Guardsman F30866 Roland Vernon Ploughman, 22nd Canadian Armoured Regiment (Canadian Grenadier Guards)
A must-read Love Story
Based on the full text of ninety-two letters written during the Second World War and beyond, Dear Billie tells the true story of a long-distance romance that began during the war and lasted a lifetime. Written by Roland “Vern” Ploughman of Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, to his girl, Lillian “Billie” Wenman of Toronto, Ontario, these letters follow a tank gunner’s experience of training, combat, wounding, and return home. Spanning from January 1943 to August 1945, they begin with nineteen-year-old Vern writing to seventeen-year-old Billie, who a friend insists he must meet. On August 10, 1944, during “Operation Overlord” and the Battle of Normandy, Vern Ploughman’s tank was ambushed by fire from a Tiger tank in the trees. The Sherman tank was no match. The driver and co-driver were killed instantly, while Vern suffered severe injuries. Billie’s letters to Vern, which he kept on board his tank, were destroyed. Years later, in 2019, Vern and Billie’s daughter, Karen Lundy, discovered the remaining letters among her parents’ possessions. She presents them here for the first time.’
The Regiment would like to thank Karen Lundy for reaching out to the Museum advising us of her book about her parents. The copy she provided for archives of the 99 original letters that formed the basis of her book. These will be made available shortly for all those who wish to read.
Karen advised me that her father was a Newfoundlander, and the book was published in Newfoundland. Karen was approached by The Rooms, the Newfoundland and Labrador Museum, regarding the letters and a decision was made along with the other Executor of her mother’s estate that the family would place the original letters with The Rooms Archives. Karen’s father’s father served with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment at Gallipoli in WWI so there is family history involved. The Rooms has an excellent WWI exhibit and is beginning to plan its WWII exhibit. Many Newfoundlanders served with the various branches of both the Canadian and British military and Karen’s father’s brother served as a pilot with the RAF.”
Major Brian Tracey, MMM, CD, retired, Curator of the Musée Canadian Grenadier Guards.
‘Roland “Vern” Ploughman served with the Canadian Grenadier Guards during WWII from the summer of 1943 to his wounding on August 10th, 1944, while the Regiment fought for Hill 195. He became a veteran in January of 1945 as he was recovering from severe leg wounds. His tank, in which he was the gunner, was shelled just as the Regiment was moving out on the morning of the 10th. He began writing to his future wife, Lillian “Billie” Wenman, in January 1942 while he was stationed at Camp Borden with the 23rd Armoured Regiment (The Halifax Rifles) disbanded in the summer of 1943 sending Vern to the Canadian Grenadier Guards who he was always proud to have been a part of’.
‘I am Vern’s daughter and the letters he wrote to our mother came into my hands on January 23rd, 2019, the day after my mother passed away. In reading and transcribing them, Vern’s story emerged as one unique to him. At the same time, it was the story of a soldier in wartime. In Dear Billie: A World War II Love Story, Vern’s experiences of those days and his evolving relationship with his “Dear Billie” are revealed. It was an honor to record this period in my father’s life and an honor to have been a child of a Guardsman.’
“The interest you’ve taken in this story means a great deal to me and I know my father would be very moved. My father always loved marching music and I grew up listening to “The British Grenadiers” on our home stereo. My research took me into his world in a way I had never imagined possible and helped me appreciate more deeply the wonderful sense of humour he retained despite the hardships he’d endured.”
‘Good morning, Brian,
I forgot to mention in my last email that I am aware of a mistake right at the beginning of the book where it says my father was with the 22nd Armoured Division. I think that occurred when I shortened a longer sentence, and I thought it was corrected during the editing process. Should this go to a second printing that will be fixed. Please don’t let that put you off. I strove for as much accuracy as I could as you will see when you read on.’
Good afternoon Major Tracey,
The Rooms has also graciously asked me to give a presentation at their annual Remembrance Day observation.
The book has been published by Flanker Press here in Newfoundland and copies are available through them on their website. The book sells for $22.00. As well, the book can be ordered through Amazon or your local Chapters store. It is also available as an e-book on Amazon and Kobo.
My father was very proud of his military service during the War and being part of the Canadian Grenadier Guards. I know he would be deeply honoured to have his story on record with the Regiment he served with.