Born in Cumberland, British Columbia in 1926, Gordon Quan was the son of Chinatown merchants. When he was just five years old his father passed away. Gordon’s mother moved them to China to be closer with family. Four years later they returned to Canada, this time to live in Victoria, British Columbia.
As a teenager, Gordon had dreams of joining the Army. But as a Chinese-Canadian he was not allowed to serve in the military. When the Second World War broke out, and the war on Japan was declared, Canada and China became allies. This marked a pivotal turning point in Chinese Canadian history. The military’s policy of not allowing Chinese recruits was reversed through an amendment in National Resources Mobilization Act. So in 1944, Gordon enlisted and began three months of training at Maple Creek, Saskatchewan.
Not long after, Gordon transferred to the British Army and trained as a demolition agent with Force 136, a secret service branch. Training from the British Military included skills such as stalking, silent killing, demolition, jungle patrolling and survival, wireless operations, espionage, parachuting, interpretation, and silent swimming.
Following training he was sent to India and Burma to fight against the Japanese as a demolition expert. “My job was to go in there, blow it up,” said Quan. He noted that timing was so important, as well as knowing how to get in and how to get out.His first assignment in August of 1945 was on the west coast of India. Tasked with blowing up a refinery, they had a 50/50 chance of surviving. “We were basically a suicide squad.” But it was atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended the war, and within weeks Gordon was on his way home to Canada.
Discharged in 1946, Gordon received the Canadian Forces’ Decoration with two bars, the Elizabeth II Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, the 1939-1945 Medal, the Burma Star Medal and the Order of Military Merit of Canada.
In 1952, not wanting to leave his military career behind, Gordon re-enlisted as a reservist in the militia. He was a craftsman, and retired from the 11th Victoria Service Battalion as a regimental sergeant major.
In his civilian life, Gordon married Lily. They have three sons and two daughters. Outside of his militia work he trained as an auto mechanic which led to a job with the City of Victoria for 20 years.
At 95, Gordon is still heavily active in the Chinese-Canadian community and a member of the Royal Canadian Legion #7 Britannia Branch. He also participates in the Veterans Health Centre Day Program. The Centre is a partnership between Broadmead Care and Veterans Affairs Canada and provides health, social, and recreational services for veterans, like Gordon, living in the community. He attends two days a week and enjoys the activities and comradery he has with his fellow veterans. “A program like this is important, so people understand and don’t forget what we did during the war,” he said.
Like all Canadian veterans, Gordon gave up so much so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today, and now it’s our privilege to support them. You can help support veterans like Gordon to live in their own homes, and participate in Veterans Health Centre programs by making a donation today.