black Watch.”
He ended his service in the Second World War in Germany.
Four months after the Nazis surrendered, he left Europe. But the war has never left him.
“After a few years, you hope it fades a little, but the thing is it doesn’t fade that much for me,” he said.
Retired in 1985, Freeston has spent much of the last three decades teaching high school students about sacrifice and remembrance.
Now in the next century of his life, he faces a new challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted his movement and there aren’t many visitors these days, but Freeston is unfazed by the pandemic.
“I think it’s something you accept,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me at all.”