Rifleman Wouter (Walter) Tates was born on 21 December 1934 in Haarlemmermeer, Holland, the son of Cornelis Tates and Dirkje van Oostrom. He was just six years old when Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands. Walter grew up in an environment surrounded by soldiers. He shared a story of how his parents hid an injured Canadian pilot in their home for two months. After the pilot recovered, he dressed like a local dutchman and Walter walked with him, under the guise of father and son, to a nearby beach where the pilot was picked up and safely returned home to Canada. Walter’s experiences as a child in Holland during WWII influenced his future as a Canadian soldier.
After WWII ended, Walter immigrated to Canada with his parents and siblings. The family sailed across the Atlantic from Holland to Canada on the S. S. Tabinta. They arrived in Quebec in August 1948 and travelled west by train to Manitoba where they settled in as a new Canadian family.
Walter enrolled with the Canadian army in Calgary, AB on November 25, 1953. He originally enlisted under the name of Frederick Baker. A week later he was on his way to Camp Ipperwash in Ontario for training as a rifleman with the 2nd Battalion of The Queen’s Own Rifles (QOR) of Canada. He trained for three months at Camp Ipperwash, the “Home Depot” of the 2nd Canadian Rifle Battalion, which later adopted the name of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.
In March 1954, the 2nd Battalion QOR of Canada was posted to Korea. Walter’s service records note he embarked from Canada on March 6, 1954, disembarking in Korea on March 26. The 2nd Battalion celebrated the QOR’s 94th Anniversary in Korea on April 26, 1954. Walter was classified as Rifleman 2nd class when he arrived in Korea and by March of 1955 he was reclassified as a Rifleman Trainer. Walter was awarded the United Nations Service Medal, issued by CAAF, for his service under United Nations Command in Korea.
On 6 April 1955, the 2nd Battalion left Inchon, Korea on the USS General M. M. Patrick. They arrived in Seattle, Washington on 22 April 1954 and after sixty days of leave, reassembled at Gordon Head Barracks on Vancouver Island. Walter remained at Gordon Head until October 1957. During his time at Gordon Head, he reengaged with the 2nd Battalion QOR of Canada for three more years, married his sweetheart Evelyn Mary Jeanne Keenest, had his first child Wally, and completed additional training with the 2nd Battalion in Wainwright, AB.
On October 15, 1957, the 2nd Battalion left Victoria, BC for Quebec City. They departed Quebec City on October 19 on the RMS Ivernia, disembarking in Rotterdam, Holland. Walter was back in the country of his birth, this time serving with the Canadian Army. By October 28 the 2nd Battalion was settled in Fort McLeod, Deilinghofen, Westphalia, Germany. Walter’s wife Evelyn and infant son Wally joined Walter a few weeks later, setting up their home in Eisborn, Germany.
Walter spoke German, Dutch, and English which became a strong asset during his time in Continental Europe. He drove a ration truck travelling daily between Holland and Hamer, Germany. The following year, Evelyn’s mother became ill in Winnipeg, MB and she returned to Canada to care for her. Walter followed his family back to Canada shortly after and was stationed in Winnipeg from December 1958 until 27 November 1959 when he was honourably released from the army at the conclusion of his second three-year term.
After leaving the Canadian army Walter lived and worked in both Manitoba and Alberta. Walter passed away in his home in Edmonton, AB on January 22, 2022, at 87. He was laid to rest in the Veteran’s section at Westlawn Cemetery in Edmonton, his Last Post, where he will be remembered by those who loved him, and perhaps by some that did not know him but share his love and pride in Canada, the country he chose to call home.
Walter’s obituary, describing his civilian life after he left the army is available online at Arbor Memorial. Link Here