May 20, 2007 by

Dwight Wilson

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Categories: Military, Musicians

dwilson.jpgPercy “Dwight” Wilson, a Canadian World War I veteran, died on May 9. Cause of death was not released. He was 106.
Wilson was born on Feb. 26, 1901 in Vienna, a hamlet outside of London, Ontario. When World War I began, he felt honor-bound to serve his country and fight against the Germans. After finishing the 10th grade, Wilson trained as a mounted bugler in the local militia. In 1916, he lied about his age to enlist in the 69th Artillery Battery in Toronto as a bugler-trumpeter. At 15, he was a full three years shy of the legal minimum.
Wilson did his basic training in Camp Niagara and Camp Petawawa in Ontario before getting shipped overseas. During the grueling two-week voyage aboard the R.M.S. Grampian, the teen tried to calm his seasickness by singing for the other members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
Once he arrived in England, Wilson’s superiors quickly realized he was underage. Instead of sending him to the front lines in France, they ordered Wilson to dig trenches in Dover. However, his trumpeting skills were put to good use; each morning he’d rouse his fellow soldiers at sunrise with “Reveille,” and each evening he’d repeat the performance to announce “lights out.” Out of the 600,000+ Canadians who fought in World War I, more than 69,000 of them died on the battlefields of Europe, and 172,000 were wounded.
In 1917, Wilson was discharged and sent back to Canada for being too young. He re-enlisted in the 69th Battery but was discharged again a year later. When World War II started in the late 1930s, Wilson served as a captain in Stratford’s 7th Perth Regiment Reserves. He offered to re-enlist in the service but was deemed too old for active duty. For his willingness to serve his country, and his repeated efforts to do so, Wilson received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and the McCrae Medallion.
Wilson was studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto when he met singer and pianist Eleanor Dean. They wed in 1927 and remained together until her death in 1993 at the age 94. The couple had two sons, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Wilson began working for Bell Canada in 1919 and remained with the telecommunications company until his retirement in 1966. (He collected a pension for 41 years.) Wilson also sang baritone in the Bell vocal group and performed in an inaugural broadcast when the Canadian radio network was being established. In his spare time, he enjoyed reading, singing and following the Toronto Blue Jays and Maple Leafs.
With Wilson’s death, John Babcock is now the last surviving Canadian veteran of the First World War. Babcock, a 106-year-old naturalized American citizen living in Spokane, Wash., was recently offered the option of having a state funeral with full honors when he dies. He respectfully declined the honor.

One Response to Dwight Wilson

  1. robin

    Dwight died from complications from a broken hip at the Veterans Wing that was suppose to take care of him. A wonderful man may he rest in peace.

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