Honorary Canadian Armed Forces Col. David Lloyd Hart, who was decorated for his bravery during the disastrous Dieppe raid in 1942, died at age 101 on March 27 in Montreal.
Hart, a sergeant in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, controlled the only communication link between the front line and the offshore headquarters. Operating out of a landing craft just off the beach, he relayed movement and co-ordinated reinforcements.
That Allied attempt to land on the beaches of France on Aug. 19, 1942 turned into a slaughter. More than 900 Canadian soldiers were killed and thousands more were wounded.
Two years ago, Hart, still hale at 99, vividly recalled what happened 75 years earlier.
“I saw so many killed, and yet they were still sending people to certain death,” he said.
In the midst of the chaos, Hart pleaded with HQ to be permitted to radio two units under heavy fire that rescue craft would be arriving one hour earlier than planned. That would necessitate cutting off communication with HQ momentarily, to reach the soldiers’ frequency.
His superiors initially refused, but eventually agreed, if he could send the message in less than two minutes.
Hart relayed the retreat order in 30 seconds through terrible static and deafening noise, orchestrating a critical change to the timing of the rescue craft that was facing heavy bombardment.
Hart, who was born in Montreal, was awarded the Military Medal for his “coolness under fire in the continuous performance of duties” by King George VI at Buckingham Palace. His action saved at least 100 Canadian troops. He was then commissioned as an infantry officer.
The Military Medal ranks below only the Victoria Cross among decorations for enlisted servicemen.
Hart attended the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe raid at a ceremony in France in August 2017.
Hart, who became a chartered accountant after the war, stayed in the military, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the Army Signal Reserve, before being honourably discharged in 1965.
In 1976, he was made an honorary lieutenant-colonel of the 712 (Montreal) Communications Squadron and, in 2013, was promoted to full honorary colonel of the 34th Signals Regiment, based at the Royal Montreal Regiment armoury in Westmount, Que.
The RMR Foundation said Hart was the longest-serving honorary colonel in the Canadian army and “was a good friend of the RMR since the early 1950s.”
A painting by Montreal artist Adam Sherriff Scott that hangs in the armoury depicts the battle scene, with Hart seen in the foreground at his wireless set, receiver in hand.
Hart began his military service in 1931 as a cadet while attending the High School of Montreal and joined the reserves in 1937. Along with his brothers Paul and Eddy Hart, he volunteered immediately after the Second World War broke out.
Hart, who stood only five-foot-three, recalled that he was almost rejected because he was a half-inch below the minimum height, but he “made so much noise” at the recruiting office that he got in.
He insisted that his dog tags show his religion. “They said the Germans will kill you if you’re caught. I said let them know a Jew is coming after them,” he recalled.
He was sent overseas in 1940 and was stationed in England before being deployed on “an important mission to France” – news that was initially cheered by his fellow soldiers as a chance to finally join the action.
Retired Maj. Gen. Edward Fitch, a Montreal native who now lives in Victoria, said upon his death that Hart “was a great role model for three or four generation of soldiers. We will remember him fondly.” Fitch was only the second Canadian Jew to attain that rank.
Hart’s former accounting partner, Lenny Wolman, who now lives in Jerusalem, said Hart was “the ultimate professional in all respects. He had an amazing memory for tax work and had a personal and caring relationship with every client and associate.
“His life story was unique and he was so proud of his achievements in the military. May this great man rest in peace.”