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Unearthing a piece of family and world history

Bonnie Fraser and her siblings knew of her father’s diaries their whole lives, but were not able to access them until after his death. After reading about her father’s time as a prisoner of war, Fraser says he has become more of a hero to her than he already was. (Photo by Chris Jones)

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

It was Aug. 19, 1942, and Fred Lodge was in Dieppe surrounded by German soldiers.
Lodge, who was part of the Canadian military during the Second World War, was
captured and spent three years as a German prisoner of war (POW).
His time in Europe was filled with hardship, and he meticulously documented the affair so he could send it to his elder sister.
This resulted in several detailed diaries, which were later transcribed by his daughter, Bonnie Fraser and her family.

Fraser works at along her husband Robert and daughter Carlee at Fraser Ford at the intersection of Thornton Road and King Street in Oshawa.

“Prior to [being in the car industry], I worked in dentistry,” she says. “After that, we moved to Oshawa and Robert asked me to take a sabbatical from dentistry, and help him sell cars, and I said, ‘Robert, I don’t know anything about cars!’”

Her husband responded by pointing out she does know something very valuable.

“He said, ‘You know about people. You know how to make them comfortable. You know how to listen to them, and get them what they need to have,’” says Fraser.

She explains her father kept the diaries from 1939, when the war began, all the way until it ended in 1945.

“It’s from his diaries that we have created this book,” says Fraser.

Fraser put together the book titled Fred Lodge’s Diaries: A Quiet Man’s Journey through Hell.

“My father had some tragedies early in his life,” explains Fraser. “His brother was killed when my dad was four years of age. He was killed in the First World War in Passchendaele. That same year, his sister died of scarlet fever. And then when my dad was seven, his mom passed away. So, he was raised with motherly care from his older sister.”

When Lodge enlisted, his sister asked him to keep her informed of what he was doing so she and their family knew he was safe.

“He was so detailed,” Fraser reflects fondly. “At times, you can close your eyes as you’re reading and envision exactly what he’s saying.”

Fraser says growing up, she and her two siblings knew about the diaries, but they were locked away in a special cupboard in the bathroom with a lock.

“My dad didn’t talk much about the war, or his experiences as a POW,” she adds. “As he got older, my youngest brother was getting into his teenage years, and my dad started sharing a few things about the diaries and the things that he’d done. Not the really yucky things, but just what he had gone through in war.”

Fraser’s father eventually passed away in his 60s from lung cancer.

“So, those diaries just stayed locked up,” she reflects. “So then when my mom sold the family home, they then went to my sister, and then to my brother. But nothing was ever done with them.”

She muses it wasn’t until seven years ago when her cousin Jim retired from the Canadian Air Force that the family began to delve deeply into her father’s memories.

The Dieppe Raid took place on Aug. 19, 1942. Allied forces were overwhelmed, and soldiers such as Fred Lodge were captured as prisoners of war.

After this cousin retired, he connected with her brother Fred and they began talking about family history.

They started talking about the diaries, Fraser explains, and Jim asked if he could take a look at them.

“So they start going through it, and the details, particularly from when he went overseas, and during the London blackouts… so [Jim] said, ‘You know Fred, I think we have something really important here,’” she explains.

Jim, his wife, and Fraser then took on the task of transcribing the diaries verbatim.

“Nothing was changed. We kept them just as they were. Spelling mistakes, punctuation, all stayed the same,” she says.

They then sent it off to FriesenPress for their editor’s manuscript evaluation.

“The comments that came back were incredible,” Fraser says enthusiastically. “The woman said, ‘I can’t believe I have in my hands a very unique piece of Canadian history that few people have had the opportunity or experience to read.’”

The editor at FriesenPress pointed out Fraser’s father’s diaries are an unfiltered view of what life was like for the average soldier.

“Tossed to and from the often chaotic forces offered by the conflict, she said this is a book that could have a huge audience,” Fraser states.

Those interested in the book could range from veterans, those currently enlisted, historians, people whose grandparents were there, and even actors and writers looking for an uncensored perspective.

The book has been in circulation for around six weeks, and they have sold just under 500 copies.

The anniversary of the Dieppe Raid was on Aug. 19 and Fraser was in contact with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, her father’s regiment.

“They have now dedicated Aug. 19 to celebrate my dad,” she says proudly.

She was in Winnipeg on the raid’s anniversary to be a part of a ceremony dedicated to her father and the book.

Fraser has now read the book four times, and she says her initial reaction was very emotional.

“I found myself as I was reading at the beginning to be very anxious to read the next page just to see what was going on because I wanted to know why my dad did these things,” she reflects.

Each subsequent read-through became easier for her.

“Now it’s an easier read,” she says. “Now I think I probably can say with ease that I feel at times I’m walking hand-in-hand with my dad.”

She explains she often has to remind herself and her siblings her father didn’t write the diaries for himself, but for his sister.

“So he doesn’t get into the deep, dirty, graphic things. He talks about feelings and what he’s experienced, and he talked about when he was captured,” explains Fraser.

His diary entry on the day he was captured was simple.

“All he wrote was ‘Captured. It’s so hard to believe that this has happened.’ He said, ‘Things are just so confusing for me right now. I’ll have to do it at a later date,’” says Fraser.

She explains each time she reads it, she learns more, as she focuses on various aspects of it.

Reading through the diaries allowed Fraser to gain a better understanding of her father, who she describes as a kind and quiet man.

Some of the things she learned were quite amusing to her.

“He never swore, and if he did, the worst was ‘Judas Priest,’” she says with a chuckle. “But some of these things he would say in there, I would think, ‘Whoa. Dad, is that you?’”

She explains he was extremely proud of the uniform he wore, as he wanted to emulate his older brother who had died during the First World War.

“When he went to town, he’d say, ‘Gosh, people are staring at me,’ followed by ‘I’m not sure if people are staring at me or just my good looks,’” she recalls.

One story her father wrote in the diaries that really struck Fraser was regarding a scarcity of food.

“He said, ‘Should I come out of this, should I get married and have kids, I promise, my kids will never starve,” she says.

Fraser and her siblings never went hungry.

“On Fridays, it was clean out the fridge day, so whatever we had, it didn’t matter if it blended together or not, that’s what we got to eat,” she laughs.

After finding out about her father’s experiences, his stature as a hero is firmly cemented for Fraser.

“As I was growing up, he was a hero because he did a lot of good things,” she explains. “Now, he truly is. For him to endure what he did, because he was a part of the death march from Germany all the way down to the Baltic Sea, he always looked out for the other guy who was in his troop.”

Her father, who was referred to as the “hut leader,” received some seeds from home, so he received permission from the German soldiers to build a garden to help feed his fellow prisoners.

“He wanted to make sure that everybody shared,” she says.

“He was always our hero growing up for a whole bunch of reasons, but now I understood,” she adds

To learn more about Lodge’s time at war, Fred Lodge’s Diaries: A Quiet Man’s Journey through Hell is available on Amazon and at Chapters.


A quiet man’s story which needs to be shared

By Chris Jones/ The Oshawa Express

I absolutely love history.

I’m sure many of our readers already know that because of the numerous times I’ve mentioned it in the Behind the Writing portion of the Fourth Estate.

So imagine the pleasure I felt when I was actually able to put my degree in history to good use when I spoke to Bonnie Fraser about her father, Fred Lodge.

Sitting down with Bonnie and discussing her father’s life reminded me of why I was so interested in history – particularly the Second World War.

In my studies, I rarely came across such extensive and detailed records of events in history.

Records are often difficult to decipher, not very detailed, or completely destroyed.

As the old adage goes, “History is written by the victor.”

For Fred to detail the years he was in Europe so extensively is a rare feat, and one I believe should be widely shared.

As Bonnie and I discussed her father’s time in Europe, one topic which came up was the dangers of history repeating itself.

As a student of history, I often find myself noticing reflections of past events.

These can range from progressive moments where equality is improved, all the way to the rise of dictators.

History does sometimes repeat itself, as mankind oftentimes forgets lessons previously learned.

The importance of Fred’s diaries, to me, is they are a reminder of what happened, and how dangerously close we as a people came to destroying ourselves.

Bonnie says her father did not resent the Germans or blame them for the war. He understood many of them weren’t there by choice.

Fred’s story is a lesson in kindness,

bravery, and so much more. To me, he’s someone we should all look up to.