Search is on for family of Prince Albert veteran

This photo of Second World War veteran Ben Bird holding an unnamed child was included in a letter sent to the Regina Mayor’s office from a family in Birmingham, England who billeted Bird in June 1944. Bird passed away in December 1994 and is buried in Prince Albert. -- Submitted photo.

In June 1944, a Prince Albert soldier named Ben Bird was among the thousands of Canadian troops billeted with English families before and during the Allied invasion of Normandy.

Now, 80 years later, members of the family who billeted Bird hopes to reconnect with the now deceased veteran’s family.

The request comes after the English family sent a letter to the Regina Mayor’s Office. Mayor Sandra Masters passed the message on to the Royal Regina Rifles’ Association, who are attempting to track down Bird’s relatives in hopes of connecting the two groups.

“We read it over and we asked if we could participate in locating this family,” said Jerry Roenspiess, a former Warrant Officer with the Rifles and current Royal Regina Rifles Association president. “She (Masters) said, ‘by all means.’ We took it upon (ourselves) and then we started our legacy of networking with other members … to see if we can’t find the Bird family or relatives.”

Roenspiess and RRR Association first became aware of the letter during a meeting with Masters in late March. At the time, Roenspiess and his comrades hopes to present Masters with an antique RRR pin to wear overseas when she attended the 80th anniversary of the D-Day celebrations. However, they received an unexpected offering in return.

The Mayor’s office unearthed the letter when vetting old paper files. The letter and a photograph were sent from Birmingham, England in September 2020.

Roenspiess said they have reached out to the U.K family that made the request, while also referencing nominal rolls, consulting with the Regimental Historian, and searching Library and Archives Canada for information about Bird.

According to the RRR Association, L27340 Rifleman Ben Bird was buried in Prince Albert after dying on Dec. 1, 1994 at the age of 92. However, they don’t know where he was born, or what First Nation he was a member of.

The Royal Regina Rifles do not keep personnel records, but Roenspiess said the association’s membership, especially Indigenous members, have been an incredible resource.

“It’s actually quite neat,” said Jerry Roenspiess, a former Warrant Officer with the Rifles, and the current Royal Regina Rifles Association president. “We’ve got four contacts with former members of the reserve (and) one actually still serving, and they contacted their network … but we haven’t heard anything conducive yet.”

Roenspiess said it’s not common to receive requests of this type, but it’s not unheard of either. Part of the RRR Association’s purpose is to help former members stay connected with people they met during their term of service.

Roenspiess said the loss of connection often creates a void, so the RRR Association works hard to help members and their families restore old ties.

“It’s important to us as members of the armed forces, especially after 80 years,” he said. “Somebody still wants to regain contact with somebody who impacted their lives 80 years ago. I think that’s part of the importance.”

Anyone who can help with locating Ben Bird’s family can contact the RRR Association clerk at