Peter Pidwebeski at the Sooke Legion

Peter Pidwebeski at the Sooke Legion

Local Second World War veteran recalls experience as soldier overseas

Peter Pidwerbeski, 92, is among the last remaining Second World War veterans still alive in Sooke.

Often when we think about the Second World War, we start to picture war machines, on land, in the air, on the water and under the water, as well as the mass loss of human life and utter destruction.

Like any story, however, there are multiple sides to what one sees, such as the countless clerks keeping track of numbers and paperwork, or the men and women working in factories day and night to keep planes, tanks, trucks and other equipment rolling out.

Then, you have another group, whose duties, albeit not behind a rifle, were just as important back on the home field, such as making sure all the facilities were clean, and functional, or that food was always available, and that everyone’s belongings were kept safe while they were out in the European war theatre.

Such a fella is Peter Pidwerbeski, 92, one of Sooke’s last remaining Second World War veterans.

After being drafted into the infantry on Jan. 11, 1943, he became an lance corporal, training in B.C. until being shipped over the England for further training.

Before heading out, he spent a good part of it here in Sooke, and in Sidney, where they were just starting to build the airport. There, he met a couple of his friends from the Prairies who were part of the air force stationed there.

But despite being so close to the unfolding theatre of war in Europe, Pidwebeski spent the entirety of that year in England, training and helping out at various intervals, such as working the night shift at one of the hostels where soldiers came over for a vacation or two-week leave.

“We had to help them, there were only two of us and we had to look after the boys signing in and coming out. I was the a whole year there at YMCA in England.”

Pidwebeski also spent a significant amount of time in Aldershot, which had one of the biggest army camps in all of England. There, the Canadian-British training process was what he called “tough.”

“We had an English sergeant-major, in the morning he’d get up, and come and holler his head off, get everybody up in a jiffy, he was very sharp. Not a lot of people liked him,” he said, chuckling.

Just 21 years old, Pidwerbeski just felt good to be involved in the war effort.

“I was excited going in the army, a young fella, finally going on a new adventure, because really, there wasn’t much work anyway anywhere in those years,” he said, adding that he initially put in an application in to join the air force, did an exam and an eye test.

A week later though, he didn’t get a call from the air force, but from the army.

“I didn’t bother to ask why they never called me back, but it wouldn’t do me any good anyway.”

Once he found himself in England, being ever so close to Europe, he wanted to join the ranks on the battlefield, but recalls that was short-lived, as a knee injury kept him from being called in.

Mind you, being behind the lines still had its hardships.

“I lost two of my best friends. I wish I was down there fighting with them,” he said.

After the war was finished, the army wanted soldiers for auxiliary services to go to Europe and England, help the Salvation Army, Knights of Columbus and YMCA.

On Oct. 1, 1946, he was discharged, heading home shortly after that.

“My highlight, and indeed everybody’s highlight, was VE Day. A bunch of us went out from pub to pub, drinking beer and just having a great time,” Pidwerbeski said, smiling.

Born in the small town of Redfield, Sask. Pidwerbeski returned home after the war, but not much was waiting for him in terms of an occupation. And even though the military asked him to come back, he refused.

“I was there to do my time, but then when I came home and there was nothing there either, then I was thinking about joining up again, but then I got a job, and forgot all about it,” he said.

And the job surely came a-knockin, after moving to North Battleford, Sask., he worked for Canadian National in the roundhouse, servicing steam locomotives.

After that, he once again went where the bread was, working as a brakeman in Rainy River, Ont. Later after that, he worked in the mines in Red Lake.

Finally, he picked up a job back in B.C. with B.C. hydro as a blaster and machine operator until he retired.

Still, the question remains on his war past: would he do it again if he was 21?

“Yes. I would go back, because I would have a much better education. Living on the farm, all we had was a school house, and the nearest high school was 30 miles out of town,” he said.

Even though Pidwebeski says he never really thought about going back, the military did provide him with a life skill set which he uses to this very day.

“You learn a lot of things. You learn how to look after yourself and become self-sufficient,” he said.

news@sookenewsmirror.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Camp Barnard during the 2019 Pacific Jamboree. (Photo: Camp Barnard)
Camp Barnard near Sooke hopes fundraiser will help it progress on accessibility goals

I Care ‘Bout Camp challenge hopes to raise $100,000 for new lodge, replaced kitchen

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

Alphabet Zoo Early Learning Centre wants to relocate from Langford to 3322 Fulton Rd. in Colwood, but has not been approved for a P-6 zoning by Colwood council. Residents who neighbour the property, have expressed concern to the Goldstream Gazette regarding the potential daycare site. Neighbours Ryan Landa and Selene Winchester said the noise of construction has been disruptive to the area, and the property is not suitable for a daycare. (Photo contributed/Ryan Landa)
Proposed West Shore daycare stirs up controversy amongst neighbours

Neighbouring property owners are concerned about traffic, noise that a daycare would bring to the area

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating Mackenzie Courchene, a Langford teenager.
MISSING: Mackenzie Courchene last seen in Langford on March 2

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating the Langford teenager

Saanich council recently adopted a 131-step climate action plan expected to cost $2.5-million in the first year of implementation. (Black Press Media file photo)
Tensions high as Saanich considers reigniting local area plan review

Majority vote pushes discussion to fall strategic plan check-in

Const. Nancy Saggar, who has 11 years in policing, offers advice for other women who may pursue both policing and family. (Black Press Media file photo)
Pregnancy prompts sage advice from RCMP officer for women thinking about policing

West Shore constable with 11 years experience heads off on maternity leave

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Hannah Ankenmann, who works with k’awat’si Economic Development Corporation, winces as she received her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine administered by a Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Family Health nurse. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Vancouver Island’s small remote towns to get community-wide vaccine clinics

Island Health to take a wholesale approach to immunization, rather than age-based appointments

Anyone with information is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 or submitting a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.
21-year-old motorbike rider dies after crash with ATV on Nanaimo back road

Incident happened Sunday afternoon near Boomerang Lake

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complains about that condo

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

(BC SPCA)
Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Cole Moore with one of his sisters, Jasmin Moore. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island man looks to brain surgery for second chance

Fingers crossed that procedure can give Cole Moore a new lease on life after decade of seizures

Health Minister Adrian Dix, front, B.C. Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrive for a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, March 6, 2020. Pandemic emergency measures have been in place for almost a year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. officials plead for patience as 1.7 million COVID-19 calls flood in

Vaccine registration for 90-plus seniors opened Monday

Most Read