A final tribute to a hero: Terry Reeves

The roar of the engines could hardly be distinguished over the roar of the North Atlantic and it’s 50 and 60 foot seas; brutal, relentless, unforgiving, merciless. Lurking below, the endless troughs, another kind of brutal and merciless evil, this one in German submarine “wolf-packs.”

Friends and family gathered to pay respects, express condolences and say goodbye to Terry Reeves and to publicly acknowledge and celebrate the life and spirit of the home town hero whose unsung accomplishments in the cause of freedom are no small matter.

His life should be celebrated by all who walk free today. But because the fight was so long ago, it is hard for some younger people to fully appreciate what was done for them. They should be told and retold and they should never be allowed to forget, nor those after them.

Imagine the coldest night you have experienced. Add to that fierce, howling winds charged with jagged shards of sea ice, freezing rain and blinding snow. Put yourself in those conditions out over the black and raging North Atlantic and remember, too, you are likely often as not being shot at. That will give you an idea of the war life of Flight Engineer, Terry Reeves.

At the turn of the 20th century, Winston Churchill crossed Canada speaking about his experiences in the Boer War. It is reported that on one occasion, in the city of Winnipeg, a young woman stood with her adopted little boy raised up onto her shoulders so that he could see Mr. Churchill. Thirty-eight years later, that boy sat opposite then Prime Minister Winston Churchill at 10 Downing Street deciding how the secret ciphers of the Nazi military codes might be broken. That Canadian was William Stephenson, later Sir William Stephenson. Churchill is said to have called him “Intrepid.” Intrepid and his international team did break the codes and accomplish a lot of other things and in doing so, set the stage for Terry Reeves.

With the secrets of the Nazi ciphers unlocked, the Allies often had detailed battle plans set down by the German High Command, even before Nazi Field Commanders. That helped the Allied Forces to destroy 766 German U-boats that until then had shot, like fish in a barrel and sunk, more than 2,805 unarmed merchant ships and over three million tons of Allied shipping that was the Canada-USA-Australia-New Zealand Life-Line from the New World sent to nourish and sustain the old.

It was Flight Engineer Terry Reeves who would drag himself along the inside wing structure of his Sunderland aircraft out to a sputtering outboard engine, flying maybe less than a hundred feet above the cruel North Atlantic to hold together an engine until they could get back to a base.

The town of Fergus, where munitions were made then rolled out by the train load to east coast ports, has to be proud to have had Terry Reeves at the front. I know that I cannot begin to stand straight enough, tall enough, long enough to properly salute Terry Reeves. Lord bless and keep his soul and bless this country for which he so often fought “the fight of the ages,” mission after mission, after death-defying mission, and so often, just barely survived.

The next time you  experience bad weather, imagine a very young Terry Reeves cast into the wildest, harshest and fiercest elements in nature on the North Atlantic, all the while constantly in the cross-hairs of the absolute evilest empire known in the history of man.

As you go about the daily business of your life, take note of the young people you see around town, then think of Terry Reeves at a young age, lying flat on his stomach, numbed blue with cold, holding together an engine so they might at least have a chance to get back to base and sleep, before again taking on the Atlantic and the Third German Reich.

There were missions and missions, and more missions. Enemies above. Enemies below. Enemies all around. I am sure that it was his sense of duty and responsibility coupled with a healthy dose of the will to survive that kept Terry Reeves out of the grips of his own fear. That and maybe a conscious decision that it was a particular time when it was equally good to live or die.

It is mind boggling to think of what young people did in the name of freedom; people who, in many cases, were not old enough to have a drink, vote, or sign a contract, but they fought and won the greatest fight ever known to man.

The Constitution of the USA speaks of the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of  happiness.”  Free people around the world have had to fight for that same right and Terry Reeves was one of those frontline fighters. The question begs to be asked: how many US, Canadian, New Zealand, British, Australian and other Allied lives were saved each time a Nazi U-boat was destroyed?

How many thousands of tons of medical supplies, foods, hard goods, blankets and munitions reached a devastated Europe and in turn saved more Allied lives because another German U-boat was destroyed?

In 1942 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke in The Canadian House of Commons and made precisely clear exactly how important it was and in what high esteem he held the Canadian military. In the Visitor’s Gallery sat war injured and disabled Canadian Servicemen. Churchill told the story of French generals who, just prior to France’s capitulation, gave bad advice to their French president. The generals are reported to have said “In two weeks time, England will have their neck wrung like a chicken.” Mr. Churchill is then said to have looked up into the gallery to the injured Servicemen and stated “Some chicken.” After several minutes of applause and table thumping and pounding that could be heard across the river in Quebec, Mr. Churchill then added: “some neck”.

One Nazi U-boat could sink how many merchant ships? Reportedly, there were more than 600 such U-boats. Freedom wasn’t free and ours was paid for with a horrendous price. Vigilance, preparedness and the willingness to do what it takes kept us free then and it is what keeps us free today. While battle strategies might be planned at headquarters, the battles were won by those at the front and Terry Reeves was indeed one of those frontline fighters.

Sometimes good things happen to good people. Several years ago, Terry took a trip. He, Red McPhee, and Bob Smith went out to the annual Air Show at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. There were acres and acres of airplanes and suddenly they saw a vintage Sunderland. Terry Reeves didn’t realize until he got up close that 4,000 miles away and now half a century later, he was about to climb up into the very plane in which he had survived so many perilous missions, so long ago. It was quite an unscheduled reunion. Americans had purchased and restored that particular Sunderland aircraft and were astounded to have the man aboard who had flown their plane in combat. That was quite a moment all around, and I am sure we’re all glad that Terry Reeves had that moment.

If being called to the Gospel “is the highest calling among men,” it surely must follow that being called to defend freedom and Christian values on the battlefield is no less a calling.

Lord, your servant, Terry Reeves served faithfully and long and defended valiantly. Bless his soul and may the peace that surpasses all man’s understanding be put upon, and be made to be a comfort to the family of Terry Reeves at this time. In Your Blessed Assurance. In Jesus’ name.  Amen and Amen.

Ralph Law, of Fergus, has been an admirer of Terry Reeves. He had written much of the above some time ago. He offered it to The Wellington Advertiser to publish and we are happy to share this tribute with the community.