Born in Wallaceburg, ON., the son of Frederick J. and Mary Errey, of 844 Elgin St., Wallaceburg, Ontario, Canada, brother of Victor George A3762 also a sister Kathleen. Don attended public and high school in Wallaceburg and was employed at the Dominion Glass co. prior to the war. CDN 16/09/42
He enlisted in the Essex Scottish the 15th of Sept., 1939. Both Don and his brother Victor and their fater Fred were employed at the Wallaceburg Glass Co. It was not uncommon for employers to arrange farewells for servicemen, especially in the early years. The plant manager E.G. Davies, Deputy Reeve and W.P. Spero were present to wish the two young men “au revoir” as they departed for Camp Borden. WN 30/05/40
Reported as a casualty on the Dieppe Raid in the Windsor Star of 16 September, 1942. Donovan then 20 years old was in fact wounded and taken as a POW at Dieppe and was interned at Stalag 11C in Germany.
The WN 12/11/42 in an article “Letters To Prisoners of War” gave instructions that each letter or parcel should be addressed:
Prisoner of War Post,
Service des Prisionerd de Guerre.
In this case:
A21808, L/Cpl. Donovan Errey, Prisoner of War No. 42867, Stalag 9 C. Germany
The CDN 10/03/45(P) reported that in 1942 Don was to be married to a Scottish ‘sweetheart’ Helen Neill of Edenburgh, Scotland and they still plan to be married. Three days later a picture of Fred Errey appeared in the CDN 13/03/45(P) along with Sergt. George Ellis of the Army Public Relations department with information to share with Don’s fathers making artificial limbs for the men in his POW camp. The “Errey Limbs” would keep Don busy, he was not sure how many he made but thought it would be at least a couple of hundred.
Curator Note: One story of the many in the book “Unlucky Hero” stand out. Sgt. R. Salt an RAF bombaimer had lost both legs. When his plane was hit he parachuted out the bomb bay doors. The plane lurched as ‘Salty’ jumped and the doors slammed shut crushing his legs just below the legs.
Fortunately he was lucky, immediately found he was taken to a military hospital where both legs were amputated. He was then sent to the Meiningen POW camp to convalesce and have some physiotherapy. Every morning his mates would pick him up and take him outside where he would chat with other POWs. He appreciated what was being done for him but he detested being so dependent.
Don had never made legs for a double amputee but ‘Salty’ was determined, as he said if Squadron Leader Douglas Bader could command a squadron on two tin legs, Sgt. R. Salt would walk. Don accepted the challenge the evening Salty declared in jest “If you make me a pair of legs I’ll have the first dance on New Years Eve.”
Curator Note: One story of the many in the book “Unlucky Hero” stand out. Sgt. R. Salt an RAF bombaimer had lost both legs. When his plane was hit he parachuted out the bomb bay doors. The plane lurched as ‘Salty’ jumped and the doors slammed shut crushing his legs just below the knees.
There were many fittings and adjustments to the cups where the stumps fit into the legs. His stumps were rubber raw and very painful but as long as he was determined Don was there to adjust his design and eventually with the help of canes he was able to get around. On New Years Eve 1944 he danced and strutted around the camp without the canes. Many of the prisoners, Don included, wept openly at the triumph of will and raw courage.
On the 11th of April Don boarded a USAAF Dakota aircraft departing for Paris his was was now over. It was while he was at No.1 Canadian Reception Depot near Aldershot, England for a physical and “every vaccine or syrrum known and in places rarely seen.” His first telegram was to his home in Wallaceburg and the second to Helen.
Don’s story is wonderfully written up in (UH) “Unlikely Hero – A Dieppe Survivor’s Gift of Hope”, by George Kerr & Doug MacKenzie, ISBN 0-919939-44-9
Curators note: I have read a large number of books on the two Great Wars and many first person accounts and although “Unlikely Hero” was not written by Don Errey he comes off as one of the true heroes of WWII in my eye at least. I highly recommend the book.
In the early spring of 1945, the morning elements of Paton’s Third U.S. Army appeared as a olive-drab haze on the horizon moving towards the POW camp. The camp guards had beaten a hasty retreat. The next day the guards returned and turned themselves over to the prisoners. On 7 April, 1945 the US 11th Armoured liberated the camp, The Sherman tanks were manned by black soldiers and they brought ‘white bread canned butter and some liberated champagne.
He was desperate to see Helen and devised an escape plan to get out of the Reception Depot, spend time with his sweetheart and get back before 30 days were up and “Absent Without Leave (AWOL) would turn into a charge of desertion. On the 24th of April he sent Helen a brief but heart felt telegram, “Find Bed”. Arrive 7:30 25th Waverly. Love Don. On 30 April, 1945 at Cairns Memorial Chapel, Edinburgh Don and Helen were married. A short and ‘inexpensive honeymoon” was had and the couple were in Edinburgh for VE-Day 0n May 8th. On 14 June Don boarded the S. S. Volendam for Canada. He arrived in London, ON. on the 24th of June (a photo of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Errey and Don’s sister Kathleen greeting Don’s train in London is dated 18 June, 1945?) a proud and tearful father embraced his son as he stepped from the train.\ and that evening father and son talked into the wee hours in their home in Wallaceburg.
Don was invited to attend a baseball game between the Washington Senators and the Detroit Tigers they arranged to have Don throw out the first ball from the mound in Briggs stadium, a childhood dream come true.
George Ellis of the Army Public Relations department with information to share with Don’s fathers making artificial limbs for the men in his POW camp. The “Errey Limbs” would keep Don busy, he was not sure how many he made but thought it would be at least a couple of hundred.
Afa: “No Return Ticket” by Alan Mann.WS 16/09/42, WHSSC.”Unlikely Hero – A Dieppe Survivor’s Gift of Hope.” by G. Kerr & D. MacKenzie ISBN 0-919939-44-9.
No Return Ticket - Wallaceburg War Casualties - Alan Mann 2002, CDN (16/09/42)