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B.C. senior shocked to find family connection at French war grave

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CENTRAL SAANICH, B.C. -

When he first arrived at the Canadian War Cemetery near Juno Beach, Brad Palin was overwhelmed seeing more than 2,000 graves.

“It brings home what the loss of life was,” Brad says. “And it’s just one cemetery of many [in the area].”

When the tour guide found out where Brad was visiting from, he took him to the grave of a fallen solider from the same city, and started talking about the life of Roy Pattinson.

“It was bizarre to me,” Brad says, shocked to recognize so many details from the soldier's life before the Second World War.

It turns out that not only did Roy go to the same schools as Brad’s late uncle Peter Palin, they had lived around the corner from each other and were born in the same year.

“I remember saying at the grave site, ‘They had to know each other,’” Brad recalls.

That night, Brad started searching for information about Roy online, and found a black and white picture of him from back home, smiling in the centre of a group of boys on a beach.

Although no other names were mentioned, Brad had no doubt that the boy standing beside Roy was his Uncle Peter.

“I just had chills,” Brad says.

When Brad returned home, he delved into old family files he hadn’t opened in years, and found his Uncle Peter’s autograph book. Inside, he saw Roy’s signature.

The file also contained a condolence card from Roy’s family that was sent after his Uncle Peter died in a plane crash in England during the war.

Brad was inspired to start researching further.

He discovered even more pictures he’d never seen before. Along with shots of young Roy and Peter posing together, there were photos showing other members of the Pattinson family and the Palin family socializing with each other before the war.

“How can it be that we’ve made this connection halfway around the world to my family through a random grave in France?” Brad says, still shocked.

No matter the answer, there’s no question it’s inspired Brad to find out more about the uncle he never met, but who he’s named after. Brad is his middle name. His first name is actually Peter.

“So I’ve heard stories about him,” Brad says. “But seeing all this brings it all home.”

It’s why Brad is committed to trying to make contact with anyone from the Pattinson family, and find out as much information as he can about all the unnamed people posing in the pictures he discovered during his research, and mentioned in the letters contained in that family folder.

It’s why this Remembrance Day, along with his Uncle Peter Palin, he’ll pay tribute to Roy Pattinson.

“This will be more meaningful for me,” Brad says. “Because I have a connection to these people.

Because beyond so many war cemeteries, honouring too many fallen soldiers, there are very real people who chose to leave behind lives filled with friends and family, to make the ultimate sacrifice.

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