In Remembrance of our Veterans – The Dudley Red Garrett story

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Lest we Forget

Story by: Hannah Lawrie

November 10, 2013 (ISN) – Lest We Forget. On top of the lazy ocean the HMCS Shawnigan rests off the coast of Newfoundland during World War II. The vessel carrying supplies waits like bait for the T 5 Torpedo hurrying towards it. A sick feeling lurches in your stomach as it hits and the boat.

A pain in your side as you crash into the steel door and it bangs open and shut, falling around just like your body, into the first mate and onto the floor. In a minute the tail of the boat is falling downwards like slow heavy snow, fearful of being lost at the bottom. The ship leans left and you wait. You hold yourself against the door, the sweaty metal handle your last grip, your head spinning like vertigo. The explosion will come.

A deep release and clouds of grey spiral upwards. Pieces of the vessel drop into the water like coins in a pond. There is no separation between the grey ocean, dark sky and the lost mass of the dead boat.

DUD beside car
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

On November 24th, 1944 Dudley Red Garrett was aboard a Canadian Corvette, the HMCS Shawnigan. From 3000 meters away a Gnat T 5 torpedo, compliments of a German U-Boat, sprinted into the side of the Corvette. Explosion and Sparks filled a deep cloud over the Atlantic Ocean, and the boat disappeared within it.

DUD navy portrait
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

At the age of 20, Dudley “Red” Garrett had big dreams before he died in World War II. Hidden for seventy years, his dreams survive in letters to his mother. Veiled by her fears, and her own war with alcoholism. The letters were finally discovered shortly before the death of Red’s sister Alison Good. Lest we forget our soldiers, this soldier, the first player of the National Hockey League to die in WWII.

DUD leafs photo
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

Dudley “Red” Garrett was born on July 24th, 1924 to Audrey Moraine and Dudley mark Garrett. Both Red’s father and grandfather played for the Toronto Argonauts, an early CFL team. Despite his football lineage and his mother’s affinity for tennis, Red played hockey. Red achieved his first dream at age 17. He was invited to play at a Toronto Maple Leaf’s training camp by Seven Stanley Cup Winner Happy ‘Hap’ Day. (Clarence Henry also known as Hap Day, spent 28 years of a 33 year hockey career playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was introduced to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.)

DUD skates
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

Dudley Mark Garrett, Red’s father endured depression and Audrey, Red’s mother battled alcoholism. Their failed marriage and personal struggle sent Red’s younger sister Alison to be raised with an Aunt. Before leaving for his training camp Red left commandments for his father. Notes on a chalkboard that read a lot like a prayer.

DUD chalkboard
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

Holding a suitcase of t-shirts and photos you remember the fear of leaving. It’s a weight in your hands, large and sitting on your heart. Dad is in the kitchen drinking coffee. You go for the old chalkboard you drew on when you were younger to leave him a note. There’s no chalk around, so you take your grandad’s switch blade out of your pocket. Dad’s depression is like a neighbor with too much time. Always just outside your door, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, makes you feel like it’s waiting for you and you can’t get away.

DUD letters
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

DUD doodled envelopes
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

Red wrote one sided letters to his mother while in training. Red played for the Leaf’s briefly before he was traded to the New York Rangers on November 28th, 1942. Red never played a game for the Leafs, but his talent allowed the team a monumental trade. Red Garret was sent to New York along with Hank Goldup in exchange for Babe Pratt, who by the age of 26 had already won seven Stanley Cups.. (Henry George Goldup played 202 NHL games for the Leafs and the Rangers. He won the Stanley Cup in 1942. His son Glen Goldup also played professional hockey.)

DUD jersey front
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

DUD jersey back
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

Audrey Garrett wrote to her son’s new coach, Lester Patrick. The correspondence was short and ended abruptly with Red’s death during the war. Lester Patrick cared for his players much more than simply to provide them with the skills to succeed on the ice. The short time Red spent in official games with the Rangers, would have been playing with family. (NHL.com “The Patrick Trophy was presented by the New York Rangers in 1966 to honor the late Lester Patrick. Patrick was a longtime general manager and coach of the Rangers, whose teams finished out of the playoffs only once in his first 16 years with the club.) Lester played for the Victoria Cougars, a team we now call the Detroit Redwings. The Cougars achieved British Columbia’s only Stanley Cup in 1925.

DUD photo on ship
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

DUD shawinigan small

Despite her ability to communicate with Dudley’s coach, Audrey Garrett didn’t return many letters to her son Red. He started writing after being sent to Toronto and continued on through his trade to New York and into the war. Dudley wrote about, “bloody punch ups”, players such as Bryan Hextall Sr., the Ranger’s leading scorer and great grandfather to current NHL player Brett Hextall. Dudley ‘Red’ Garrett was running in league many hockey legends and today’s hall of famers.

DUD draft letter
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

Dudley played in many military hockey tournaments after he was drafted into the Navy. He only had 23 games with the New York Rangers before getting drafted into the War. During WWII the Montreal Canadians were exempt from the draft and were able to stay home and keep playing hockey.

DUD traded to Rangers
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

November 11, 1944 Red Garrett dated his last letter. He was jealous of the few players at home who had not been asked into the draft. Dudley was tired, and he prayed that the war would end in time for him to have the NHL career he always dreamed of. 13 days after he last wrote to his mother Dudley’s ship was attacked. His body was one of only six recovered from the wreckage.

DUD letter about himself
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

My jealousy is like a lion. It stalks me from the corners of this boat. He roars at me, wanting attention, wanting me to feel as sick as he does. I would give up sleep if it would make this war end faster. I want to skate away, take us all home. I miss the sound of my skates cutting the ice. The deep crack that comes as I push through a turn. I can almost hear it in between the licks of the waves against the boat. I want to hear that sound again.

DUD memorabilia
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

Dudley ‘Red’ Garrett, the first Canadian Hockey player do be killed in WWII, left behind a beautiful young sister named Alison Garret. Her married name was Alison Good. At a young age Alison was sent to live with an Aunt. Her family did this to save her from the effects of depression and alcoholism that plagued her parents. Alison had almost no relationship with her brother Dudley, not until long after he died.

Alison Good hired a gardener, Denis Holmes to help her keep the grounds in her home in Qualiqum Beach on Vancouver Island. In searching through a (shed or basemen?) the gardener found boxes of Red’s old hockey gear and a stack of letters that he had written to Alison’s mother.

DUD newspaper
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

When I come home lets go see Alison. Have you spoken to her yet mom? I still picture her when she was a little girl. I want to see her now. I want to see what she is like. She is my family and she is so far away. We should be with Alison again.

Alison and her mother didn’t connect until the late 1940’s, long after Dudley was killed in the war. Alison and her mother overcame the damage of the alcoholism and the perceived favoritism for Dudley. It’s hard to ignore a loved one’s wishes, especially after they’re gone. After the death of her second husband, Audrey (mother to Alison and Dudley) moved to Qualiqum beach to be closer to Alison and her husband Don Good. Audrey left with Alison, Dudley’s scrapbooks and letters, his hockey gear, skates, and correspondence from the New York Rangers.

memIMG 8896small
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

I can picture the world when I get home. Dad still in the kitchen sipping on coffee, mum and I going to visit Alison. In my head I imagine my younger sister would love hockey the same way I do, but I can’t say. I hardly know her. But if she did like hockey, she’d take the train down to see my games. Maybe her and Dad could even meet. I don’t need Mum and Dad to be together. It wouldn’t be good for them anyway. But if Alison were around, then we’d feel a bit like family still.

Fate stepped into Alison’s life shortly before she died. The gardener Denis Holmes was a large collector of hockey memorabilia. On the high of excitement from finding Dudley ‘Red’ Garrett’s old letters and gear in Alison’s basement, Holmes went to a local collector store and found a hockey card of Red’s. Seeing the card boiled old memories to the surface in Alison’s heart, and she started to talk, and she started to remember her brother. For over a year Holmes would visit Alison hoping to hear more stories about his favorite players in history.

memIMG 9004small
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

As she was aging, Alison didn’t always have the strength to recount her memories. But out of the painful memories of her father’s depression, her mother’s former alcoholism and a missed lifetime with her brother Alison remembered the good.

“Dad tried very hard, in his own way, to teach me things that would keep me safe.” Alison kept all the wooden toys he made for her.

It’s the boys without hope that I feel sorry for. Their girls won’t write back anymore. Or some who haven’t got anyone to go home to. They enlisted easier than I did. Thinking they might as well if there wasn’t anyone at home. But it won’t be the war that kills them. It’ll be going home to no one. Who will pull them back from this? Help them remember who they were before?

I don’t have a perfect home, but I still have a father, sister and mother. When I get home there won’t be this distance between us anymore. I’m going to play again and Alison will have a brother she can look up to. Just wait till I get home.

DUD memorial cross
(Photo: Kasey Eriksen / Island Sports News)

Lest we forget.

It is November. The leaves now fall to the sodden ground,

amongst the poppies they rally.

They float down from the treetops, one upon the other,

like the fallen heroes, they tally.

The golden colors gather together on graves,

and the scene is a gentle and silent reminder.

That even though the battles may have ended many years prior,

lest we forget our heroes’ endeavor.

The leaves now fall to the sodden ground.

Amongst the poppies and graves, they gather.

Like the ones left behind to suffer their losses,

yet live on to be thankful, laying poppies on crosses.

Lest we forget.

-Kasey Eriksen

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