Family of the late Jim Giles say it would be an honour to see some kind of partnership between the City of Prince Albert and the French community that’s tended his grave the last 75 years.
Giles was one of six allied airmen who died when their plane was shot down over France in 1944. He is buried near the community of Thorey en Plaine, which wants to create a partnership with the City of Prince Albert to honour Giles and the five other allied airmen who died in the crash.
Family members say they love the idea of a partnership, and hope Prince Albert city officials agree.
“We were rather excited by it,” said Glenn McMullen, whose stepfather Stan Giles was Jim’s older brother. “We thought it was a really good idea, and we hope that city council will see their way clear to move forward with this.”
Jim Giles was born in Prince Albert, but lived south of the city in Red Deer Hill until he graduated high school. Afterward, he worked on his father’s farm for two years before heading to Manitoba, where he enlisted in the RCAF. Giles joined 1942 as a mechanic, but became a tail-gunner in a bomber squadron one year later. His plane was shot down on July 26, 1944, and local residents in Thorey en Plaine have been tending his grave since.
“My dad talked about him in a form of pride. He was very proud of Jim having served, and he always said that he fought for freedom and gave his life for freedom,” McMullen said. “He was important to the family for that reason. Dad was very proud of him.”
McMullen added the family isn’t looking for public recognition, but at the same time, they thought the partnership would be a good way to honour those who gave their lives for freedom.
The family said they have no strong opinions about what exactly that partnership would look like, and they don’t want to make any demands of city council. Still, they’re hopeful the city’s elected officials will do something.
Representatives from Thorey en Plaine have asked for a common sister city project or twinning agreement. Prince Albert city council has forwarded that request to the Community Services Advisory Committee for further discussion.
“I’d like to know what other cities have done,” said Alice Boden, one of Giles’ cousins. “ I know this is something that has been done in various cities over various times, so I imagine there’s probably a variety of things that cities do and I’d be curious to know what it is.”
Family members have already been in touch with representatives from Thorey en Plaine, but were unaware of this request until reports surfaced in the local media.
Boden said they were invited to a remembrance ceremony in 2014, which included representatives from the French consulate, and French and British air forces, among other dignitaries. Unfortunately, they were unable to attend.
Prior to that, a researcher from Thorey en Plaine began searching for any living relatives so community members could learn more about the six men whose graves they tended.
One allied crew member survived the plane crash by parachuting to safety. He was captured after landing, but lived through the war and wrote the family a letter about that last flight and what a fine fellow he thought Jim Giles was.
After the war, the Saskatchewan government named a lake and creek in northern Saskatchewan after Giles in honour of his service. Giles also had an uncle, Arnold, who died in the First World War