EDITOR’S NOTE: With this Sunday, November 11 marking the 100th anniversary of the Armistice and the end of The Great War, The Expositor contacted Island children of WWI veterans, asking them to share their fathers’ recollections of the war and their thoughts on how it shaped them.
Don (Scotty) Odjig is Wiikwemkoong’s last surviving veteran of the Second World War and his father, Dominic Odjig, enlisted to serve overseas in the First World War not once, but twice.
“I don’t remember all that much about my father’s service,” said Mr. Odjig, “I used to, but that was a long time ago. I do know that he joined up, was wounded and sent home and then signed up to go over again.”
Mr. Odjig was present for the seminal battle for Vimy Ridge, often cited as one of the formative moments in the creation of a Canadian national identity. “He was wounded in his leg and in his hand.”
After Mr. Odjig returned to Wiikwemkoong with his British war bride, he served as that community’s only policeman, a post he held for some 35-odd years. Married twice, Mr. Odjig fathered 10 children, four by his first wife, Don Odjig’s mother, and the remainder with his second wife.
The son of a stonemason, Mr. Odjig was a strapping young man when he set out as a warrior in the War to End All Wars. He soon found the strength and skills he acquired at his father’s side being put to work. “He was in the trenches for pretty much the entire war,” said Don Odjig.
Unlike many veterans, the elder Mr. Odjig and his friends did talk quite a bit about their war experiences, recalled his son. So inspired by those stories of life in the trenches, Don Odjig signed up to go into the Second World War as soon as he could. In fact, he actually signed up before he could.
“That is how I wound up changing my name to Fisher,” he laughed. “I have changed it back to Odjig now, but I was too young to join when I went to enlist so I gave them the name Fisher. That way they couldn’t trace me.” The now Mr. Fisher joined the British Army, entering into the Airborne. “We didn’t have trenches like in my father’s day,” he said.
After the war, the pension Mr. Odjig’s father received from the military brought welcome funds into the family coffers. “It really was a godsend when the Depression of the 1930s hit,” said Mr. Odjig. “That money came in really handy.”