Second World War veteran remembers his fallen friends

War should be a last resort, says Lacombe’s Nick Melnechuk, former medic in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

War can mean playing softball with airmen in the afternoon, then hauling their broken bodies out of a plane wreck that night, said former air force medic Nick Melnechuk.

“I’m not for war,” said the 94-year-old veteran.

Although he served during the Second World War and spent most of his post-war career in the military, he said, “I think we should manage to get along with other people… But it’s a crazy world…”

Melnechuk was one of hundreds of thousands of young men transported to England between 1939 and 1945 to stop Adolf Hitler.

He understands that “sometimes we can’t prevent war.” But the cost is always too high, concluded the Lacombe senior, who worked to help the sick and injured at an air force hospital in Yorkshire.

His best friend, Walter, was among those he never had a chance to save.

The two joined the air force on the same say as 18 year olds. Melnechuk became a medic, while Walter became a gunner. His plane later went down over Europe.

When Melnechuk visited Walter’s mother after the war, he could see “it was hard on her to see me and not him.” She said, “‘You came back.’” Melnechuk replied, ‘That’s what war is. Some of us made it, some of us didn’t.” He didn’t visit again.

The war years weren’t all bleak. Melnechuk played softball, golf, as well as hockey for a team that included Johnny Mowers, a goalie for the Detroit Red Wings.

He was a right-winger on the air force team that won the overseas championship in Glasgow in 1943 or ’44. “Oh how we partied!” Melnechuk recalled, with a laugh.

At the hospital he’d treat everything from the flu to burns and broken bones. Occasionally, guys he’d been hanging out with during the day would be in a plane that got so shot up by the Germans, it would make a crash landing at the base, “and we were back to pick up the bodies that night,” he recalled. Those were the toughest days.

Many evenings, German bombers would drop whistling payloads over Yorkshire, forcing him to dive under tables.

He was thankful when peace was declared in 1945. “I did more kissing that day…!”

The Saskatchewan native later met and married his wife Thelma, from Lacombe, and the couple raised two sons. Melnechuk rejoined the military and lived all over the country, before retiring in Lacombe 20 years ago.

“I am fortunate I’m still alive,” said Melnechuk, who recently received a lifetime membership from the Lacombe Legion. He still thinks of Walter and the other young men who never had a chance to grow old.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

PHOTO: Renewable Energy Fair at Red Deer College

The Renewable Energy Fair and Workshops event was held at Red Deer… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Red Deer College Queens host third annual Pink in the Rink game

The RDC Queens picked up an extra special victory on home ice… Continue reading

PHOTOS: The Mustard Seed CEO speaks at Seeds of Hope Gala in Red Deer

The first-ever Seeds of Hope Gala was held at the Red Deer… Continue reading

Person airlifted to hospital after collision near Innisfail

One person was airlifted to hospital after a serious collision west of… Continue reading

WATCH: Make-A-Wish grants Star Wars loving teen’s wish

The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Anakin Suerink’s wish in Red Deer Saturday afternoon

Migrant caravan swells to 5,000, resumes advance toward US

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico — Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the… Continue reading

“I don’t feel real”: Mental stress mounting after Michael

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Amy Cross has a hard time explaining the… Continue reading

Toronto residents set to vote Monday on the next four years of civic leaders

Toronto’s municipal election campaign, marked by unprecedented provincial interference, ends Monday when… Continue reading

Former PQ minister Lise Payette remembered as role model for female politicians

MONTREAL — Members from across Quebec’s political spectrum gathered at a downtown… Continue reading

Voters head to polls for BC municipal elections today, some complain of long lines

VANCOUVER — Voters in British Columbia are heading to the polls today… Continue reading

Kennedy Stewart named mayor of Vancouver; one of several B.C. turnovers

VANCOUVER — Former New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart has won a neck-and-neck… Continue reading

‘In our bloodline:’ Land-based learning links curriculum with Indigenous culture

REGINA — A school day for six-year-old Hunter Sasakamoose can start with… Continue reading

‘Stupid’ law preventing Canada’s re-engagement with Iran: retired envoy

OTTAWA — The real reason the Liberal government hasn’t been able to… Continue reading

Most Read