Sergeant Bernard Gaston Pilon
Les Fusiliers du Mont-Royal
31/7/1925 - 30/3/1945

Fusiliers du Mont-Royal

Bernard Gaston Pilon was a young man from the small village of Rockland, Ontario located a few miles below the capital of Canada, Ottawa, on the shores of the Ottawa River (click here to view Bernard Gaston Pilon's genealogy back to France).  He was not a scholar and before he had reached the age when most young people his age were finishing high school, he had already tried his hand at a few jobs, having left school after 6th grade.  According to his 1943 attestation document preserved by Library and Archives Canada, he had apprenticed as a plumber for a 2 1/2 month period, had worked on the family farm, had worked as a soda fountain operator in a restaurant and had worked for 9 months in Montréal as a silk thread twister.  But clearly, none of these employments really caught fire.  So when the opportunity presented itself, he showed up at a recruiting office of the Canadian Army.

On April 22, 1943, Lieutenant D.A. Davidson described Bernard Gaston Pilon (then all of 5 ft 3 inches, 120 lbs with brown hair and eyes, and a medium complexion) in the following manner:

“A short, slight French-Canadian.  Friendly, willing manner.  Grade 6 education (Ont); low learning ability.  Is bilingual.  Occupational history is unsatisfactory and suggestive of mild instability – inclined towards nostalgia.  However, states likes idea of being in army.  May develop into satisfactory soldier.  Seems best suited for service in Infantry.”

With those few words, Bernard Gaston Pilon's fate would be sealed.  He would become a Canadian soldier  He would be sent overseas where he would take part in breaking Hitler's hold over Europe, and where he would lay down in life in doing so.

Bernard Gaston Pilon was first sent to Cornwall, Ontario when he was enrolled in Basic Training Course #31.  On June 29, 1943, he arrived in Valcartier Québec where he began training in A-13 C.I.T.C. to become an infantryman.  On August 11, 1943, he was determined to be suitable for Overseas service.  However, at 1 minute to midnight on that same day, he is absent from roll call and remained so until apprehended on March 11, 1944 in Rockland, Ontario, his hometown. 

This episode of being A.W.L. in his file is difficult to understand, especially in light of his record following his return to Valcartier in March of 1944 when he once again undertook training and on May 18, 1944, this comment was added to his file:

“Interviewed by A.E. as a routine check after 4 weeks of advanced training but could not be despatched o/s due to his youth.  At present, he is undergoing his second attempt and states that he is progressing satisfactorily although somewhat handicapped by bronchitis.  Infantry Rifleman N.T.”

Reading between the lines, one suspects that when it was discovered that Bernard Gaston was in fact only 17 upon joining (the attestation document clearly states he was born in 1923, as does his pay book, but church records and his mother's declaration indicate 1925 to be his true year of birth), he may have simply been sent home to await another birthday and that for official purposes, he was declared Away Without Leave (AWL).

Whatever the real motivation for his absence, his second round of training proceded relatively well.  He was granted embarcation leave from the 18th to the 22nd of June and appears to have taken an extra day, for which he was confined to barracks and fined.  However, on June 30, he was declared “suitable for operation unit overseas, General duty.”    He embarked for France on August 31, 1944, arriving there on September 1.  Up until the 6th of September, 1944, he is attached to the Régiment de Montmagny, but on September 7, 1944, he is taken on strength with the Fusiliers du Mont-Royal.

Bernard Gaston Pilon would receive several promotions in the field, the first coming on the 26th of October when he would become acting corporal and corporal by 26 January, 1945.  He would be promoted to acting sergeant on March 5, 1945 and at his death on March 30, 1945, he had attained the rank of sergeant. 

Nearly three months after arriving in Europe, on November 22, 1944, Bernard Gaston Pilon's parents received horrible news: their son was reported as missing in action (read this message).  But the next day, another telegramme arrived (read this message) with the happy news that an error had been made and that Bernard Gaston was alive and well!  What a relief that must have been!  But what kind of a 24 hour period they must have live through!

Unfortunately, their hope of one day seeing their young son again were dashed during the winter of 1945.  According to his Field Medical Card, on March 30, 1945 he received a shrapnel wound to the head, his left tibia was fractured, and he had wounds to the left thigh, foot and right hand.  At 1330 medical personnel were unable to arouse him.  At 1415 he was evacuated to BCCS where he was Dead on Arrival at 1520.  Bernard Gaston Pilon was 19 years old. (read the telegramme informing his parents of his death, a letter from the Adjutant-General expressing his regrets, and a letter from Director of Records with brief details of his death)

In a letter sent to Mrs. Emilie Pilon, dated 26th May 1945, Colonel C.L. Laurin stated that: “ Sergeant Bernard Gaston Pilon buried in temporary cemetery at Bedburg, Germany.”  During wartime, is it the tradition of initially burying soldiers near where they fell.  In another letter to Madame Pilon dated January 28, 1948, the Directeur Suppléant des Archives des Services de Guerre informed Bernard Gaston Pilon's mother that her son's remains had been reburied in grave 9, row B, lot 11 of the Groesbeek Canadian Military Cemetery in Holland.  They provided her with a photograph of her son's grave marker.  At its base is inscribed the words: "Parti mais pas oublié" (Gone but not forgotten).  May we remember him.

en français

Return to the Main Index Page