My name is Ralph Finck and I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 2 April 1920. I grew up in an orphanage until I was seven years old when I was adopted by a couple from Cornerbrook, Newfoundland. At the age of 14 I lost my adopted parents and was sent back to an orphanage in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia. When I finished grade 9 schooling I went to work on a farm until I was 20 years old. That’s when I joined the military.
The year was 1940 and I was an Infantryman with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders stationed in Amherst, Nova Scotia. On 13 June 1940, I was home on leave from Amherst. That’s when I proposed to Dorothy Fitzgerald. And of course, she said yes! I had to go back to Amherst but vividly remember that on 20 June, I hitchhiked to Truro, stopped at a jeweler store on Prince Street and bought a $25.00 wedding ring. Later that day, Dorothy and I were married by a Reverend Godfrey and spent two weeks together honeymooning in Truro.
In July 1941 we got our orders to go overseas. The North Nova Scotia Highlanders walked from Amherst to Debert and on July 14th, we boarded a train to Halifax. My wife was at the station and when I lifted her up to hug her goodbye, one of my buddies said “be careful Fink, you’re lifting two”. My first son was born 7 September 1941 and it was almost five years before I got to lay eyes on him.
Once in Halifax we boarded the cruise ship Oriel. With 3,000 men onboard we left for England. A seven day crossing landed us in South Hampton. From there we went to Aldershot and from there we were stationed in towns covering the shorelines of Britain.
On 5 June 1944, we boarded ships heading for Normandy but the landing was cancelled by 1 day. On 6 June 1944 at 0900 hours, we landed on the Beaches of Normandy. The rest is history.
While overseas I was in charge of a carrier 3-inch mortar. Once while going up through a road it was so packed with convoy that a military policeman showed me a road through a field that he thought we could get through. When we started going up through the field I noticed what I thought were some boxes and when I stopped to examine one of them I found skeletons. I thought the boxes might contain mines so I ordered my driver to go back. I reported to the officer in charge that I believed mines were covering the field and that we were getting the hell out of there. The officer ordered me, a Corporal, to go back to the carrier. We moved only about 5 yards when a mine blew taking the track off the carrier, killing a man and wounding another.
My next recollection was of “Object Capture” which was an airfield kept by Hitler’s 21st Panther Division. The 9th Brigade 3rd Division Infantry consisting of The North Nova Scotia Highlanders, The Highland Light Infantry and The Sundance Glengarries, were sent in to regain the airfield.
On 15 July, a sergeant and myself were sitting down at a table in an apple orchard eating pork chops cooked on propane stove. A bomb landed and blew out the end of the stove. I ended up with first and second degree burns to my hands, legs and face and I also got a piece of shrapnel in my right leg. I walked back to the beach and stayed overnight in a Red Cross tent. On 16 July, I was flown back to England where I spent approximately one month in hospital recuperating.
I rejoined my unit, went to Belgium, and fought throughout Holland. Four other soldiers and myself waded chest deep across River Rhine and landed on the German side. It was then we came across Hitler’s youth, 10-14 years of age, fighting. We didn’t want to fight them but knew we had to. Then a bomb landed killing three and wounded another soldier and me. Again I was wounded in the legs, picked up and brought back to a hospital in Holland where I recuperated another month.
I rejoined my unit and left Holland for home in November 1946 on a Red Cross boat Isle de France. We landed in Halifax on either 5 or 6 November and I came home to Truro. I was reunited with my wife and five-year-old son. While I was overseas my wife built our home and we have been married for 64 years. We have 7 children, 14 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren and 1 great-great grandchild. And they all live in Truro and surrounding areas.
I think it’s important to say a little about my wife. She wrote me every single night and sent three parcels every month plus 1,000 cigarettes ($1.00 per 1,000, which was a lot of money back then). Every Christmas, her Dad would purchase a pint of black rum and Dorothy would bake a loaf of bread, hollow it out, stick in the bottle of rum and cover it with frosting. Not one parcel ever went astray.
Now you probably think this is the end of my story. BUT NOW YOU’LL HEAR THE REST OF THE STORY...
When I landed in Halifax, the newspaper The Halifax Herald, took my picture and wrote a story about me. The next day, at my home in Truro, there was a knock on the door. When I answered it there were two women there and one of the women told me she was my birth mother, Lena Finck nee Nasher and the other woman was her sister, Grace.
I invited them in and it was then I heard the rest of the story. My birth father was a WW I German POW in Halifax. After the war he returned to Germany but later returned to Halifax, met and married my birth mother. He was an electrician who worked on the tramway cars and I was 1 year old when he was electrocuted while on top of a tramway car fixing it. My mother was employed at the Scotia Hotel in Halifax.
She went on to tell me that one night she and a girlfriend were getting ready to go to a party and was going to have a can of soup before heading out. They opened the can and drank the soup and within a short period of time they both got violently sick. They proceeded to the hospital but her girlfriend died before arrival. My Mom heard a loud bang, which caused her to lose her hearing. You see, they both got food poisoning. Mom never regained her hearing but could read lips like anything. When I was two years of age she had to put me in an orphanage. From that moment on I had a relationship with my mother and later with a half brother and sister.
AND THAT IS THE REST OF THE STORY.