Veteran Mike Bradford spoke about his military service at GoodLife Fitness in the prelude to Remembrance Day. (Photo by Lana Michelin/Advocate staff)

Veteran Mike Bradford spoke about his military service at GoodLife Fitness in the prelude to Remembrance Day. (Photo by Lana Michelin/Advocate staff)

Military veteran reflects on three generations of service

Mike Bradford, his father and grandfather all served

Third-generation soldier Mike Bradford of Red Deer knows the brutal cause-and-effect of war.

His grandfather, Janner Bradford, was among the British soldiers captured by the Germans on the beaches of Dunkirk. He spent the next five years enduring the harsh conditions of a prisoner of war camp.

Once the war was over, Janner had a hard time re-adjusting to civilian life. Bradford heard his grandfather had some run-ins with the law before meeting an untimely death. “I’m sure he had some form of PTSD…”

Meanwhile, Bradford’s father, Donald Bradford, was only six when the war started. The fiery bombing of Britain was ingrained in his earliest childhood memories.

Despite this — or maybe because of it — Donald grew up and joined the Royal Marine Corps in the mid-1950s. During his 27 years in as a marine, Donald served in Cyprus, Singapore and Malaya among many places.

Bradford followed the family tradition, entering the 1st Battalion Devonshire and Dorset Regiment of the British army in 1976. He served two tours in Northern Ireland in Belfast and the County of Armagh.

He recalled his units were shot at a couple of times by Irish activists. Bradford sustained a friendly fire injury and was always on the look-out for potential booby traps and bombs — like the one that killed his friend and fellow soldier, Steve Tavener, when a rigged tractor exploded.

“They hated us over there,” Bradford remembers. British soldiers were caught in a “mentally challenging war,” he added, always looking over their shoulders and surveying the countryside for threats.

After briefly leaving the army in 1983, Bradford got a factory job but disliked the lack of camaraderie. He explained that he missed the trust and brotherhood of being in the military. “It was a tight-knit group and I loved it.”

He later joined the Royal Marine Commandos for two years. During his time in the military, he saw much of the world, including many countries in Europe and Africa. He was even sent at one time to a British Army training unit at CFB Suffield in Alberta.

After gaining millwright credentials, Bradford immigrated to Red Deer and became a Canadian reservist in the 748 Communications Squadron for a few years.

Every Remembrance Day he thinks about his father and grandfather and all of the other soldiers he knew, including the late Tavener.

He hopes, once the pandemic is over, to return to speak to young children at school Remembrance Day ceremonies. In the meantime, Bradford takes up other opportunities, such as speaking to the public at GoodLife Fitness on Wednesday.

Occasionally he’s heard people question why soldiers even exist and Bradford admitted, “I get really annoyed.” He responds that soldiers are there to protect the world from “psychopaths” like Hitler. They go into violence places to try to keep the peace and to protect human rights. Sometimes they help aid shipments get to starving people.

“Personally, I don’t think they will ever get rid of war,” said Bradford.

While some of his friends have been back to Northern Ireland to visit now that hostilities have ceased, Bradford said, “I don’t think I will ever go back…

“I would find it really hard to be there. It would bring all the memories back.”

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