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Harold Douglas Hines Serving His Country Changed His Life Forever [This article was first published in the Vanguard in 2001; reprinted here with the permission of the author] By Laurent d’Entremont One Week before Christmas in December 1944 was not the best of times for Harold Douglas Hines, of Central Argyle, Yarmouth County. At that time the 20-year-old became a casualty of war for the second time. He was only 19 the first time he was injured. The German army was fighting tooth and nail and had no plans of giving up one single inch of captured land. However it took more than machine gun fire and hand grenades to keep the young soldier down. Hines would rise to the challenge, return home to lead a full and remarkable life, with lots of adjustments along the way. He was born in the fall of 1924 and unlike many of his generation he never went fishing. Instead, to earn his living, he drove a truck for Eddie Hines, a relative who operated a general store in Central Argyle for many years. Young Harold enjoyed working for him, especially driving the delivery truck. This was sixty years ago and there was a war going on and some of the Hines boys, Ralph, Brad and Frank, were already working for the war effort, Harold and his younger brother Fred (a municipal councilor for many years) wanted to do the same. These were exciting times and they wanted to be part of the action too. Harold Hines enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1943, and trained at Aldershot, the base camp near Kentville. His regiment number was F-57712. Soon he was shipped overseas to serve with reinforcement troops to relieve those who were battling it out on the front lines. The Dutch liner, which transported him and 12,000 others, was the Nieuw Amsterdam, about the size of the well-known Queen Mary. He still remembers the nurses on the top deck going to serve at Canadian hospitals in England and how beautiful they were. This huge Liner, zigzagging a course to avoid German torpedoes, routine during the war, would eventually take them up the Clyde River and make port in Scotland. It was on this huge ship that Harold Hines had a taste of what real fire power was all about. The officers in command thought they had sighted a German U-boat ready to blast them out of the water. Luckily it was only a large whale finning on the water, but perhaps not so lucky for the large mammal which may or may not have escaped. The Central Argyle soldier had trained earlier as a rifleman at Aldershot and had done lots of target practice, mostly aiming at a moving target on the water, which he says he missed almost all of the time. At an old British base the young Canadian joined the Blackwatch Regiment from Montreal, a tough unit where French and English fought side by side for a common cause. The fighting crew went into Normandy and served on the front lines as reinforcement troops. In Europe the slit trenches, unlike those from the “Old War”, were only six feet long where two men lived, slept and suffered---one man slept while the other kept guard with bolt action guns ready for the enemy. During a major attack Hines was hit in the knee by flying metal, this put him out of duty for seven weeks, he was operated upon and soon recovered. During that battle the injured Nova Scotian saw a young German soldier running towards him, the soldier who was without his gun and with both hands on his helmet felt it was better to surrender than die for his mother land. He was too far into allied territory to return to his regiment. Hines still remembers the young German as a lad of about 18 years, with blond hair. The young “Gerry” was turned over to the medics in charge of the field hospital, a prisoner of war. He could very well still be living today. The knee injury was a sample of war with, unfortunately, more to come. In Holland the Maas River is 575 miles long, rising in France and flowing through Belgium and Holland then curving west to the Rhine before emptying into the North Sea. This navigable river had machine gun outposts along its banks like many European rivers. Harold Hines and two other soldiers were “dug in” into their trench manning some of the machine guns; he still remembers it was early Sunday morning, a night black as pitch when all hell broke out. Hines was sleeping when a blast too close for comfort exploded some of their own grenades along with lots of other ammunitions. All three soldiers were injured, but the Argyle native knew he was the one who would never see again. It was December 1944 and unknown to the disable soldier he would live another sixty years. Some time later with lots of other casualties, he was flown out on a DC-3 airplane to an airbase in Brussels, Belgium. There he was hospitalized and given a Braille watch. It would be a long way to recovery and a new way of life, something that he mastered very well. All who know him will agree on this. With lots of others who had been injured, he returned to Halifax on a hospital ship and later went to Toronto where he learned to type and learn Braille. When schooling was done in Toronto, the war veteran once again returned to Halifax where he was employed running the canteen at the main post office. There he met Bernice who was working in the same building, and later became his wife. Also in the same building there was a young weatherman who became a close friend of the affable canteen operator---his name was Rube Hornstein, who later became popular as CBC’s famed TV weatherman. After working some years in Halifax, Hines returned home to Argyle and bought Eddie Hines’ store, where he started out many years before driving the little delivery truck. When asked if making change at the till was a problem, he says he could always tell by the size of the coins if it was a dime, nickel, quarter etc. When it came to bills he knew and trusted the customers and says he was only short- changed once when a young fellow passed a one-dollar bill and pretended it was two dollars. However the boy was caught and justice was done---he gave back the dollar. Perhaps the most challenging part of running the store was that he burned wood for heat and did all his wood chopping with an ax, he was very careful and never had an accident. As we all know, chopping wood is dangerous at the best of times. Today having just turned 77, Harold Hines is fit as a fiddle, and as sharp as the proverbial tack. A very cheerful man, if he has any disappointments or regrets he certainly does not show them. He has never seen his wife or their two lovely daughters, Wendy and Stephanie, and all family and friends love him. He can still recall dates and events as if they had only happened yesterday. In a recent interview he was eager to tell me he had once met General Henry Crerar (1888-1965), and had personally seen Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery (1887-1976) of Alamein fame, and the Great Winston Churchill (1874-1965) of Britain. The latter was smoking his trademark cigar at the time, and likely was sporting a belt of spirit as well. The former soldier is an avid bingo player with his Braille cards, and over the years he has attended many Remembrance Day ceremonies all over the country. Living nearby, Harold Hines is well known by the Pubnico people (I remember him from 50 years ago, but only spoke to him recently) as well as people throughout the counties. Although he has not seen in 57 years, he leads a very adjusted and productive life, and likely had greater vision than any of us---especially at this time of year.
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