Airgraph, John Bialas to Mary Dancavitch, 19 February 1943
- Bialas, John, Author
- Dancavitch, Mary, Recipient
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Airgraph photographic print on paper in black and white, sent by John Bialas to the house of his mother, Katherine Bialas in Brantford, Ontario, but addressed to his sister, Mary Dancavitch. The airgraph is dated 19 February 1943. On the top right corner of the letter includes John’s service number, B127617, and his current location as with the No 5 CIRU (Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit) with the Canadian Army Overseas.
Airgraphs, also called Victory Mail, were invented during the Second World War in England. They were letter that were written on a specific designed letter, and then microfilmed (photographed as negatives), to reduce the amount of space and weight in shipping. The letters were enlarged once they arrived overseas, printed on photographic paper, and then sent to the addressee through the regular post.
- John Joseph Bialas, the eldest son of John and Katherine (Serdersky) Bialas, was born on 7 May 1921 in Brantford, Ontario. He attended St. Basil’s Separate School and was a member of the St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church. He was one of Brantford’s best known young hockey players, playing for St. Basil’s, the Brantford Lions Club Hockey Team in 1940-1941, and the following year, on the Akron Clippers team in Ohio as a left defenseman. His love for the sport was apparent as he took his skates with him overseas. He worked at the Universal Cooler Company of Canada, Ltd. in Brantford, with “tin smith and acetylene welding” listed as his trade on his enlistment papers. Other service records note that his most recently employment was at Ford Motors Co. in Windsor, Ontario as a Drill Press Operator, for two months prior enlistment.
He joined the Brockville Rifles on 15 May 1942, completed his basic infantry training, and was mobilized on 1 September of that year at the age of twenty one. He was sent to Nanaimo, British Columbia and passed a Mechanics Course. He disembarked in England on 13 February 1943 as a private under the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade No. 5 Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit. From May 1943 to March 1944, he served with the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa Regiment, which included driver training. In April 1944, he was transferred to the No. 6 Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit. The following month he was moved to the Central Mediterranean Force Westminster Regiment (Motors), Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, B Company, joining the Allied Armies in Italy on 16 May 1944 as reinforcements.
This timing would mean he participated in the conclusion of the Battle of Monte Cassino, the last of four Allied assaults to capture the Axis held Gustav Line in Italy, with the ultimate goal of capturing Rome (1). Beginning in January and ending May 1944, the Battle of Monte Cassino is considered one of the longest and deadliest engagements of the Italy Campaign.
The Westminster Regiment played a key role at the Melfa River, and opening the Liri Valley, to allow the Allied advance on Rome. Major John Keefer Mahoney of the Westminster Regiment A Company was even presented with a Victoria Cross, the highest award given to a British or Canadian soldier, for his leadership and execution of breaking through the Hitler Line and crossing the Melfa River.
John continued to fight in Italy until he was killed in action on 24 September 1944, and was buried at the Cesena War Cemetery. On 8 March 1944, he received the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp, and was posthumously awarded the 1939-45 Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal, and War Medal.
1. Canadian Soldiers. “Italian Campaign.” Accessed 28 February 2017. http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/history/campaigns/italiancampaign/italiancampaign.htm.
- Dear Mary,
I'm on a 9 day leave now up in Glasgow just got here and expect to have quite a time. Expect to see Cliff Percival to-morrow I telegramed him to come up. This is quite a place after all. I thought I wouldn't care for it but its alright over here. After about four days on this leave I think I'll go to London I was there on the way up and saw Piccidilly square its about exactly as you see it in pictures. Well I think I'll be off I'll write in a couple of days though or after the leave is over. Cheers, ha ha
So Long Sis
- Date Of Event
- 19 February 1943
- Personal Name(s)
- Bialas, John ; Dancavitch, Mary
- Local identifier
- Language of Item
- Geographic Coverage
Latitude: 43.1334 Longitude: -80.26636
- Frank Bialas
- Recommended Citation
- Airgraph, John Bialas to Mary Dancavitch, 19 February 1943, Frank Bialas. 2017FB001.016.
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