William Fairley Metcalfe, or Bill as he was better known, was born in Glace Bay, NS, on November 3, 1923. He grew up there with his parents, Albert and Violet (Day) Metcalfe and three siblings. Bill often went by the nickname “Bunce”.
Bill enlisted in the Cape Breton Highlanders on September 3, 1939, shortly after the outbreak of war. He was still in school at the time. Bill trained with the battalion in Canada and then went overseas to the U.K. with them in November, 1941, and then on to Italy in October/November, 1943. He served as a private in a rifle company throughout the Italian campaign of 1943-1945 and the liberation of Holland in 1945. Miraculously he remained unwounded throughout all of the fighting in Italy and Holland, but his luck ran out during the last major battle of the war for the Cape Breton Highlanders. On May 1, 1945, during the battle for the Dutch port of Delfzijl, Bill was shot in the right knee and shortly afterwards was hit by shrapnel in the left knee. He was sent to a hospital in Belgium where he spent several months recuperating from his wounds before being repatriated back home with the West Nova Scotia Regiment.
While fighting in Italy, Bill’s older brother Jack, who was in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, was killed in Normandy on June 7, 1944, the day after the D-Day invasion. His two sisters, Betty and Yvonne, both served in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps in Canada.
Upon his return home after the war, Bill worked for several months with his father in a coal mine in Glace Bay, before apprenticing as a carpenter. He also remained active in the Cape Breton Highlanders militia for a short time after the war. He later worked in the plumbing, heating and air conditioning trade and opened his own sheet metal business in North Sydney called Metcalfe Metals. He married and raised a family. In the 1960’s he went to work at the Cape Breton Vocational School in Sydney, where he taught sheet metal for 28 years until his retirement.
In his later years, Bill, with his wife Pricilla, operated Metwood Small Options Home in Dutch Brook, near Sydney. He was a proud Cape Breton Highlander and was secretary/treasurer of the Cape Breton Highlanders Association. Bill passed away on September 5, 2000.
I would like to thank Bill Metcalfe's daughter, Heather Almon, for allowing me to copy her family's photos and documents contained in this collection. I visited her home in Sydney in 2015. Heather also shared photos and information on her uncle, Jack Metcalfe who was killed in Normandy while serving with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, and her aunts Betty and Yvonne Metcalfe who served in the Canadian Women's Army Corps.