Oral History AGM Report 2015

As of September 2014, Gary Del Villano assumed the overall director’s portfolio for the Vets Program from Paula Skippon, who continues in the role of developing the RUSI/UVIC proposed endowment fund. This year’s program is in its final stages for oral interviews at this time, following which the students submit their papers to Dr Tim Balzer at UVIC. On the basis of his evaluation, the students who are successful will be awarded a credit towards their undergraduate degrees. This program is likely the only one of its kind in Canada.

BGen (Ret’d) Lloyd Skaalen identified the topics and veterans that included Bomber Operations in WW2 & Post War, South East Asia Operations including Burma in WW2 & Post War and Dependent Domestic Perspectives of Military Service, with three veterans or dependents for each topic, of which two were former air force dependents. The interviews included not only dependent wives but also dependent youths and the effect of military service upon them.

Major (Ret’d) Gary Del Villano identified the topics and veterans for the army contingent. These included three veterans for WW2, three veterans who participated in Korea, three veterans of the Afghanistan conflict and one of the three dependents who reflected the effect of military service on the family for the Dependent Domestic Perspectives of Military Service.

Capt (N) (Ret’d) Kevin Carle developed the topics and identified veterans who would speak to UVIC history students through a two hour verbal interview. The naval participation included the topics of public relations in the CAF and Canada’s naval reserve. Unfortunately, the students had to withdraw from the naval program for this year, and these topics will be explored next year.

The identification of WW2 and Korean War veterans is the most urgent priority given the advanced ages of the veterans involved. It is vital from a historic and personal perspective to capture these stories in the coming years.

From “Victory at Vimy”, I quote in part the acknowledgment of author Ted Barris on the importance of this program as it was developed four decades ago and at that time included veterans of WW1.

“I unearthed an additional bonanza of first hand Vimy material…I met Reginald Roy, a long-time professor at the University of Victoria and military historian in his own right. Sensing the urgency in the 1970s and 1980s, Professor Roy encouraged his history undergraduate students to tape-record conversations with the veterans. There, in the care of the UVIC Archives, those tapes were catalogued for those such as me to discover a quarter-century later”.

Vimy was published in 2007 and reflects the great store of available material for authors, historians, families and the general public on the service of men and women in the conflicts of war and peace of the 20th and 21st Century. These would otherwise be lost to the future.

In 2004, Dr David Zimmerman of the UVIC History Department and Colonel (Ret’d) John Eggenberger of the RUSI of VI developed the relationship between our two organizations to ensure that the university would have a solid and ongoing joint effort to capture the comments of all those veterans who have served in war and peace. It takes considerable effort and time to develop this program annually, and it is of vital interest to us and to Canada.

There are many dozens of interviews in the archives, and there will be many more as long as we participate. There is no greater memorial to this military service in which the RUSI of Vancouver Island can take part than the Veterans Oral History Program.

Submitted by:
Maj (Ret’d) Gary Del Villano,
Director, MOH Program
March 11, 2015