Phillips, Russell

Russell Phillips was born November 9, 1922 in Toronto.  He grew up in the Lansdowne-St. Clair neighbourhood, attending local schools and doing all the things typical for a teenager in 1930s Toronto.  In high school Russell joined the cadets, and then the Irish Regiment MIlitia, and when the war came he lied about his age so he could get overseas in 1940 at age 18 (he should have been 19).  In Camp Borden he was trained in Morse Code and as a wireless operator, ready for a tank crew.  Russell endured a difficult journey overseas, full of bad weather and food; after that one week ordeal he found himself in Liverpool.  Russell would spend the next year and a bit in England and Scotland, training for the battles to come and learning life as part of a tank crew.  While there Russell met and later married a young woman who would eventually return to Canada with him, one of thousands of war brides.  Now assigned to the Three Rivers Regiment, in early 1943 he was sent to the Mediterranean theatre, ready to take part in the invasion of Sicily and Italy.  By the time they reached Sicily most of the fighting was already complete, so on they went to Italy, where the unit went into action at Ortona.  Russell had been selected to be a radioman for the HQ company, so he did not go into front line combat, but he delivered ammo to the front and was shelled on numerous occasions, both at Ortona and Montecassino.  He also contracted malaria and spent time in hospital; he also managed to see a bit of Italy, including Rome and Florence.  As the Italian campaign was reaching its close, Russell and the rest of the Canadian army there were sent north, and he closed out the war in the fight to liberate the Netherlands.  With the war behind him, Russell returned to Scotland – and his new young wife – and they made their way across the Atlantic, albeit on separate ships.  Russell was demobilized by early 1946, and while still in the army he began to look for a job and a place to live.  They then went on to find their way in postwar Canada, raising a family and building a life.  Russell Phillips was interviewed at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing on two occasions in the autumn of 2022.