Veteran celebrates the gift of life

Major (Ret’d) Murray Edwards blows out the candles on his birthday cake. Edwards, a veteran of the Second World War and Korea recently celebrated his 100th birthday with a large group of family and friends by his side. Photo credit: Brian Owens

Major (Ret’d) Murray Edwards blows out the candles on his birthday cake. Edwards, a veteran of the Second World War and Korea recently celebrated his 100th birthday with a large group of family and friends by his side. Photo credit: Brian Owens

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

A veteran of Victoria’s Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry (PPCLI) celebrated his 100th birthday in style.

A large cheer echoed through the conference room of a Saanich hotel on Jan. 18 as centenarian Major (ret’d) Murray Edwards raised a toast and then blew out all the candles on his birthday cake. Edwards, a resident of Veterans Memorial Lodge, served as a combat instructor in the Second World War for Canada and then on the battlefield in Korea with Princess Patricia’s (PPCLI) at the famous Battle of Kapyong.

“The first hundred years were the best,” joked Edwards before making a wish and blowing out the candles on a large birthday cake.

The crowd of approximately 40 well-wishers included friends, family, members of the PPCLI Association, Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Association, while Member of Parliament for Saanich Gulf Islands Elizabeth May also joined in the celebration. During the party a congratulatory message from Queen Elizabeth was read aloud while Senator Yonah Martin of British Columbia sent Edwards a video birthday greeting.

Edwards served Canada unconditionally from the start of the Second World War until his eventual retirement from the Canadian Armed Forces in 1969. He was also part of Canada’s Peace Keeping mission in Cyprus and the Third Arab–Israeli War. He once remarked during a previous interview that he is old enough to have attended a Civil War Veterans’ parade in New Jersey, as a young boy. That happened in the late 1920s, in the years after his family had immigrated to New Jersey from England. Edwards eventually moved to Canada when he was a young man and first settled in Toronto where he joined the Queen’s Own Rifles. 

He could offer little insight into the secret to long life. He chalked most of it up to having good parents and good genetics while also noting that having an appreciation and understanding the preciousness of life has also been key to his longevity.

“It was in times of combat like Kapyong that you realize all life is by chance and life is a gift, given to you to use the best way you can,” said Edwards. “Life is really about all of the friends you make and that became crystal clear to me in Korea because all the chaps you serve with all become one family.”

These days Edwards’ mobility has been hampered by a stroke and he uses a walker to get around. However, his vivid memories of his military service along with his sense of humour remain fully intact. Edwards is a prolific writer and has kept detailed accounts in several handwritten journals that include photos and battlefield maps – and he is happy to share his stories with anyone who asks.

He traded barbs and jabs with his long-time friend, Commander (ret’d) Peter Chance who will celebrate his own 100th birthday in December 2020. Chance, whom Edwards jokingly referred to as his “junior,” didn’t serve with him in Korea, but was right there beside his long-time friend when he blew out the candles on his cake.

Chance, also a prolific writer of military history served in the Second World War with the Royal Canadian Navy during Battle of the Atlantic. The two have been friends since 1975 when Chance worked for the local branch of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and Edwards was volunteering for the Cadet Corps program at CFB Esquimalt.

“I consider Murray and I to be much like ‘the last of the Mohicans’ because of our longevity and I know he and I both enjoyed this party immensely because it makes us both realize the number of people who appreciate and support us,” he said.

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