Roly Armitage was born February 8, 1925 in the Ottawa area. He was raised on a farm, with many brothers and sisters. Roly’s father was a veteran of the Great War who saw action at Ypres: he was gassed and while being treated in England he met a young Red Cross nurse who later became his wife. When that war was over Roly’s parents returned to Canada with Roly’s older brother, and they began their life in a log cabin on a farm outside Ottawa. Roly would be the third of the brothers: when the war came, the two eldest brothers enlisted in the RCAF and the RCN, and the teenaged Roly was not about to wait. He left school and enlisted when he was just 15, lying about his age. His father encouraged him to join the artillery, but the young Roly had heard about the paratroopers and wanted to give that a try. He went down to Fort Benning, Georgia, but his age was discovered and he was removed, sent back to Canada and the artillery. Roly trained to be a motorcycle despatch rider at this time, but when an opportunity to go overseas came along he seized it. He was stationed in England for about a year before going to France; he visited London and saw the V-1 attacks, and when not on duty he had plenty of time to play sports. But June 1944 came around, and D-Day took place on the 6th; Rory and the artillery unit went over to France on D+10. Roly was thrown into the battle right away as Canadians fought through Caen and Carpiquet, and the fighting continued along the coast as the Canadians were tasked with liberating the Channel Ports. Rory saw action in the Battle of the Scheldt, as the port of Antwerp was taken, and the combat continued as Canadians liberated the Netherlands. Roly finished the war in Germany, and he and his fellow gunners celebrated when they heard about VE Day. Roly stayed in the Netherlands for six months, returning to Canada in early 1946 – still just 20 years old. He went back to school and became a veterinarian, enjoying the peaceful rhythms of Canadian life. Crestwood students were fortunate to zoom with Dr. Roly Armitage in November 2022.
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