Elliot Dalton joined the Queens Own Rifles of Canada, a kind of army reserve, during peacetime. Canadian military bases had a competitive league, about the same level of play as mid-level minor league teams. Elliot was a pretty good baseball player - not quite Major League caliber, but good enough for his talents to be of use in the Canadian Armed Forces League. It being peacetime, the bases were more concerned about this league than they were about preparing for war, so it seems, because the Queens Own Rifles enlisted Elliot as a ringer.
His brother Charlie Dalton heard from Elliot that they were allowed to sell alcohol on army bases. Charlie loved beer, and this was a problem, because back then the whole province of Ontario was dry. Except, for some reason, the military bases. Again, it was Canada in peacetime, very few fucks were given.
A few years roll by and it's not exactly peacetime anymore. In fact, it's World War II, and the Canadians are fighting alongside the Allies. The brothers Dalton are both officers in the Queen's Own Rifles, and both end up commanding battalions landing in the first wave at Juno Beach on D-Day. Before loading into their respective landing crafts, their only parting words were "I'll see you tonight," confident they would both make it through one of the bloodiest days in human history.
Elliot had the distinction of being the first Canadian officer to land on the beach on D-Day. Not only did he and most of his battalion survive, but they were able to secure their position of the beachhead, make it off the beach, and push inland, making it all the way to Bernier by mid-morning. Things didn't go as smoothly for Charlie and his battalion. His landing craft hit a mine in the water and he had to swim ashore with a piece of shrapnel in his ass after abandoning most of his ammunition to stay afloat. When he found his way to a foxhole, he picked up a non-jammed rifle from a dead soldier, and then managed to rally his troops, who were in severe disarray, and lead a charge on a pillbox. In doing so, he ensured that the second wave of troops landing in that area were met with almost no resistance. As they tried to move inland, they encountered a Panzer division and were forced to retreat across a minefield.
In the confusion, Charlie Dalton was presumed dead, and his family, including Elliot, was told as such. A few days later, Elliot was wounded, grazed by a bullet in the head after trying to advance further inland. But the whole taking a bullet to the head thing was taken by the higher ups to mean that he was dead, because that's usually what happens when you take a bullet to the head. So while he was recovering in a field hospital, the rest of his family was notified that he too had died.
Several days later he was taken to a hospital in England. As he was being processed, a nurse told them that there was already someone in the bed they had planned to put him in. Elliot told her that was ridiculous, because that bed was reserved for Major Dalton.
Then nurse went in to ask the man in the bed who he was. "He says that he is Major Dalton," she reported.
"Well I don't care who the hell he says he is," said Elliot, "I'm major Dalton dammit!"
Once another bed was made for Elliot, he was rolled into the room to find that there was, in fact, a Major Dalton in the room. It was Charlie, who had been taken to that same hospital the same day he was presumed dead. Like Elliot, Charlie had also been told that his brother was dead. Their mutual indignation turned to joy when both brothers discovered the other was alive. Oh, and despite the headshot and infected shrapnel wound between them, they both recovered in time to liberate the Netherlands.
Elliot and Charley Dalton were two of my dad's uncles, making them both my great uncles. I wasn't sure how much of that story was true and how much was added through the family oral history. But a few years ago I found out that it was all true, when the Queens Own Rifles of Canada named an armory (they spell it armoury back up there) after them. My dad went to Toronto for the dedication. There was a military parade and some speeches. But when he finally got the chance to ask about the story in the military hospital, he found out it was all true. In fact, it has become a piece of the Queen's Own Rifle's of Canada lore. So remember that your veterans weren't always fighting for an ideal or some imaginary line on a map. They were fighting for baseball, for beer, and for each other.