Spr Harry Dacre “Dacker” Thicke, MM (Ret’d)
We regret to announce the death of Sapper Harry Dacre “Dacker” Thicke, MM (Ret’d) on 11 March 2017 in the Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver BC at the age of 93 years.
Harry Dacre Thicke was born in New Liskeard ON, on the edge of Canada’s silver belt at the height of the 1920s silver rush. His family owned and operated a bakeshop and he moved to Kirkland Lake At an early age when gold was the new quarry. He grew up among miners and prospectors with an adventurous and wild spirit. He was known as ‘the bad boy of Kirkland Lake’ in his youth and did a short time in reform school, but was generally known as an honest and dependable boy. Harry left Kirkland Lake after reform school and ‘rode the rails’ for a while before coming home and taking a job as a labourer.
Harry enlisted in the Canadian Army in March 1940. He was not yet 16 years old and, a week later with the rest of the boys recruited in Kirkland Lake, he was in Camp Borden ON as a member of No. 2 Employment Platoon. The sergeant read the roll call book and declared there were already too many Harrys in the platoon and he would henceforth be called Dacker - a misspelling of his middle name.
Within weeks, Dacker and the rest of the Kirkland Lake platoon, through a series of missteps and mischief, found themselves on a train heading east. Most were still underage and none had had any training. They arrived in Halifax , were put on a ship headed for Bournemouth in England, and then arrived at the Canadian camp at Aldershot, southwest of London. None of the boys had travel papers nor any unit affiliation. They lived for almost a month scrounging and savaging through the camp until their situation has finally discovered in the chaos and resolved. Dacker was assigned to the 20th Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers and started his training.
The Company arrived in France in July 1944 and worked on route clearance and bridging through the Battle of Normandy, the closing of the Falaise Gap, crossing the Seine and onward into Belgium and Holland. In late September, they were assigned to Operation BERLIN (along with the 23rd Field Company, RCE and two Royal Engineer field companies) to evacuate the encircled British airborne from Arnhem under the noses of defending German Forces. For his role in the fight, Spr Thicke was awarded the Military Medal. Dacker was withdrawn from action in April 1945 and sent to the UK on his way home to Canada. He was 21 years old and had been in Europe for nearly five years.
After the war, like so many combat veterans, Dacker had a difficult time adjusting to civilian life. He worked hard but not always successfully. There were a series of failed business ventures and bankruptcies over his life. He was a single father of two and, despite his misfortunes, he kept his small family together. * He left Ontario in the early 70s and settled in Victoria BC where his children grew up and were educated. In his 60s, Dacker settled in a small fishing village south of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico where he stayed until his 87th year when he returned to Vancouver. He had written a number of books and short story collections.
* An article, “Dacker Thicke: A Life”, by Dacker's daughter’ Lori Thicke, provides an entertaining and detailed account of Dacker’s life.