Col. David Lloyd Hart, a decorated Second World War veteran who was the Canadian Army’s oldest and longest-serving officer, has died at age 101.
The Canadian Armed Forces announced that Hart died March 27 in Montreal.
Hart served for more than 80 years in the army in various roles, including as a young communications operator in England and France during the Second World War. A sergeant at the time, Hart went on to receive a military medal for bravery for his actions during the ill-fated Allied raid on Dieppe in 1942, when he insisted on briefly going off-air to locate two brigades and pass on an order to withdraw.
Born in July 1917 in Montreal, Hart enlisted in the reserves in 1937 with the Fourth Signal Regiment and was called to active duty in 1939.
Hart told The Canadian Press in 2017 that he still remembered every detail of the chaotic scene on the beach that day in Dieppe, which would prove to be the single bloodiest for Canada’s military in the Second World War.
The Allied forces quickly became “sitting ducks” after their forces were spotted by German troops early on in what was supposed to be a stealth operation, Hart said. He recalled sitting in a crippled ship five metres from shore, unable to leave the radio, watching his fellow soldiers trying in vain to dig with stones to create a place to hide.
“The fire was terrible,” he said at an interview at his home in Montreal. “There was mortar fire and there were machine-gun nests in the cliffs which weren’t seen by our intelligence people because they had them covered, and they had heavy six-pounder or more cannons shooting at us.”
Of the almost 5,000 Canadian soldiers who took part in the raid on occupied France, nearly 3,400 were captured, injured or killed. The number of deaths totalled 916.
Hart went on to serve in various honorary positions after leaving active duty in 1965, and remained an active and visible presence at Montreal military events right up to his death. The year he turned 100, he returned to Dieppe to walk down the same beach where he’d fought some 75 years earlier.
Hart, who was not injured in the raid, said in 2017 that while all soldiers must live with their memories, he didn’t regret his service and would sign up again, if given the chance.