Tragic losses far from home: 4 Pim Hill Bullies recalled (photos)Sunday, January 06, 2013 by: Rick McGee
Three recent SooToday.com articles chronicled the storied Pim Hill Bullies, Pim Hill Bullets and the outdoor rinks they played on more than a lifetime ago.
The tales and accompanying photos portray energetic young people sharing their love for a game with good friends in special places.
Surely long, productive and fulfilling futures would unfold for all of them.
But, tragically, fate was not so kind to four young men whose lives ended suddenly far from the comforts and security of home and the familiar.
Sault Ste. Marie military historian Phil Miller graciously agreed to share some details to help honour their memories.
“George Bussineau, Alex Neilson, Joe Parkinson and John Toombs [shown above are Toombs in uniform and his gravestone in Germany] were all casualties of World War ll,” he said.
“It is very sad to think of losing such fine-looking guys. Three were killed in the air force and one in the army. They were good country stock and had the world before them. We have our lives today because they gave up all theirs.”
A fluke weapons accident on June 10, 1944, ended Private George Bussineau’s life at the age of 24 years.
“George [shown are Bussineau in uniform and his gravestone] was actually killed by one of his own troops,” Miller recalled. ”He was in England with the RHLI and a rifle discharged in camp. The bullet went through two tents, struck and killed George four days after D-Day. He had been in the service six days short of two years. He is buried in Brookwood Cemetery. His first cousin is Justice Wayne Cohen.”
Many years earlier, the Bussineau family had suffered another heart-breaking wartime loss.
George had been named after an uncle - also known as George Bussineau - who did not return from World War l.
Others served with the air force
Three former Pim Hill Bullies were killed in action during World War ll.
Warrant Officer Second Class John Blackstock Toombs died on November 26, 1943.
“He was navigating a Lancaster, #DV297, over Berlin and is buried in Berlin War Cemetery, Charlottenburg,” Miller continued.
“John's mother, Sarah, was a Blackstock and thus his middle name. They were from Mount Zion north of Bruce Mines, while the Bussineaus were originally from Dunn's Valley.”
Toombs enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941 and had gone overseas the following year.
At the time of his death, the boyish-looking airman had already participated in several raids on Germany.
Toombs’ parents lived at 20 Ferris Avenue.
Flying Officer John Alexander Neilson died on August 18, 1944, while piloting a Beaufighter, #JL910.
“At the time of his death, he was attacking a train near Prdejci, Yugoslavia,” Miller noted. “He was last seen losing altitude into a valley. The navigator, not a Canadian, is missing and presumed dead. Neilson is buried in the British Military Cemetery at Belgrade, Yugoslavia [now Serbia].”
One of several photos provided for this article shows Neilson (below) with a four-legged friend.
Also shown is Neilson's gravestone.
“I suspect the shot of him and his dog was taken when he was home while being trained,” Miller surmised. “He has a red wedge in his hat which is an indicator that he is being trained for aircrew. That would have come out when he graduated.
“According to another letter I have, Neilson was engaged to Miss Peggy Decourcey. The 1944 city directory lists a Margaret DeCourcey at 35 Lansdowne Avenue, presumably living with her parents also at the same address.”
Neilson’s parents lived nearby, at 9 Hearst Street.
Life ended during secret mission
Flying Officer Joseph Miller Parkinson (shown) was not native to the Sault Ste. Marie area or even Canada.
According to Miller, prior to enlistment the well travelled Parkinson was living with David Rodgers - an uncle - on Ferris Avenue and working at the Royal Bank.
“Parkinson was born in Belfast, Ireland and later lived in Lynn, Massachusetts. He was killed in action on September 12, 1944, at the age of 20, while acting as a bomb aimer in a Halifax, #FF412. He was engaged in a secret operation when his aircraft crashed and burned in the mountains some 25 miles northeast of Turin in Italy. He is buried in Milan War Cemetery. Two more of the crew and five ‘passengers’ were also killed.
“Parkinson was married to Eileen Neville. They had a West Kildonan [Winnipeg] address at the time of his death. He left a daughter, Irene Elizabeth, born March 15, 1944. It’s hard to say whether or not he ever saw her as his last pre-embarkation leave was in July of 1943.”
Parkinson is buried in the Milan Cemetery, in Italy.
Three of the Bullies who paid the ultimate price in defence of freedom - Bussineau, Neilson and Parkinson - are among those remembered on a World War ll memorial tablet (below) at St. Andrew’s United Church.
Caution: Readers may wish to avoid reading the following Record of Casualty for Neilson as the contents may be disturbing for some.