A debut biography that tells the eventful story of a Canadian veteran of World War II.
Bill King’s father was an officer in the British Army and died as a result of injuries sustained in World War I. Bill’s mother had relatives in Canada so she moved him and his older brother, Jim, to Cadillac, a small prairie town in Saskatchewan. Bill was a mischievous prankster as a young man but also a hard worker, and he was always hunting for odd jobs to contribute to the family. But in 1930, the area was hit by a long-lasting drought that decimated the local economy. Jim joined the Royal Canadian Navy and was stationed in Victoria, British Columbia; he later helped Bill and his mother move out there after they lost their home. Then Bill’s mother suddenly died, and he became a teenage orphan scrounging to make a dollar. His prospects didn’t improve when Canada declared war against Germany in 1939. To find work, he applied for a national employment card; he falsified his age, as he needed to be 16 years old and was still only 14. As a result, he was drafted early for the war effort and deployed to Europe to serve as an infantryman. He returned from the war largely intact—although he lost a finger—and successfully pursued his lifelong dream to become a forest ranger. Debut author Forbes-King, Bill’s widow, wrote this biography in the form of a first-person account, mostly basing it on anecdotes she heard from her husband. She evocatively depicts the natural grandeur of Canada’s Saskatchewan territory, as well as her husband’s deep connection to it. Her prose is steady and cogent, sure-footed and charmingly unpretentious. Even when she depicts the horrors of war, she displays an irrepressible optimism that readers are sure to find endearing. For example, when discussing a temporary truce, designed to allow the Canadian forces to shuttle supplies to starving Dutch civilians, she has Bill opine that “Humane things did happen even in an inhumane war.” This is a touching account, written with the love and cheer that typifies it.
A poignant reconstruction of the events of a memorable life.