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Veteran musician tried to lift spirit of the troops

By Don Fennell

Published 4:13 PDT, Fri November 1, 2019

As a musician during the Second World War, Bud Kellett tried his best to lift the troops’ spirits.

But it didn’t excuse him from experiencing—first hand—the horrors of battle.

In his early 20s, Kellett and a colleague left their navy base near Glasgow to go down to London for a couple of days of recordings. While walking casually along a sidewalk looking for a pub, disaster struck.

“We were walking along, minding our own business, when suddenly we (awoke) down on the ground and not knowing what had happened,” he said.

While they suffered concussions, the entire city block that had surrounded them had vanished. A German missile, whose speed exceeded the sound barrier, had reduced it to rubble.

“I can still picture it. It was really frightening,” says Kellett, noting you could see the aircraft coming over the English Channel but not hear them.

Living at The Maple Residences in Steveston, Kellett is an avid reader and still sounding sharp at the age of 98.

He was just 18 years old when the war broke out in 1939. At 21, he enlisted in the Canadian Navy and did five weeks of basic training in Comox with 50 men he’d never met before. They were all soon to leave for England for commando training.

Kellett, meanwhile, spent another two years on the West Coast before shipping out to Europe where he spent the duration of the war. During that time, the clarinet player was among 50 top musicians to represent the navy, tying to help keep up the morale of the troops.

Discharged in 1945, Kellett returned home upon which he joined the Vancouver Fire Department. While that became his main profession, he continued to play the clarinet with some of the biggest names in West Coast music—Dal Richards among them.

As Remembrance Day, Nov. 11, nears, Kellett reflects on its importance.

“I’m encouraged at least about the last number of years and the number of people attending the ceremonies,” he says. “I hope the attendance continues for if it wasn’t for the many men and women who served, it would be an entirely different world than it is today.”

That said, Kellett says the world remains chaotic.

“I think the world, in my humble opinion, is so confused today,” he says. “The Second World War was supposed to end all wars, but when we look back war has never stopped. There doesn’t seem to be any unity (among the nations). I don’t we take it seriously enough. I think we let the important things (like world peace) slide by.”

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