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Surrey, B.C. commando who fought to keep veterans’ memories alive remembered

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Cloverdale's Reginald Wise fought behind enemy lines with the British commandoes in the Second World War. Back at home, he worked tirelessly to honour war heroes, even painting, at the age of 94, a tribute to fallen comrades. Wise died in late October. Jay Durant has the story. – Nov 11, 2021

On Remembrance Day, Janice Gravelle can’t help but gaze at her father’s inspiring painting of the Vimy Ridge Memorial.

Gravelle’s father, Cloverdale veteran Reg Wise, put the paint to canvas three years ago at the age of 94 to honour the heroes who fought before him.

Read more: Remembrance Day 2021 – BC Remembers Special

“We couldn’t believe it when he unveiled it. This is amazing. Just amazing,” Gravelle told Global News.

“He named it Mother Canada Mourns For Her Fallen, that’s what he called it.”

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The painting is a big part of Wise’s legacy, paying tribute and telling the stories of sacrifice.

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Wise was just 17 when he joined the British Forces in the Second World War. Wise was eager to be part of the raid on Dieppe in 1942, but he was a year too young at the time. Wise would eventually become a sniper in the Royal Commandos.

“They would go behind enemy lines with hardly any food or water and be able to concentrate and get in to find out where the Germans were,” Reg’s son Kevin said.

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Long after the war, Wise made his way to Dieppe. He was there in 2017 for the 75th anniversary.

He also travelled to European countries, where he once saw action, to honour his fallen friends, and he was there for a commando reunion on the Isle of Wight in 2012.

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Over the years, Wise has made hundreds of crosses to hand out to local students on Remembrance Day.

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“They would look up at Dad and go, ‘Wow,’” Kevin said.

‘He went to schools to talk just before Remembrance Day,” Gravelle said. “He wanted them not to forget.”

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Wise was the only veteran at a ceremony in Cloverdale this August marking the 79th anniversary of Dieppe.

It was his last public appearance. Reginald Wise died on Oct. 29, at the age of 97, less than two weeks before Remembrance Day — the time when he would have been sharing stories to keep the memories of Canadian heroes alive.

“I guess I’ll think about Dad laying a wreath, always laying a wreath, and being right beside him when he did,” Gravelle said with tears in her eyes.

“Most people don’t realize the horror we went through to protect us all,” Kevin said. “And that to me is what I can remember the most.”

To contact Jay Durant with a story idea for This is BC, email him details and contact information at thisisbc@globalnews.ca.

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