Private Robert F. Lytle

Robert (Bob) Foster Lytle was born in Carman, Manitoba on October 23, 1919. He came from a hard-working family with six sisters and one brother.

On September 14, 1939, Bob was sworn in at Minto Armories joining the “A” company of the 1st Battalion, The Winnipeg Grenadiers (Machine Gun), CASF. He served with The Grenadiers on garrison duty in Bermuda and Jamaica from May 1940 to October 1941. On October 25, 1941, The Grenadiers travelled by train to Vancouver to meet up with the Royal Rifles of Canada (Quebec City). On October 27, 1941, Bob shipped out with the Grenadiers on the “Awatea” for ‘destination unknown’. He finally learned on November 13, 1941, they were being sent to reinforce the British and Indian troops in defense of the British colony of Hong Kong. Upon arrival in Hong Kong on November 16, 1941, all troops were quartered at Sham Shui Po Camp. The initial days were spent writing letters home, going on route marches into the territories, working M.P. duty, going on maneuvers in the hills of Hong Kong, and becoming acquainted with island defenses and surroundings.

The Battle of Hong Kong began on December 8, 1941, with the Canadians and their Allies fighting bravely against a better equipped, trained, experienced and much larger Japanese army. When the British Colony surrendered on Christmas Day 1941, Bob became a Japanese prisoner of war. During his imprisonment, he kept a diary with entries of the terrible camp conditions; detailed lists of rations received, hunger, weight loss, illnesses, injuries and deaths of fellow POWs; work as a slave labourer at the Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong, then Nippon Kokan shipyards, near Yokohama, letters and parcels received from home, air raid alarms, rumours of allies gaining ground and finally on August 15, 1945, he wrote, “That wonderful day has arrived, although nothing official as yet. Couldn’t sleep all night for thinking of home.”

Bob returned home to Carman on October 9,1945 and was discharged from the army on March 26, 1946. He met Myrtle Mansell, and they married on November 11, 1946. Bob eventually found work with Beaver Lumber but he was immediately transferred to Saskatchewan. The next several years would take Bob and Myrtle to several small towns in Saskatchewan before returning to Manitoba. He would eventually spend the rest of his career as an adjuster in the insurance industry. In October 1966 the family of three sons and two daughters moved to their permanent home in Charleswood. Bob lived there until his passing on June 23, 2009. After the war, he enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow veterans through his involvement with the Hong Kong Veterans Association and the Royal Canadian Legion. Bob was Past President of RCL #120 in Nipawin, Saskatchewan and was awarded Life Member of RCL #100 Charleswood.

Bob lived simply, not veering too far from the strong values which were instilled in him as a boy. He was a survivor, who learned to cope with memories that haunted him from his POW days. His life tells the story of overcoming a horrific ordeal with faith, love, strength, courage, and resilience. He is remembered as a man of integrity, loyalty, compassion, and honour by all who knew him.

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