In memory of those who have Crossed the Bar


Gordon H. Marsh


Stoker, RCNVR


Born: 31 Mar 1917


Died: 2010, Carstairs, Alberta


Eulogy for Gordon Henry Marsh


March 31, 1917 - Dec 10, 2010


By Murray Marsh


Dad's parents, Fred Marsh and Kate Richardson arrived in Canada in1910, having emigrated from England with several of Kate's brothers, sisters and father, and settled in the east Carstairs district of Seibertville. They married in April 1911 and a baby girl was born about a year later, but sadly did not survive. Elsie was born in 1913, and a brother Art in 1916.


The world in 1917 was a turbulent place. World War I was in its 3rd year, the Russian Revolution began in February, and income taxes were introduced as a "temporary" measure to pay the costs of Canada's war effort. The young Marsh family was among a community of families much like themselves that were new immigrants to a strange land in uncertain times. Those communities were very interdependent and had strong bonds of friendship and support. Fred and Kate had their second son, Gordon Henry, March 31 that year. With new babies often comes new hope, we can only imagine what they were thinking or feeling. A few days after dad's birth, Vimy Ridge in France was stormed by Canadian troops April 9. Historians say that was a pivotal battle that certainly established Canada as a nation, but also a significant breakthrough in the war effort. As we know the war ended in 1918 and things did brighten again. In April of 1919 Alan was born to complete the family of 6. A neighbor family, the Charlton's had the misfortune of the mother's death during childbirth, leaving the older children and baby to be cared for. So baby Raymond spent his first years in the Marsh house and is considered one of the family. I think he may be here today.


Dad and Uncle Alan have given us many stories of growing up in the open countryside of Alberta, exploring nature and the world around them, much like the stories of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. They went on to attend the Seibertville School 2 1/2 miles away with many more stories of the fun and antics, just getting to and from school. A couple of older school boys tied dad to the water pump during recess on the first day of school and he had to be freed by the teacher. He never held a grudge against Wilbert Rieder one of the villains, and they became lifelong friends like many other members of the district. One morning when getting ready to go to school, dad was maybe ten, he figured Alan was dawdling and he decided to speed him up with a bit of encouragement from the twenty-two rifle, waving at him and pretending to shoot. Well, the gun was loaded but miraculously just grazed Alan, enough that the slug embedded in his skull and is still there today! I was taught that I must always treat a gun like it is loaded!


Dad completed school to the end of grade six and like so many boys of the time began doing farm work. He went threshing for Jim Spalding that fall at the age of thirteen and started smoking too! He continued working for neighborhood farmers; Jim McCulloch, and Amos Buschelin, for a few years, and then began driving a fuel & oil delivery truck in Didsbury. He delivered bulk fuel to Jim McCulloch's fuel station, neighboring hamlets like Torrington, Alingham, Eagle Hill and the town of Olds where they had White Rose Stations. He also hauled livestock to market and horses to shows in Calgary for that job. WWII broke out while he was working at this job in 1939.


He joined the Navy (RCNVR) at HMCS TECUMSEH in Calgary in July 1942. He took up photography and had a good camera when he was in the Navy so he has many pictures of his time. From Calgary he was sent to Toronto's HMCS YORK for 2 months basic training, then was based at HMCS CORNWALLIS in Halifax for another 2 ½ months. He was transferred to HMCS AVALON at St. Johns Newfoundland for the remainder of the war. The first ship he served on was a minesweeper, HMCS SARNIA, where he spent a year. He worked as a stoker in the boiler room, after getting his steam ticket. The ship was refitted and they went on Work-ups to Bermuda. That must have been something for a young man from the prairies to see. The buildings were whitewashed bright white and there were exotic animals like monkeys and tropical birds and plants, palm trees. Of course there was time on leave too, with new drinks to try with his mates.


The closest dad came to harm during the war, was on April 16th of 1945 when their ship, the SARNIA scheduled to rendezvous with HMCS ESQUIMALT. When they arrived at the planned location, there was no sign of the ESQUIMALT, so a search for her was begun. Eventually over the course of the next six hours it was discovered that the ESQUIMALT had been torpedoed by a German sub and had sunk within 4 minutes. It was the last Canadian ship lost to enemy action in WWII. The SARNIA recovered 21 of the survivors and 16 of the dead. Dad spent a month on HMCS BORDER CITIES before the war in Europe ended, and was transferred back to Calgary and Demobilized August 31, 1945 at the age of 28.


In the spring of 1946 he and brother Alan began farming Amos Buschelin's place across the section from their childhood home where Brother Art was now farming. They each bought a quarter and rented Amos' other half section. They didn't have much money so small equipment meant long hours and they did shifts to keep the six foot seed drill going to get the crop in. Dad lived at the farm with Bessie & Alan and their children Robert & Faye, and later Betty & Jim. Community members got together in 1947 and worked to set the poles for power that was later turned on October 31 in time for Halloween.


Dad was an avid hunter and had many friends through hunting. They would pack up after harvest in the fall and spend a couple of weeks in the mountains west of Sundre. They would take the horses on trucks and set up a good camp. There were the Schmick brothers from a couple of miles west, Sam, Eddie, Adam and Alan who later became his brother-in-law. George Jochems, Cornie & Hank Van Tetering, Tony Van Meel, Herman Anderson, Wilbert Rieder. That was a time of rest, relaxation, being in nature, celebrating too. Dad got the nickname Gordon 'lightfoot' for his dance along a camp rail. The hunting crew had many other tales of adventure; I'll share a couple more. On one outing Alan Schmick's truck spun out on ice, loaded with horses and gear, going up a steep slope. As he started to roll backwards he & George decided to bail out, but George was too close to the trees to jump away safely. George rode it out and survived a heavy rear impact that ended with the horses out the back unhurt and a truck sitting on its tail with a blown tire and damage to the driveline. On another occasion many years later several of the same gang was hunting, this time with four wheel drive pickup trucks. Well out in the West Country, the trail came to a small river where they came upon a Jeep stranded in the middle. They discovered a very worried group of men from Calgary that had been stranded overnight, without proper gear or anything to build a fire. They had hit a hole in the river bed and the battery had fallen out of its holder and shorted out across the hydraulic lines. They lost oil and had no battery to start the truck again. Needless to say they were very happy to see this bunch of hunting farmers arrive on the scene. The hunters were able to patch the Jeep up and get it running, with parts taken from here and there and they trailed them out of the bush and ensured they got on their way safely. One of the stranded men owned a Chinese restaurant in Calgary and because the hunters wouldn't take any money for the help they gave, he arranged a very nice meal for all the hunters and their wives and his friends.


Dad and mum were married in June of 1954 and lived in a smaller home on the same farm as Alan & Bessie. Dad remarked in later years 1954 was the only year while he was farming there was no crop to harvest. They'd had a bad hailstorm and after the crops recovered were hit with frost. They had plenty of cattle feed though! Maxine was born on Dec10, 1956 and dad was a proud father! Jean McCulloch asked him who the baby looked like & without hesitation he replied "The Queen of England". Elaine joined the family in May 1959. They bought another quarter from the Hoskin family a couple of miles east of Alan & Bessie's and when Murray completed the family in Dec 1962 moved an older home to that farm, moving in the following year.


Community & socializing were important to mum and dad, so dancing, winter card parties were some of the many things they enjoyed in the neighborhood. He loved being granddad to Rod 1981, Jeff 1983 and Alison 1988. Teaching the boys to shoot gophers was great fun, and a real challenge with left-hander Jeff! They started building a new house in 1983 and they went to Australia later that same year. Then Alaska in 88, China in 89 and later Hawaii and Florida.


I came back to farm in 1990 & I farmed the land dad was renting from Aunt Elsie and the McNaughtans and dad put the last crop on his own land. I married Debbie in 91' and we began life together in the house I grew up in. We had Carlie in 1993 and Erin in 1995 to dad's great pleasure. By 1997 dad reluctantly stepped away from running the machinery but still remained very interested in all aspects of the farm. He and mum continued to enjoy the grandchildren and social activities in the community. Dad always commented on his good fortune to have married mum and with her dedicated and loving care he lived out his entire life in their home on the farm. He developed Pneumonia and was in the Three Hills Hospital for 5 days before he died in his sleep at about 2:30 am Dec 10th…His "Queen of England's" birthday. We will miss you dad…


Ships served in:

HMCS SARNIA - Gordon Marsh was serving in SARNIA when she rescued the survivors of HMCS ESQUIMALT






(GM01) Gordon Marsh at HMCS CORNWALLIS  (GM02-GM03) Depth charge exploding astern of a minesweeper  (GM04) Merchant Aircraft Carrier (MAC) in convoy







(GM05) HMCS SARNIA J309  (GM06) HMCS ESQUIMALT survivors on a carley float (GM07) Survivors from ESQUIMALT being picked up by the ship's boat from East Halifax Lightship  (GM08) Ship's workboat picking up ESQUIMALT survivors  (GM09) ESQUIMALT'S dead lay on the quarterdeck of HMCS SARNIA






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