Eighteen years after his first retirement, Rev. George Davidson, a Charleswood resident, recently began his second retirement, this time from Headingley United Church and St. Charles United Church.
Davidson began his career as a command chaplain with the Canadian Armed Forces, spending 18 years with the Canadian Army and 12 with the Royal Canadian Air Force. This took him around the world, including alongside the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in Cyprus and Egypt.
"I had an interesting position as the chaplain. I got the training but I wasn’t a soldier in the traditional sense of the word because I carried a Geneva Convention card, so I never could shoot or give orders."
Instead, Davidson used the power of words. "I enjoyed being a field chaplain. I had my own jeep and driver," he said, "and the jeep was our church. We would place a flag over the hood, dig out my cross and have a service."
During his posting in Europe, he performed services at the Brandenburg Gate, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris, and at Vimy Ridge.
"Vimy was meaningful," Davidson said. "I got to walk between the two trenches."
With a smile he recalls his days in the RCAF and his call sign "Holy Ghost." In one instance, his commanding officer called out over the radio, "Holy Ghost, please report to my location." Fearing the worst he raced to the spot to discover that, "the officer was in a high-stakes poker game and needed a fifth player."
Air Command Headquarters in Winnipeg was the last stop of his military career during which time he participated in a tour of Holland, France, and Belgium that will forever be etched in his memory.
"We had a service at every monument. I stood on the battle fields with soldiers, tears streaming down their cheeks, as they remembered their friends."
Davidson recently held his final services at the two churches where the proceedings usually ran with the precision of a military operation.
"My wife used to kid me that as colonel I would say that I want this done by 2 o’clock and it would be done by five to two. At Headingley, I’d say I want this done and she would say you are not a colonel anymore, so I had to resort to asking if we could possibly get this done!"
Rev. Davidson’s humour and community commitment will be missed and we wish him well in his latest retirement.
David Hultin is a community correspondent for Charleswood.