THEN AND NOW: From Wales to Alberni, an army tale

Port Alberni veteran Bruce Proudfoot was born in Porthcawl, Wales and joined the British Army as a Royal Engineer apprentice at age 15.
Bruce Proudfoot joined the British Army at age 15. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)Bruce Proudfoot joined the British Army at age 15. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Bruce Proudfoot in 2020. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)Bruce Proudfoot in 2020. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

The number of Port Alberni’s veterans of the First and Second World Wars, and campaigns such as the Korean or Vietnam wars, are dwindling. When we see these veterans in uniform, be they members who saw battle, supported their brethren or entered areas of conflict on peacekeeping missions, we see the way they are today: navy blue blazers, chests full of medals, faces lined with character.

Last year, freelance writer and photographer Sonja Drinkwater approached eight veterans of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 293 and asked them to share a photo from when they served with their respective military branch, as well as a description of their role. She then took a photograph of the veterans as they are now.

The project was so popular that she has approached six more veterans this year. They are all active members of the Legion. If you know of a Port Alberni veteran who deserves to be featured, reach out to us at editor@albernivalleynews.com.

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Port Alberni veteran Bruce Proudfoot was born in Porthcawl, Wales and joined the British Army as a Royal Engineer apprentice at age 15.

Proudfoot served in the United Kingdom, Gibraltar, the Outer Hebrides, Oman, Germany and Canada. When he was 25, he landed in Canada on a Thursday and joined the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Squamish on that Saturday. He went through all the ranks and eventually became the president, and later achieving a lifetime membership.

Proudfoot had been put on reserve from his post with the British Army, and moved to Squamish because he had family living there at the time. “Family lived in Squamish and informed me that there was work here. In the ’70s there was all sorts of work for tradespeople,” he said.

He worked as a steam fitter and pipe fitter at a pulp mill in Squamish until it closed, forcing him into retirement.

Proudfoot is married to Sandi Paterson of Port Alberni. He has four children and 11 grandchildren.

Before his retirement from the mill in Squamish, he and Sandi had been travelling back and forth between Squamish and Port Alberni because Sandi’s mother was ill. They decided in 2007 to move to Port Alberni full time following Proudfoot’s retirement to stay close to Sandi’s mother; although she has since passed, Proudfoot and Paterson still live in Sandi’s family home in Cherry Creek.

Proudfoot joined a Legion branch in Port Alberni and quickly became well known for his work with veterans and being the emcee at past Remembrance Day services.

He will take on those emcee duties again for the shorter, invitation-only ceremonies taking place at the Field of Honour on Nov. 11, 2020.

Remembrance Day