You have more in common with a WWII soldier than you think

Photo of Edward John Brewster and Winifred Lilian BrewsterImage of EJ Brewster and WL Brewster - Courtesy of Heritage Mississauga

By Ivan Kovacevic

History has largely placed the legacy of World War II (WWII) soldiers into the realm of legend, as we often view these people who fought in the war as these exceptional figures who performed extraordinary feats of bravery, sacrifice, and heroism on behalf of the freedom and well being of the world. However, one of the greatest aspects of the Second World War was that it involved the whole world, which surprisingly includes over 1000 men and women from the area we now know as Mississauga. 

Portrait of Charles William CooperPortrait of Charles William Cooper - Courtesy of Heritage Mississauga

The first story is that of Lieutenant Charles William Cooper. Prior to his enlistment, he was a student at the University of Toronto from Cooksville. Cooper was a varsity basketball athlete, and was a member of the school’s commerce club. Cooper carried that interest in commerce to university where he studied at the University of Toronto from 1933 to 1937 and graduated with an honours Bachelor of Commerce degree. He later received an MCI degree as well in 1941 and worked as a credit man at the British American Oil Company prior to enlisting.

Cooper enlisted on June 15th, 1942, in Brampton, the day after his first wedding anniversary and despite living in Port Credit at the time, and was posted to Lorne Scots where he started as a Private in the Defence & Employment Platoon. Cooper participated in Operation Overlord, the Invasion of Normandy, and presumably fought in a number of engagements prior to his unfortunate demise on July 12th, 1944, during the Battle for Caen. Cooper served as part of the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, in the 10th division Durham Light Infantry unit. He was buried in the Hottot-les-Bagues war cemetery in Calvados France.

Brewster family gravemarkerImage of the Brewster family Gravemarker - Courtesy of Heritage Mississauga

The second story is that of the Brewsters, a newly married couple who tragically got into a motor accident in Germany following the conclusion of the Second World War. Edward John Brewster was a craftsman and a wireless operator from Lakeview (presently Mississauga), Ontario. He went to Lakeview Public School, Port Credit High School, and the School of Electronics in Toronto prior to his military career. He was an Anglican Catholic and attended St. Nicholas church in Lakeview. He was employed by Small Arms, from Long Branch. He lived on Alexandra Avenue in Lakeview when he enlisted for service. He served in the RC Occupational C 10th company, MTS.

Winifred Lilian Brewster was an income tax clerk for Civil Service London. She was born in Windsor, Ontario, on August 8th, 1925, but moved to England in 1932 where she spent most of her short life in Edmonton, Middlesex county. Nonetheless, Winifred became a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps and the Occupational forces. She met her future husband in England, and again in Germany and were married shortly thereafter.

Winifred’s story is particularly interesting, that despite living in England with her family, she was categorized as a Canadian abroad and served in a Canadian division. Furthermore, Winifred married a Canadian soldier following their meeting and paths crossed abroad. The distinctly Canadian affair serves as an example that Canadians shared somewhat of a national identity even over 85 years ago when our country was significantly older and in a formative phase of independence from the United Kingdom.

All of these men and women have incredible stories, some more relatable than others, and some more interesting than others, but all amazing nonetheless. Both stories of the tragic lives of these servicemen and servicewomen may not have been entirely relatable to whoever may be reading this article, but hopefully by learning more about the lives of these people the point is demonstrated that WWII soldiers were, for the most part, ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and evidently, any one of us could have been in their shoes.