As I get older one of the things I wish I could tell my younger self was to take the time to sit down and simply talk to my Grandparents – about their lives, their favorite things, the lessons they had learned throughout their lives. Not to say that I didn’t ever talk to them about those things or learn much of that about them, but I so wish I could do that right now. The Lord has called 3 of my 4 Grandparents home already, and I’m forever thankful that many of their stories do live on through my parents and others who have recorded some of the chronicles of their lives lived in such a different world from the one I know.
Technology has so changed our world its hard to imagine what life was like before computers, phones, cameras at almost every fingertip, and the internet making communication as easy as a touch of a button. My assumption is that people simply spent more time together instead in front of screens trying to connect with each other. Some days that sounds so wonderful and I wish it was as easy as tossing my phone, computer, and TV to get there!
But one thing that is amazing about technology is the ability to quickly and easily share our stories with the world. And so that the world might not forget and might be reminded of a world gone by – I want to share a small but amazing snippet of my Grandfather’s story.
David Cole was born on June 7, 1925 and grew up in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada. He was one of 9 siblings, the 3rd youngest of 8 boys and 1 girl (and I can feel for his one sister having grown up with four brothers myself!). Growing up in the midst of a war torn world must not have been an easy task. And when my Grandpa came of age (that is when he turned 18), he was quick to enlist despite the many horror stories and victims of loss he had surely been witness to in his young life.
In 1944, having undergone basic training he was quickly shipped off to England where he was given the opportunity to pick what regiment he would serve in. He served alongside his cousin, Norman Cole, who I wrote about in my last Heritage Series post. In the same battle where his cousin Norman lost his life, my Grandfather was taken prisoner.
In the midst of battle, ducking down into a foxhole dug to avoid machine gunfire from the German ranks, he was asked by a medic to help carry a wounded man to a nearby barn in hopes of treating him. Saying one final goodbye to his family not knowing if the machine gun would be aimed right at him when he popped out of cover, my Grandpa lifted this wounded man alongside their medic and managed to make it to the barn. As he turned to look back over the field waiting for direction from his platoon leader, he was tapped on the shoulder and turned around to find a German soldier.
Amazingly, this soldier quickly ushered my Grandpa inside where the bunks in the barn had already been filled with dead bodies from the German ranks. He was directed by this German soldier to lay down on one of the bunks where he was quickly covered up by a blanket. It was evident he was to play dead. Not a minute later my Grandpa heard the infamous sound of German SS hob nail boots coming across the wood floor. Determining that there were no Canadian army soldiers present, the SS soldier left the barn.
It was then that my Grandpa’s captor came back and brought him upstairs to discover that the barn was actually a German command post. The officer upstairs ordered Grandpa’s captor to give him some food and he was then shipped off to a prisoner of war camp where he remained for 2 months before being liberated by the British Army. Had it not been for the compassion of this one German soldier to hide my Grandpa from the SS who would have surely executed him, my Grandpa would not have lived the amazing life he did nor would I be here today.
Such a small snippet of my Grandpa’s life, but an amazing story of how God kept him alive for His purposes. I share his story as a testimony to his bravery, to God’s protection and sovereignty in His life, and to inspire you to carry on the stories of your family’s history. One of the easiest ways is to take those pictures you have, give them new life through the story behind them, and don’t forget to document and share your own life for your family’s descendants one day.
My Dad sent me the pictures below of my Grandpa, David Cole. On the left you’ll see him before he left for England after basic training. And on the right is after he was liberated from the concentration camp while he waited in England to return home to Canada. And the last picture is of the group of young men he trained with for basic training in London, Ontario before joining the conflict in Europe. My Grandpa is at the top right.
What are some of the amazing stories from your own family heritage? I would LOVE to hear them and see the pictures!