Captain Normal John Turnbull was born on January 8, 1921 in Toronto, Ontario, the son of John Fulton Turnbull and Jean Beckwith Turnbull, his father being a Farmer by trade.
He competed Grade 13 at Upper Canada College in Toronto in 1939, followed by one year in the Forestry program at the University of Toronto in 1940. He was employed one summer in forest surveying and cruising, followed by a summer in forest research work and also worked one year on his father’s mixed farm prior to enlistment.
Turnbull was a resident of Orillia, Ontario, when he signed his Canadian Active Service Force Attestation Paper as a Private, with 8 Canadian Field Squadron, Royal Canadian Engineers “B” Wing, on May 23, 1941, at No. 2 District Depot in Toronto, naming his next-of-kin as his mother, Mrs. Jean Berkwith Turnbull, stating that he had no previous military service, that he was Single and that his trade was that of Forestry Student.
Nine and a half weeks later, he was posted to the Canadian Small Arms Training Centre in Long Branch, Ontario, on July 29, 1941, where he successfully completed his course. Two months afterwards, he was posted to Petawawa, Ontario on September 20, 1941, where he was appointed Lance Corporal on October 17th. He was transferred to No. 2 District Depot for training at Debert, Nova Scotia on January 21, 1942, then transferred four months later to No. 24 Basis Training Centre in Brampton, Ontario on May 18, 1942, where was saw two promotions, to Acting Corporal on September 10th and to Acting Sergeant on February 12, 1943.
He returned to No. 2 District Depot in Toronto on February 13, 1943 for one week, before being posted to the Officers Training Centre at Trois Rivieres, Quebec for qualifications and promoted to Cadet on February 19th, successfully completing the course and was recommended for promotion and appointment to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant (Infantry Rifle) in the Canadian Army, pending promulgation in the Canadian Army Routine Order and granted the provisional rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
Turnbull was transferred to A10 Canadian Infantry Training Centre, (Provincial Reinforcements), Canadian Infantry Corps at Camp Borden on May 21st. He returned to Trois Rivieres on June 23rd, where he qualified as a Lieutenant (Infantry Rifle), followed by a return to Camp Borden on October 1, 1943. He was transferred to the Officers Training Centre at Brockville, Ontario on November 20, 1943 and posted to the Refresher Wing, until December 12th. Two days later, he was posted to No. 1 Transit Camp at Windsor, Nova Scotia on December 14th, before embarking Canada on December 26, 1943 for service in Europe, arriving in the United Kingdom on January 3, 1944.
Eleven days after arriving, he was posted to No. 4 Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit as a Lieutenant on January 14th, followed by a transfer two months later to No. 3 Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit on March 16th, where he was recruited by the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Reinforcements on March 20th and placed on the X4 List, Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada on April 10th. Turnbull embarked the United Kingdom on June 11 1944, arriving in France the next day.
He was officially taken on strength (TOS) with The Queen’s Own Rifles on 17 June 1944:
The Battalion’s War Diary entry for September 7th reports that “Lt Turnbull and patrol of one section on Recce of Rottembert flushed some enemy on side of road. One man came out with his hands up when an MG from the ditch opened up wounding Lt Turnbull; his batman covered his withdrawal with a rifle and then withdrew himself.”
Turnbull was admitted to No. 9 British General Hospital on the 8th. He was placed on the X3 (B) List on November 9th, on the X9 List on November 15th and on the X10 List and attached to Headquarters No. 2 Canadian Casualty on December 2nd. He was transferred to No. 3 Canadian Auxiliary Services Section on April 27, 1945.
That summer, he married Lieutenant (Nursing Sister) Lillian Jean Givens, No. 4 Canadian General Hospital, Canadian Army at Farnborough, Hants. England on July 28, 1945. He was posted to Headquarters CFN on August 11, 1945 and after four months, was placed on the X8 List for Khaki University of Canada, the Canadian educational institution set up and managed by the staff of the Canadian Army, on December 28th. Turnbull was named Captain in the Canadian Infantry Corps on January 9, 1946 and placed at No. 1 Canadian Repatriation Depot on April 26, 1946, returning to Canada on May 6th.
Turnbull was struck off strength upon demobilization, on June 19, 1946 at No. 2 District Depot in Long Branch, Ontario, returning to Reserve Status, credited with sixty-one months service, twenty-eight months of which were overseas in the United Kingdom and North West (Continental Europe), his overall service including seventeen months as a Sapper and Lance Corporal in the Royal Canadian Engineers (B-25850), eight months as an Instructor in the Training Centre, nineteen months as a Regimental Officer and Instructor and fourteen months with the A.D.A.S. He was entitled to wear the War Service Badge, number 377424 and was also granted a $100.00 Clothing Allowance and Rehabilitation Grant. His intent was to rejoin the Forestry program at the University of Toronto.
In his report, dated Jun 18, 1946 at Long Branch, Captain J.D. MeLean, Army Councillor noted: “Captain Turnbull has always been interested in Forestry and now plans to complete his course. This appears quite logical in view of his interest and ability and plans to eventually work in woods management for a pulp and paper company. Until the session begins, (he) may seek summer employment connected with Forestry with a pulp and paper company in any available capacity.”
Turnbull would graduate from the Facility of Forestry at the University of Toronto in 1949 and became an employee of the Spruce Falls Power and Paper Company in Kapuskasing, Ontario.
He died on January 16, 2011 at the Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital in his 91st year.
Check out the contents of photos albums (on Flickr) that belonged to Captain Turnbull and are now in our museum’s collection:
We also have acquired his medals.