In World War I, William (Bill) May of Millwood, Manitoba, fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. In World War II he served in Manitoba at CFB Shilo, while two of his sons and a son-in-law fought overseas. On February 8, 1945, one of his sons, Harold, was killed in action in Holland.

Below are letters written from Bill to his wife Grace, showing not only the grief and regrets they experienced as parents but also the hope they clung to through faith.

"He practically did as the Bible says, 'Greater love hath no man, than this that he lay down his life for his friend.'"

February 1945

My Dearest One;

The enclosed were here when I arrived one from dear old Bruz (family nickname for Harold) written a few days before (his death); my dear, I have never felt so old and useless as I’ve done since having to bring you such a message, and I would like have done anything to prevent it, but we have our cross to bear now.

So let us hope that one of these days we will be reunited again.

Have just arrived back and am writing this short note with the others to tell you that I love you sweetheart and I think that you are a grand wife and thank you for everything. Especially for giving me a son like old Bruz, who never kicked or whined, did his job cheerfully and well and when it was necessary gave his life for us all.

I only wish it were possible to change places with him, he had no chance to live before it was his time, and I have been blessed with many years with you my dearest, but the Almighty gave us him, and He has taken him back.

God’s will be done, blessed is the name of the Lord.

Be comforted my dear, with all my love and prayers, God Bless you and all the nippers.

Yours always Billy

Shilo, February 26, 1945

A grainy coloured photo of a woman standing over a headstone at a military cemetery Grace May visited her son's grave at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in Holland in 1967.

Dear Grace,

Managed to get a letter today, the first one I’ve had from you since I came back, was getting worried at not hearing.

Hope you got the pictures of Bruz by now. I thought the coloured ones were very good.

In regard to your letter, you say the fact that worries you is that you weren’t a better Mother to him than you were. I don’t know why you should feel like that; you did your part more so than I ever did for him but I think he loved us for what we were, and not what we should have been.

I had hopes of being able to help him when he came back, now that is out of the question; but I do want to hear how and where it happened and where he has been laid to rest, and please God I hope to see his grave someday before my time comes.

Hope Nooly has nothing serious - has he written at all about it? There is a Lt Hill here in camp just out of Hospital and back for training, he was with the 18th A.C.R. and I’ve asked him via phone, to call and have a chat, maybe he knows Bruz. Will let you know.

I cut this clipping out of the daily paper, haven’t seen anything else. Chap (their other son serving) hadn’t heard when his letter was written, should hear from him again soon, to say he had.

Must close now, love to all the children, all my love & kisses to you.
Yours, Billy

Harold May's tombstone with rose bushes growing nearbyHarold May's grave in the summer of 2021. Dutch families still care for the graves of Canadian soldiers.

March 1945

Hello dear,
Just a line in a hurry after bingo, to hope you are well and not suffering too much with the devilish cold, it was around thirty here this morning; and I sure felt sorry for you having to mess around in the barn in frost like that. I wrote to Johnson about hay and asked him if he’d take it over if he had any to sell, I sure hope he has a few loads.

Managed to finish teacher's bag (Bill did leatherwork) & have one well on the way for Edie (a sister-in-law). Instead of a fawn, its black calf & does look nice, I hope she likes it, as it is a lot of work and five dollars as well.

The Officer here in charge of veterans affairs, tells me you are entitled to the war bonus for Bruz & says, by all means, ask for it, so we will fill the other form in and send it along as well.

Poor old lad; if he did as they say, he took another boys place in the line. We can be doubly proud of him, because he practically did as the Bible says, “Greater love hath no man, than this that he lay down his life for his friend”.

I feel very proud and humble, and thank God that our son was also faithful unto death.

Well, my dearest I must close, for now.

All my love & kisses to you, and love to all at home.
Yours always Billy