Ponoka farm boy turned staghound driver lost his life in Normandy

By Felicity Johnson, Kaiden Thompson and Kelsey Stretch

Courtesy of Ponoka Secondary Campus

On the 28th of February, 1900, Fannie May Musson Lee and John Carlton “Jack” Lee got married. On April 27th, 1923, 23 years later, they gave birth to a little boy whom they named Clarence Douglas Lee. Clarence was the youngest of twelve children; having 6 brothers and 5 sisters. Being born into the small town farming community of Ponoka, Alberta naturally meant he was raised on a large farm. He often missed school since he had to spend his time working on the farm. This was a typical Ponoka tale of the time.

On the 21st of November, 1942, Clarence drove up to Edmonton, Alberta and enlisted into the army. He was chosen to be added as part of the 18th armoured car regiment at just 19 years of age. His regimental number was M104995 and he was a trooper for the 12th Manitoba Dragoons. On August 9, 1943, Clarence qualified for his class three drivers license and also passed his basic gunnery course; with this he was then deemed suitable to serve overseas as a driver. Clarence drove a staghound, which is an armoured car that is typically used for scouting, which was Clarence’s new job in the military. On August 28th, 1943, Clarence boarded a boat bound for continental Europe. A few days later, on September 3rd, he disembarked for the UK. Clarence had two brothers overseas as well: Private Elmer Lawrence Lee, who served in the armoured division general transport, and another brother whom we were unable to gather information on. While serving in the war Clarence made between a dollar forty and a dollar fifty a day; that’s 45 to 50 dollars a month, which today would translate to be around 770 dollars a month.

During the war, Clarence had some health difficulties. On January 13th, 1943 he was admitted into the Currie hospital, diagnosed with double parotitis and a bladder disease. On February 1 he was discharged and had returned to his regular duties.

On July 8th, 1944, Clarence embarked on a ship from the UK heading towards France, disembarking on the 9th. One month later, on August 9th 1944, Clarence Douglas Lee was partaking in an operation called Operation Totalize. He was part of squadron D and tasked to break through German defences south of Caen on the eastern flank of the Allied positions in Normandy and to push down south to capture high ground north of the city of Falaise. We uncovered that he was driving his staghound when he had been fired upon by a German 88 anti-tank gun and was devastatingly killed in action. This happened near the town of Aunay-Sur-Odon, during this time Clarence was awarded the France and Germany Star Defence Medal and the Canadian Volunteer Medal and Clasp.

His body was temporarily buried next to the woods in Urville, France. On April 15, 1946 his body was carefully exhumed and reburied in the Bretteville-sur-laize Canadian Military cemetery, grave 15, row C, plot 13.

Clarence was once just a boy, working on the family farm with hopes with dreams for his future, but he chose to selflessly risk his life for Canada and the freedom of generations to come.

May you Rest In Peace Clarence. Lest We Forget.

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