Jack Docking never married. He never had children, and therefore never had grandchildren. He never got to venture on his own, carve a life for himself and come home at the end of each day, satisfied in a day’s work well done.
Instead, Jack went to war.
Jack Docking was 20 years old when he left Invermere for Vancouver to join the Queen’s Own Rifles. It was September, 1942. After several months of basic training, he was shipped overseas to jump into the chaos of the Second World War. Jack had served for 18 months when he took part in the biggest battle of the century.
On D-Day, Jack landed on the beaches of Normandy and his unit began to push their way inland against heavy resistance from the Germans. After five long days of vicious fighting to capture less than 15 kilometres of territory, Jack’s battle ended. He died near a little village called Beny-sur-Mer on June 11th, 1944.
Jack’s sister Eileen Tegart lived her whole life with the sharp memories of her brother in her mind. And as she grew and got married and raised her own babies and carved a life for herself, she never forgot her brother. She shared Jack’s story with the Pioneer in 2004, but that was not the first time she spoke of him. Her children and grandchildren know exactly who Uncle Jack was. Eileen would talk about him as they went about their days, sharing stories of growing up skating on Lake Windermere, or fishing in the summers until well after dark.
Kari Thompson is Eileen’s granddaughter (daughter of Jackie Brown). Kari recently took her family to Juno beach, where they visited their Great Uncle Jack’s gravesite. Kari said thanks to the Pioneer’s 2004 article, they were able to find more information about the infantry he served in, and visited the site of one of the first homes liberated in France on D-Day, now called Canada House.
Kari’s son is also named Jack, in honour of his great -great-uncle as well as his great-grandfather on his father’s side. The young Jack wrote an essay about Jack Docking, and when the family traveled to France, his choice of where they must visit was to the gravesite.
“We started at Juno Beach then went to Canada House, because that’s where his infantry landed,” shared Kari to the Pioneer. “We went to the cemetery. It was pretty moving, and a tie back generations.”
Donna Alston, Allen and Eileen’s eldest child, shares that her parents and her brother Randy in 1977 also visited the site where Jack was killed. Donna remembers her mother coming back from that trip, feeling mixed emotions from finally seeing the place her brother died.
“There was a feeling of relief in a way, and a lot of sadness: relief in that she’d been there and seen it and knew where it was … But I think in some ways, even through all the years he wasn’t there, I think when she saw his grave, it became very real for her.”
The Docking name died with Jack. But the memory lives on in the family. In downtown Invermere, right near the Cenotaph, a banner for Jack Docking proudly hangs so others can know of him too. Kari’s mother Jacqueline, better known as Jackie, knows the banner would have made her mother proud. Eileen passed away in 2009.
“My mom would be so happy,” Jackie said. “My mom talked about him all the time, and about how much she missed him.”
When Jackie heard about the banner project, she knew her mother would have wanted Jack to be one of the proudly-hanging pictures. Jackie has gone so far as to make arrangements for if the project continues in five years and she is gone, that another family member will ensure the fees are paid to have Uncle Jack’s banner continue to hang.
While none of Eileen’s children live in the area anymore, their connections here are still strong. There is a family cabin here, and each child says it feels like home to come back to the Valley.
Jack and Eileen’s father Percy Docking, an Englishman, was also a veteran, of both the Boer War and the First World War before he arrived in Invermere. And Allen Tegart’s brother also served in the Second World War. Allen was not able to go because his father needed him to work the ranch at home in Windermere.
Donna says she hopes we always remember the sacrifice of those who went to war.
“We wouldn’t have what we have if people like my uncle hadn’t gone,” she says. “Those of us who are left, we need to remember. Our country could be very different if people hadn’t been willing to go.”