What Remembrance Day Meant to a WWII Veteran

I can think of no better way to commemorate this Remembrance Day than by giving you my late grandfather, William Guy Brissenden’s own words in a speech delivered to my cousin’s high school a number of years ago.

In his own words - What Remembrance Day Meant to a WWII Veteran www.picklesINK.com

Bill, in naval uniform, and Jean on their wedding day. ©Brissenden Family 2012

Good morning and thank you for your kind invitation to share with you this Remembrance Day, my 61st since the end of World War II.

What this day means to me, I will leave until later because first I want to share my World War II experiences with you.  I just hope that these experiences may help motivate each and every one of you towards getting the best possible education that you can, because only by doing so will you be able to make, in civilian life or in military life, should that regretfully ever become necessary again, your maximum contribution to society and your country.

When World War II started in the fall of 1939, I was 24 years old and had graduated from university a year earlier with my Masters Degree in Engineering.  I joined the Royal Canadian Navy in October 1940 as a Sub Lieutenant.  By this time in the war, the navy had found itself entering fields that were largely or totally unfamiliar.  The navy was compelled to employ specialists in many fields that were not immediately related to seamanship.  Most of these specialists were entered into a special branch as I was.

One of the critical challenges facing the Canadian, British and later American navies was to keep the sea lanes open from North America to England.  With out the men and material that were sent by ship from North America to England and Europe, it is very possible that the Allied nations would not have won the war against Nazi Germany.  In order for the supply ships to make it to England, the Allied navies had to defeat the threat of German submarines or U-Boats as they were known.  This battle against the German U-Boats became known as the Battle of the Atlantic.

Early in the war, the tactics and technology that eventually defeated the German U-Boats was in its infancy.  After my initial training at the Anti Submarine Warfare School, I was assigned to devise and build the Anti Submarine Fixed Defenses at the entrance to Halifax Harbour.  There were virtually no textbooks to learn from, most of the technology was unfamiliar to the navy and the project had to be completed as soon as possible.  It was to become a colossal undertaking.  As a boy living in Halifax during World War I, I lived through the famous Halifax Explosion, so I knew full well what a catastrophe it would be if a U-Boat managed to get into the harbour and attack the shipping there.

I was very fortunate to have a good team working with me and the system that we designed and built was fully operational by November 1941.  As a result, the Port of Halifax became the safe haven it was meant to be for transatlantic shipping.  Convoys on their way to and from Great Britain regularly formed in its inner harbour with supplies of all kinds, such as food, munitions and other Canadian and American material and of course troops.  Halifax also became the major repair base for Canadian warships.

During the rest of the war, I continued to help develop and build anti submarine defenses for other harbours in Canada and England and after transfer to Naval Service Headquarters helped co-ordinate the development of advanced anti submarine detection devices.  As the war continued we were able to improve our anti submarine tactics and technology to a point that the submarine threat was significantly reduced and ultimately the Battle of the Atlantic was won.

On a more personal level, Remembrance Day brings back memories of loved ones.  I like most Canadians at that time faced the loss of family members and close friends.  One of my brothers and one of my wife’s brothers did not return from the war.  Friends with whom I had worked before the war also made the ultimate sacrifice.   Over the past 61 years I look at what a wonderful country Canada has become and often think of the debt of honour all of us owe to these heroes that never returned home.

I retired from the navy at the end of the war as a Lieutenant Commander.  It was a privilege serving my country and I was glad I did, but I was thankful that it was over.  I was very proud that my education allowed me the opportunity to serve with so many special people and to make a significant contribution to the war effort.  I hope that my experience will encourage you to pursue your education, not only for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of our society and our country.

Thank you.

William Guy Brissenden, 1915-2012


How to talk to kids about the Syrian refugee crisis

Although the crisis in Syria has been building for a long time, it is the poignant and tragic photographs of children and families suffering and dying while fleeing from the danger in their home country that have finally brought the issue to the forefront of our public consciousness.

Images that some people find distasteful and others argue the world needs to see have scrolled across our computer screens and stared out of our newspaper boxes, presented without warning to adults and children alike: The photographs of tiny Alan Kurdi, drowned along with his mother and older brother, washed up on the shore of a Turkish beach resort, his limp body tenderly cradled in the arms of a Turkish soldier; the combined despair and relief etched on the face of a father cradling his children as he finally reaches shore in a slowly deflating boat; the shocking footage of a TV cameraperson deliberately tripping a refugee father and child as they flee, and the confusion and anger on the father’s face as he stares up her, wondering why.

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You’re never too young to be ashamed of your body – if you’re a girl!

Another day, another story about the sexualization of little girls…

You're never too young to be body-shamed if you're a girl - Another day, another story about the sexualization and body-shaming of young girls. www.picklesINK.com

You’re never too young to be body-shamed – if you’re a girl.

An impromptu family visit to a wading pool in a public park in Guelph, Ontario left an 8 year-old girl embarrassed and her parents angry when staff told her that, unlike her brothers, she could not be in the wading pool without a top.

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The (True) Tale of Peter Rabbit

The (True) Tale of Peter Rabbit


Who’s the Real Victim Here, Anyway?

There's nothing like a bunny in your vegetable garden to make you see the TRUTH in a classic children's story.

The (True) Tale of Peter Rabbit or Who’s the REAL Victim Here?

Once upon a time, there was a hard-working family man doing his best to make ends meet. Past what we now think of as retirement age, he nevertheless continued to work as hard as ever, cultivating vegetables to feed his family and supplementing his income with odd jobs here and there. His four children (two more died in infancy, as was common at the time) were grown and flown with families of their own, but gathered back at the homestead most Sundays after church for a family meal.

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I’ve got a new pronoun for you…

So…How ’bout that Caitlyn Jenner, eh?


She broke the internet by doing nothing more than being completely classy. Love it.

And yet there are people out there up in arms about pronouns. Teensy little bits of speech that can mean so much or so little, depending on what importance you and your society attach to them. Jeepers. What a thing to be on about!

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7 Things I Learned From Giving Team Sports Another Chance

So….this happened. Yesterday I played my first team sport in more than 20 years. The last time I took part in any sort of team sport was softball, age 13. My dad signed me up. I hated every minute of it and ended the season with the final strike-out of the final game (which my team lost).

Other significant sports-related memories in my life are:

  • in Grade 7 I made the soccer team! (because they didn’t cut anyone who tried out)
  • in Grade 5-6 I swam competitively, coming in dead last in every race ever except one. On that one occasion, I came first in my heat in the 50m breaststroke (in the only meet I can remember where they only awarded ribbons to the overall winners)
  • when I was 7, I got a BRONZE MEDAL in a ski race! (I “tied” for third. Out of four.)

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Sexual Bullying Hurts Everyone – and it has to STOP.

3:20 pm May 15, 2015 – Update

Hannah’s parents met this afternoon with the school superintendent, principal, and vice-principal. Nicola reports the school has apologized for the lack of urgency and communication; has pledged to arrange a restorative justice process, including parents, with professionals; and will institute new protocols for teachers around dealing with issues of a sexual nature. This sounds like a good first step on the way to some positive changes.

12:00 pm May 15, 2015 – This post has been updated at Nicola’s request to remove identifying information.

10 year-old Sexual Bullying Victim is Afraid to Return to School

Hannah loves going to school but now the Ontario fourth-grader is too scared to return, and her mother Nicola can’t blame her. On Monday, Hannah experienced the second of two incidents of bullying with a disturbingly sexual tone. A group of fourth-graders was approached at recess by four grade 7 students, and verbally harassed. One of the boys allegedly told Hannah that he was going to “shove a lollipop up her a**” and make her “suck [his] d***.”

Hannah’s mother spoke to the school principal, and although the boy admitted to the incident, as far as she knows no further action was taken by the school. As of Wednesday, Nicola’s calls to the superintendent and her school trustee have not been returned, and the principal did not respond to a request for comment for this post.

Sexual Bullying Hurts Everyone and it has to STOP - www.picklesINK.com

Sexual Bullying Hurts Everyone and it has to STOP.

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Talking to Kids About Sex – Part 1: Babies and Toddlers

Private Parts are Private, not Secret.

1. Use proper anatomical terminology for body parts: Penis, testes, vulva, vagina (Quick anatomy lesson: “Vulva” refers to whole area commonly referred to as a girl’s “private parts.” “Vagina” refers to the specific opening within the vulva. Of the two, “vulva” is generally the more useful and appropriate, unless you’re talking about where babies come from.) Using the proper words from the very beginning will allow you to become comfortable using them and hearing them.

Talking to babies and toddlers about sex: Private Parts are Private, not Secret, and My body, My choice starts in infancy. from www.picklesINK.com

Talking to Kids about Sex part 1: babies and toddlers

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The Bystander Effect

On the weekend, we witnessed a car crash.

We were on our way to the airport to drop off Ian’s brother after Ben’s Raptor Birthday Party Extravaganza (more on that later, but here’s a little taste). As often happens on the highway, for whatever reason someone braked unexpectedly, and as also often happens, someone else had a momentary lapse in attention and didn’t catch on in time.

Black car meets slams back of red car, red car careens sideways into blue car, and there you have it.

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In the matter of the People Vs. Molly Pickles

Molly: …so that’s why Ariadne* was so upset.

Defense Attorney: But it was never your intention to hurt her feelings?

Molly: No! I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings!

Defense Attorney: Can you explain to the court again, step by step, the events that led up to Ariadne’s time-out?

Molly: Okay, so…I told Ariadne I would do the hundred board with her. But then Artemis…wait. I’ll draw it for you.

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