Donald Stalker, Lieutenant of the Royal Canadian Engineers
On June 6, 1944, at Juno Beach, Lieutenant Stalker of the Royal Canadian Engineers, was killed in action at age 31. He was the first man from Montreal to be reported as a casualty on the first day of the invasion of Western Europe. Donald was the son of the late Robert M. and Agnes Wilson Stalker of Montreal. He was educated at Montreal High School and employed by the Anglin–Norcross Corporation prior to his enlistment on February 11, 1941. Awarded his commission after training at Brockville and Petawawa, he went overseas in July 1942. The accompanying photo shows this handsome, confident young man, standing hands on hips, before a London landmark in 1943 or ’44 (Digital Collection Canadian Virtual War Memorial). He was buried in the Beny-Sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, France.
R. J. Berlis, Captain of the Black Watch Regiment and Minister of The Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul
After the horrific events of D-Day, costly battles were fought to free Normandy and open the way to Paris. The Black Watch of Canada (BWC) arrived in France early in July 1944 and was soon under fire. Less than ten days before the heroic but tragic Battle of Verrieres Ridge, the regimental padre, Captain R. J. Berlis, became the first Black Watch officer to be wounded in France. Struck down as he was burying the fallen, his hearing in one ear was permanently damaged. Padre Berlis continued to serve throughout the war. R.J. Berlis was called to be minister of The Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul in 1946, succeeding The Reverend George Donald.
Stuart S.T.Cantile, Colonel of the Black Watch of Canada Regiment
On July 25, 1944, one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the Black Watch occurred at Verrieres Ridge. Of the approximately 325 men who advanced up the ridge that day, only 16 made it back. The regiment’s Colonel, Stuart S.T.Cantile, was killed in the early morning just before the attack began. His name appears on our war memorial plaque.
While initial reports were filled with talk of victory, there was a growing dread at home that something terrible had happened to “our regiment”. Two months after the bitter sacrifice of that day, the regimental chaplain of the Black Watch gave an Address of Tribute at Percival Molson Stadium for all the men of the Black Watch who fell during the invasion of France.
John Samuel Bryson, Pilot Officer, R.A.F.
On September 24, 1940, Spitfire Ace John Samuel Bryson was last seen making a solo attack on a large formation of Messerschmitt 109s. A hero of the Battle of Britain, he was a nephew of John Henderson Samuel, a member of our congregation who had died 55 years earlier. John was also a young soldier who was accidentally shot while on duty with the Victoria Rifles, on October 3, 1885. Like “Butch” Bryson, he was in his mid-twenties. A stained-glass window was erected in his memory at St. Paul’s Church, on Dorchester Street and then transferred to our church in 1930. Our tour guides often point out this window to visitors, because to the left of Jesus stand two fully armed centurions. They are said to be the likeness of John Henderson Samuel and one of the window’s donors, Alex McFee. Their luxurious moustaches (forbidden to Roman soldiers) give them away. At the base of the window there is a plaque which reads in part:
THIS TABLET IS ERECTED IN MEMORY OF PILOT OFFICER JOHN SAMUEL BRYSON, R.A.F., HE WAS THE NEPHEW OF JOHN HENDERSON SAMUEL, WHOM THIS WINDOW COMMEMORATES GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS
Learn more about the participation of members of our congregation in WWII by reading By Land, Sea and Air, planned for publication and distribution during our Remembrance Day Worship Service on November 10, 2019. An astonishing 248 of our members volunteered for active service, 25 of whom were women. The book recounts stories of the 27 who were fatally wounded and died during the fighting.