one by one, the men around him succumbed to their injuries. “Never before had I realized what the human body could endure,” he reflects. “Nor had I understood the toughness and indomitable strength of the human spirit.” Mentally and physically spent, Harry closedhis eyes.He awoke in Sierra Leone, on the west coast of Africa. “Evidently I washed ashore during high tide and a local fisherman took me to the naval station,” he says. In the hospital, Harry was diagnosed with dehydration, malnutrition, burns and a dislocated shoulder. “It was an absolute miracle that I survived,” he says. “God was with me that day and I made it.” Fifteen days later, Harry was transferred back to England; he walked up the gangway wearing only a hospital gown. Harry’s next assignments saw him travel to South Africa, Egypt and India. On the return to Durban, however, a telegram arrived: “Father dead.” “My father was in the Home Guard,” Harry explains. “He was killed while manning an anti- aircraft battery on the England’s northeast coast. By the time I got home on compassionate leave, he’d had already been buried.” More voyages followed for Harry, including a stint aboard a merchant aircraft carrier. Finally, in June of 1944, he was assigned to the 18,000 ton M.V. Monowai—a former New Zealand luxury liner turned troopship. The mission? Help deliver 1500 soldiers to Omaha
Beach, D-Day. It was Harry’s service on this vessel that ultimately resulted in his being named a knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour last December. “I saw so many people killed. I can’t really describe hell, but I think I saw it that day,” he told the Toronto Star after receiving the award from the Consul General of France. In his acceptance speech, Harry dedicated his medal to the 4850 servicemen who never returned from Omaha Beach. During his four years at sea, Harry served on 10 different ships and sailed in 18 convoys. When he disembarked at Liverpool on
November 18, 1946, he did so as a First Class Radio Officer, and a war-weary, seasoned sailor. “I left home as a boy and came back a man,” he concludes. However, in a cruel twist of fate, Harry soon discovered he had no home to return to—at least not in England. “I found my mother and sister had moved to Canada while I was at sea,” he says sadly. In 1957, Harry decided to join them. He accepted a job with the Hudson’s Bay Company, and went on to pursue a long career in the Canadian fashion industry before retiring to Tillsonburg with wife, Carolyn.
(Left) Seventeen-year-old Harry Morgan Sanders in uniform after graduating from the Maritime School of Wireless in South Shields, England. (Below) Mayor Stephen Molnar welcomed French Consul General Marc Trouyet (right) to Tillsonburg on December 14, 2017, to present Harry with the prestigious rank of Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour.
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