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British Armed Forces veterans both retire in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Two involved in poppy campaign at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 76
David Horrocks, left, and Graham Lenton, right, both served in the British Armed Forces through the 1960s and 1970s and are now members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 76 Qualicum Beach. (Mandy Moraes photo)

Two veterans from ‘across the pond’ found themselves in Calgary, and then again in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area years later.

Graham Lenton and David Horrocks enlisted in the British Armed Forces separately, and after retiring from their military careers made their way to Canada where they eventually both became members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 76 Qualicum Beach.

Both men are members of the Legion’s poppy campaign and can be spotted in the area manning their respective stations until Remembrance Day.

Lenton grew up in Cambridgeshire, a county in east England, and enlisted in the British military in 1960, joining the Royal Air Force Police. For two and a half years, he was stationed in Cyprus before returning to England and then transferring to the Royal Military Police.

Following the transfer, he spent time in Germany, Singapore and Hong Kong, to name a few.

“One thing I always laughed about, when I was transferring from Singapore up to Hong Kong – this was the time of Vietnam – our pilot mentioned if we looked out of the left side of the aircraft, we’d see north Vietnam. And we thought, ‘they know we’re coming up there, they know there’s some agreement that England’s not gonna get involved.’ But then when the pilot said, ‘if you look at the other side of the aircraft, there was a couple of (American) phantom aircrafts… That was a thing I’ve always thought about. Yeah, the Vietnamese will leave us alone, but they may send a missile over to the (Americans),” he said with a chuckle.

Retiring from the military after 10 years, Lenton returned to England and became a civil police officer with the Thames Valley Police in Sussex from 1970 until 1979. In moving to Calgary in 1980, he became a member of the Calgary Police Service for 22 more years.

“Basically law is the same. Well, more so in those days because Canadian law was taken from English law... Wherever you are, law is the law… You can be in Russia – they’ve got a set of law. You abide by it,” he said.

In 2002, he retired from policing and became a flight attendant with West Jet for another decade.

“Those days from 2002, air travel wasn’t so - how to put it - contentious. People just wanted to go from A to B... In the 10 years we had a couple of incidents, but nothing really bad, not what you hear of today,” he said.

Lenton’s brother-in-arms, Horrocks, spent his early years growing up in Lancashire, a county in northwest England.

He enlisted in the British Armed Forces in 1964, joining the Corps of Royal Engineers, serving for 12 years.

“As part of the Royal Engineers, you learn a trade as well as being a combat engineer,” he said, saying it consisted of six rigorous months of hands-on training, where he then became qualified as a vehicle technician. “You got to learn quick.”

In late 1965, Horrocks was posted “in the divided city (as it was known back then)” of Berlin, Germany.

“Well, the thing is, with Berlin being a divided city in the 1960s like it was, there was obviously tension. Because directly within 10 miles of us were brigades of Russian and East German troops. Because they were in East Germany, and we were in East Germany, but we were in West Berlin. And it was a divided city operated through Checkpoint Charlie, and everything else like that… There was a constant reminder that we had to be on 24-hour immediate alert in case of any hostilities, which never occurred anywhere. But, you had to be prepared… You have to be in the military, and in any other type of situation wherever you are deployed in the world.”

While in the service, Horrocks was also stationed in Kenya, Belfast and Valcartier, Que., where he worked on bridges and abutments with the Royal Engineers.

He moved to Calgary in 1977, “working the wrenches” as a mechanic before he shifted gears towards the automobile glass industry for 29 years.

Horrocks and his wife finally moved out west to Vancouver Island to be closer to his wife’s family after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, since they could no longer travel to Arizona to escape Calgary’s harsh winter months.

Mandy Moraes

About the Author: Mandy Moraes

I joined Black Press Media in 2020 as a multimedia reporter for the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, and transferred to the News Bulletin in 2022
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