Col. David Lloyd Hart, WWII veteran and Dieppe hero, dies aged 101

Col. David Lloyd Hart, WWII veteran and Dieppe hero, dies aged 101
Eighty-one years of service to the Canadian Armed Forces, life-saving heroics during the devastating Dieppe Raid of 1942, and an inspiration to generations of Canadians in the military: such was the life and career of Honorary Col. David Lloyd Hart.

On Wednesday, Canada lost one of the most iconic figures in the history of its military as Hart passed away at the age of 101.

His death brought to a close an extraordinary 81-year career highlighted by a singular act of bravery in the Second World War that was credited with saving the lives of scores of Canadians.

Hart retired from active service in 1965, but continued to serve in honorary positions until his death, making him Canada’s oldest and longest-serving officer.

“When looking at the life of this Canadian military icon, we are truly thankful for his dedication, courage and contribution to the military and Canadians,” said Lt.-Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier, commander of the Canadian Army.

“Not only was he decorated for saving lives during World War II but he spent his entire adult life serving Canada and inspiring fellow soldiers both on active duty and in honorary positions.”

Hart enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1937 and was deployed to England and France during the Second World War.

It was at the midway point in the war that Hart made his biggest contribution with a remarkable and life-saving display of composure amid bloody chaos.

Some 5,000 Canadians made up the 6,100-strong Allied force that battled 6,000 well-fortified soldiers on the German-occupied port of Dieppe in northern France.

“People were being shot at, people were being killed all over,” Hart told the Canadian Army during a 2017 interview marking 80 years of service.

“It was an absolute catastrophe and I could see and hear the disaster taking place all around me. We were left immobilized near the beach and I thought I was going to be taken prisoner.”

A 25-year-old communications operator, then-Sgt. Hart was a key communications link between army headquarters and the bloody frontlines, relaying information and orders back and forth.

As the fighting raged around him, Hart implored headquarters to let him briefly go off the air so that he could reach the frontlines on a different radio frequency and give them their instructions to retreat.

“Discipline was very rigid those days as far as using radio. I had to ask for permission to get off the air and was told ‘no’ because I was the only communications forward and back,” Hart recalled in his 2017 interview.

He said he countered by asking headquarters to let him off the air for only two minutes, to which they agreed.

“I got off the air, got a hold of the two units, gave them the order to come out and was back on the air in 30 seconds.”

In those 30 seconds, Hart managed to coordinate “a critical change to the timing of rescue craft facing relentless enemy bombardment,” the Canadian Armed Forces’ communications association said in its obituary .

As a result, he helped save the lives of over a hundred troops belonging to the two units — the South Saskatchewan Regiment and the Camerons of Winnipeg.

In 1980, Hart spent six days describing the scene to Montreal artist Adam Sherriff Scott.

The resulting painting hangs on a wall in the Ste-Catherine Street Armoury in Westmount, Que. It shows Hart crouching at a communications cart, radio in hand, as troops repel heavy fire.

David Hart is pictured in the bottom-right of this painting by Adam Sherriff Scott.

Canadian Armed Forces Communication and Electronics Association

For his act of bravery and calm, Hart was awarded the British Military Medal by King George VI at Buckingham Palace.

He went on to join the Army Signal Reserve, rising to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1961 before retiring from active service four years later.

Hart dedicated the rest of his life to serving in various honorary positions, being promoted to Honorary Colonel of 24 Signal Regiment in 2013.

The Montreal-born veteran was “an inspiration to many generations,” Brig.-Gen. Jennie Carignan, Commander of 2nd Canadian Division and Joint Task Force (East), said in a statement.

“A friend and mentor to many, from soldiers to commanders, his absence will be heartfelt.”
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