This is the story of a remarkable B.C. veteran of the Second World War.
George Paterson was born and raised in Kelowna. He wanted to be a forester, so he travelled to Edinburgh, Scotland and he was studying forestry there in 1939 when the war broke out.
Paterson enlisted, and joined the British Royal Engineers.
He was taught military skills such as demolition, and he then found himself signed to a new special unit that had just been set up, called the Special Air Service. Paterson was the only Canadian on the first combat jump of the SAS.
They were going into northern Italy, from North Africa, to demonstrate to the Germans that the Allies could strike anywhere, not just along the front lines.
But the jump went sideways. Half the men landed in the wrong valley, the other engineer was lost, two-thirds of the explosives were lost, and Paterson was forced to improvised. The remaining men reached the aquaduct, which was their target, brought it down, and then their instructions were to make their way to the coast somehow, where a submarine was waiting to pick them up. The men didn’t make it to the coast, but were captured by the Germans.
Veronica Cooper speaks with Lorne Hammond, curator of history at the Royal BC Museum, about what happened next.