This week, two databases—and 200 lives—went online as part of a special partnership between Ancestry.com and Library and Archives Canada to support the popular “Lest We Forget” educational initiative. This program helps students explore the lives of Canada’s soldiers and their sacrifices through selections from the service files of 200 veterans of the First or Second World War. Ancestry.com is making those files available online as Canada, Selected Service Records of Soldiers, 1914–1918, and Canada, Selected Service Records of War Dead, 1939–1945, to allow more students to participate in the program—and to let the rest of us remember men like Sergeant L. J. Patrick Lafleur.
In June 1940, 22-year-old Leonard James Patrick Lafleur of Montreal, Canada, worked as a fruit clerk for Steinberg’s, a retail grocery chain.
But he had bigger aspirations. Steinberg’s had promised to rehire him after his enlistment in the R.C.A.F., but Lafleur was hoping to turn his radio hobby into a career with a broadcasting company.
Lafleur stood a little under 5′ 10″, slender, with brown hair and blue eyes, and he had been only an average (71%) high school student. However, he impressed the R.C.A.F. with his “confident approach” and “upright carriage.”
The Air Force didn’t consider Lafleur officer material, but they did think he “would make an excellent Airgunner.”
By 1941, Lafleur appeared to be on his way, posted to a training depot in Toronto in the Royal Canadian Air Force Special Reserve as both an air gunner and a wireless operator. In June the next year, 1942, he made sergeant.
He was serving overseas in September when his plane took off on an anti-submarine sweep on the 12th. The aircraft made radio contact at 9:10 p.m., but afterward failed to return to base. Searchers later found a dinghy with the body of one of the crew and determined that the plane was probably “shot down in the vicinity of Land’s End.”
When I read the letter, I had to wonder if it was Sergeant Lafleur on the radio at 9:10, making his final broadcast.
Because the sacrifice is still worth remembering.