Second World War veteran Les Tetler, who survived the Dieppe Raid and three years in a PoW camp, died Sunday at age 97 — but will always be remembered as the Last Man Standing.
Tetler was the Essex Scottish Regiment’s last known surviving veteran of the ill-fated Dieppe Raid. During the disastrous Aug. 19, 1942 assault on German-held beaches of northern France, 3,367 mostly Canadian Allied troops — almost 60 per cent — were killed, wounded or captured.
Tetler spent the next three years in a German prisoner of war camp, before being liberated at the end of the war.
His daughter, Betty Sine, says her father will be remembered for his can-do spirit — something he displayed his whole life.
“He was a fighter,” she said Monday. “He fought through the PoW camp. He fought through a broken shoulder. He fought through a broken hip. He came back and still walked. He was just a fighter. He had such determination.”
Tetler began dealing with setbacks as a newborn in Stockport, England, given that his mother, Annie, died in childbirth. He was an only child, though had stepsisters and stepbrothers. His father, Fred, moved to Canada to find work, and two years later sent for his six-year-old son to join him in Windsor, where the youngster grew up.
The young man was fun-loving — even winning a jitterbug contest while stationed in England, before shipping out to fight. But the horror of war hit home on the beaches of Dieppe, where he had to step over dead bodies to press forward, and where Germans eventually took him prisoner.
“He didn’t open up about his experience in the war for the longest time,” Sine recalled, though about 15 years ago he started telling some stories to his grandson, Christopher, and nephew, Keith. “Since then he’s told quite a few different stories.
“I remember him telling me about marches. The Germans made them march at nighttime up in the mountains in the snow.”
They marched to forced labour camps, where they sometimes toiled 12 hours a day. But all the while, Tetler survived.
He returned home and worked a series of jobs, often in the delivery business, and started his family. He had three children, seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Besides being a loving family man, he will be remembered for his heroism as a private in the deadliest war in history. He was also honoured in 2015 at a ceremony at the Dieppe Memorial in Dieppe Gardens, and was even memorialized in a YouTube song by Charlie Horner called Last Man Standing — recalling how Tetler outlived his Essex Scottish brothers.
“He represents the end of an era in terms of our living Dieppe veterans,” said Lt.-Col. John Hodgins, the commanding officer of the Essex and Kent Scottish, as the regiment was renamed in 1954. “It will make this year’s 75th anniversary even more important in the sense that we now no longer have a living veteran to represent his peers.”
Hodgins met Tetler two years ago at the wreath-laying ceremony where the elder was honoured. Hodgins was impressed with Tetler’s selfless attitude.
“He said to me, ‘Just remember, we’re honouring everybody here today,’” Hodgins recalled. “He didn’t want it to be about him at all. He just felt he was fortunate to survive.”
The former Little League baseball coach, darts player, golfer and committed sports fan — particularly with his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs — made the most out of life. Tetler was a Florida snowbird for 10 years. Even when he was living at a retirement home, Tetler recalled the good times.
“When he was at the St. Clair Beach Retirement Home they threw him a make-a-wish kind of tribute,” his daughter recalled. “He loved pipers so the first part was a piper and a veterans’ salute. The second was a party with plastic palm trees and pools and Coors Light. He was just thrilled. He loved it.”
In keeping with Tetler’s style, the decorated war veteran who received a citation from Justin Trudeau as the last man standing will have one last piper tribute, at his memorial service — honouring a true survivor.
Cremation has already taken place, but memorial visiting is Tuesday, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Families First, 3260 Dougall Ave. A memorial service will be held at the funeral home Wednesday at 11: 30 a.m.
Source: Windsor Star
By: Craig Pearson
8 March 2017