I feel ecstatic. I finally found Lance Sergeant Edwin Worden–and he was only a few blocks from my home. He is honoured at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa–his photo huge and happy hovering over the Royal Canadian Legion’s Hall of Honour.
And so, I am pleased to finally introduce you to LSgt Edwin Worden–he is every bit the handsome lad that I imagined he would be:
The Hall of Honour is very moving. It is peaceful and dark. A quiet place of contemplation and remembrance.
The tribute to LSgt Worden is contained in this Second World War exhibit:
This exhibit, though small, includes many artefacts that have helped me piece together my final portrait of LSgt Worden: A journey that started with a soldier’s D-Day letter, and my question: Was it his last?
October 10, 1916:
Edwin is born in Regina, Saskatchewan, the son of Edward and Julia Worden.
1940-1944: The war years
At age 24, Edwin enlists in the Canadian Army to serve in the Second World War. He is an infantryman with the Royal Regina Regiment. On August 24, 1941, he ships out to England, where he spends three-years training for D-Day.
Early in 1944, he marries Lily Baldwin of Brighton, East Sussex, England.
June 5, 1944:
Worden writes a D-Day letter home to his wife Lily: “So promise darling you will not worry for I’ll be allright and home befor you know it.”
June 6, 1944:
April 8, 1945:
LSgt Worden is killed in action, April 8, 1945, in the Netherlands. Only one month before VE Day.
He is 28 years old.
His death is recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission directory.
May 27, 1945:
King George VI sends this letter of condolence to Mrs. Lily Worden “on the death of, L27027, Lance Sergeant Edwin Owen Worden”:
LSgt Worden is buried in the Holten Canadian War Cemetery, Netherlands, which is the resting place of 1,394 Commonwealth servicemen who died during the last months war in Holland and Germany:
He is widely decorated for his valor. Here are just a few of his medals:
And, he has a son named Donald Edward Worden. In the photo below (centre, bottom), Donald is tucked in close to his mother looking down at his father’s grave in the Netherlands (1951):
His parents, who remained in Saskatchewan, Canada, outlived their son by many years: His father Edward died on May 2, 1956 at age 71 years. His mother Julia died Feb 29, 1960 at age 80.
It would be nice to think that Worden met his son, and saw Lily one more time before his death. But it is doubtful.
Not the ending I was hoping for when I first read his letter home to Lily…“You and I can be together sooner something I have allways prayed for and I know you have to.”
LSgt Worden is not alone. He is a casualty of the deadliest military conflict in history: an estimated 22 to 25 million military personnel killed and some 40 to 52 million civilians dead by the end of the war.
On my way to finding LSgt Worden at the Canadian War Museum, I found this memorial to another hero of the Second World War–Raoul Wallenberg. Not a soldier, but a Swedish architect and businessman who risked his life to save tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust.
Where would we be today if individuals like Wallenburg and Worden did not sacrifice so much to save so many?
Here are words from a beautiful speech honouring Mr. Wallenberg, his legacy and our collective responsibility:
“During World War II, Raoul Wallenberg could have chosen to live a life of comfort and safety with his loving family. Instead, he risked his life to save the lives of others…
Raoul Wallenberg’s life-giving legacy reminds us of a question that we should all be asking, amidst the daily business and the pull of our national interests: How do we ensure that every individual – regardless of race or religion – is able to live a life of freedom, a life with dignity and respect? How do we prevent the sins of history and our past failures to stop mass killings of civilians, from being repeated? How do we pass on to the next generation a sense of the importance of not being indifferent?” ~William J. Burns, Deputy Secretary, Stockholm, Sweden, at a memorial tree dedication, May 14, 2012
I believe these words hold true for our soldier, too.
The final word goes to LSgt Worden, and his final goodbye to Lily:
To read this story from the beginning:
Part 1: Finding Lance Sergeant Worden: His D-Day Letter home…was it his last?
Part 2: LSgt Worden joins the army
Part 3: LSgt Worden goes in to battle: “The big day has come”
Part 4: LSgt Worden’s bitter-sweet victory in Europe: A story in pictures
Part 5: LSgt Worden: Found