We can only imagine! The bravery of this man in combat was only exceeded by the daily courage he displayed in each of the 65 years afterwards. Rifleman Harold Prout Cliff Chadderton Oct 19 2009 Almost every soldier has a tale to tell. This concerns one who survived but with life-long damage to his face. It tells the way in which an ordinary soldier handled serious war disabilities when he returned to civil life. It had been my good fortune to meet Harold Prout shortly after he enlisted. We found ourselves sitting on a bench in Brandon, Manitoba, waiting for transport to get back to Camp Shilo. There happened to be a panhandler going by our bench. The derelict took off his cap and asked for a donation. Harold, quick on the uptake, told him: “We’re working this side of the street; go stake out the exit door of that pub across the way.” The laughter was loud and long, but the thought was serious. Harold, ever the wit, said within earshot of half a dozen ‘Shilo-ites,’ that he would get a tin cup and sell pencils if he did not get out of the war in one piece. Harold Prout is a prime example of the kind of men we had in the Royal Winnipeg Rifles (RWR). During battles in the Rhineland forests of Germany late in the war, he was riding in his carrier when a German airburst exploded above him. He sustained damage of the worst kind. The most devastating injury resulted from a large fragment which tore off his entire lower jaw. The gaping hole could not be repaired. War wounds are often the acid test to determine whether the soldier did his part in combat. Was he able to handle serious medical war-caused problems when he returned to civil life? Let’s see! Harold was in my platoon. We still correspond on a regular basis. He was unable to return to Winnipeg – his home before enlistment. This was due to the severity of the shell wound and as he states: “The only two medical facilities in Canada at that time  that could attempt to handle my facial damage were in Toronto and Montreal.” After returning to Canada, Harold underwent something like 25 different surgeries. The best that the medics could do was give him a supply of bandages to hide his wound and a syringe to get liquid food down his gullet. His post-war job was in the artificial limb shop at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital – a place I often visited on business. This gave me a chance to ask him whether the wages paid by Veterans Affairs were somewhat better than a tin cup and pencils (our private joke!). He proudly showed me his wedding invitation along with the deed to his new house. It was a heartening experience for me. Harold, notwithstanding the loss of his jaw, could still get a great smile with his eyes. Is it possible to measure the courage of a man if an examination is made of the manner in which he handles the damage inflicted upon his mind or body by war? The experience of Harold Prout seems to define the kind of riflemen we had in Northwest Europe. They need not take a backseat to any of Hitler’s supermen. Harold had what would be a normal upbringing for Canadians joining the Forces. He was born in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, but was raised on a homestead in Hudson Bay Junction. This is where the CN train leaves the main line for the Northern Port of Churchill. The real danger in working a homestead in that part of the world came in the swarms of mosquitoes. Also, the rail line was given to cave-ins. Riders were routinely asked to walk either in front or behind the train in case the entire embankment hit a sinkhole. This was muskeg country. The whole train could disappear. Harold’s job (part-time) was to walk the rail line. So the picture becomes clear. He worked on a homestead in the mosquito-infested bog around Hudson Bay Junction. Then his family moved to Winnipeg and he went to school in that city. Next, he joined the Army where his keen sense of humour made him popular with his bunkmates. He would need every ounce of courage when we speak of his war wound. Harold and I keep in touch. He will not mind if I stress the fact that he has lived for 65 years with only one-half of his face. This means that, after moving back to Winnipeg more than 20 years ago, he suffers the consequences of Winnipeg weather – hot in summer, cold and dangerous in winter. His mark of distinction? His dignity was not impaired by the visual effect his facial damage had on others.