Today, I had the privilege and honour to visit Second World War Veteran Paul Watley at the Williamsburg Retirement Residence and wish him a very Happy 100th Birthday ahead of Oct. 10 — also give him a Mayor’s congratulatory certificate and a City of Burlington coin!
Paul let me know his secret to a long life was to “behave yourself.” I also learned from his daily lunch table friend that he eats salmon every single day.
Thank you Paul for your military service and for adding such vibrant and positive energy to our community!
Bob Ankrett, City Liaison & Museum Curator at the Royal Canadian Legion – Branch 60 Burlington, wrote a truly amazing background about Paul and his military history. I’m sharing it with you all below.
Veteran and Resistance Fighter Paul Watley Celebrates his 100th Birthday on October 10,2021
My name is Bob Ankrett and I am a volunteer with the Burlington Royal Canadian Legion.
A few years ago, I interviewed Paul Watley for an event held at the Royal Botanical Gardens welcoming the Dutch Royal Family. The information you are about to read is part of that interview. There are heroes among us.
As we are all aware the Nazi war machine invaded France during the Second World War. Paul happened to be there at the time because he was visiting a French hospital. He wanted to do something about the German occupation, so he started distributing anti German pamphlets the R.A.F had dropped to them. He was arrested by the Gestapo and charged with concealing weapons. They also arrested his girlfriend, her teacher, her parents and her brothers and sisters.
I was shown the court documents of his trial. All Paul said was they only found a dozen pamphlets in his room not the hundreds he had hidden in a secret compartment under the stairs. He wondered if they are still there. Paul spent his birthday of October 10, 1940 in a Gestapo prison. It lasted three months and included beatings and mock executions. He confessed nothing.
In 1941, he was sent to a prison in Belgium. He escaped from the prison with the help of the French Resistance in the spring of 1942. I should mention Paul speaks five languages, one of which was German. He had to keep moving and changing his name as the Gestapo was hunting for him.
The story now takes a remarkable turn. The Germans wanted civilian truck drivers. Paul could drive a truck and also pass on instructions to both French and Belgian workers. The Atlantic Wall was being built to stop any invasion by the Allies. Paul now took a job driving trucks to the coast. This new job allowed him to observe things and pass it on to the Resistance and his O.S.S. contacts. His job was to observe, report and move.
Paul told me about the time he was summoned by a high ranking German officer. He thought he had been discovered. He was relieved to find he had done such a good job that he was now allowed to drive ambulances into restricted areas on the coast. At times, he was so close to the French coast he could see Dover.
The information gained now was very valuable to the Allies. He was told by his O.S.S. contact not to kill German soldiers but to gather and pass on vital intelligence. Paul then mentioned if a soldier was killed the Germans would kill civilians at a rate of ten civilians to one German. When the invasion began in June of 1944 he moved into northern France and joined the armed resistance.
Towards the end of 1944 Paul became a sergeant in the 7th Fusiliers Battalion ,2nd Canadian Arm Group. When I asked Paul for a fond memory of those years, he said the following:
“Near the end of 1944, I left the armed resistance group, I fought with and joined the Belgian army in liberating north Holland. As we entered a village, the villagers did not come out as they didn’t recognize our uniforms. We then spoke to them in their own language which brought them out into the streets. The children were still afraid. We all kept chocolate for the kids. One child took the chocolate and with in few seconds a huge smile appeared on his face. That smile, I will remember forever because it was the smile of Liberation and Hope.”