Joseph-Amable Dubé was one of 27 children growing up near Montréal at the end of the Great Depression. His family was struggling to get by and his dad was working only one day a week.
So, as Canada was being pulled into the Second World War, he decided to enlist.
At 14 years old he was too young to serve, but determined to serve, so he managed to alter his baptism certificate with some blotting paper. Before he knew it, he was a member of the Royal 22nd Regiment — the famed Van Doos — at Valcartier.
He trained for two years then crossed the Atlantic by sea from Halifax in 1942. He was first sent to Buckingham Palace to serve as a guard and recalled seeing the princess who would later become Queen Elizabeth II during his three-month posting there. His next posting was to Algeria, where he was part of the allied victory against the German army.
In September 1943, he was deployed to Italy to participate in the Battle of Monte Cassino during the Italian Campaign. It was a victory for the allied forces, but it came at great cost. There were more than 54,000 allied casualties in the fight for the abbey near Rome, a strategic hilltop position.
Joseph-Amable Dubé, then 93, proudly wears the decorations recognizing his many acts of bravery and service. (Photo credit: Veterans Affairs Canada)
Due to his short stature and young age, Pte. Dubé earned the nickname “ti-cul” from his comrades. He fought for 24 days at Monte Cassino and witnessed his brothers get crushed by a massive 12-foot wall. He was ordered to help retrieve the injured and killed men with no tools — just his rifle. He used it to lift the rubble off the men.
German soldiers would hide in houses throughout the village; Dubé went door-to-door to find them.
After 18 months of fighting in Italy, German gunfire pierced his left shoulder. He survived, but some of his brothers in arms never made it home.
After the war, he was personally thanked by Queen Elizabeth II before returning home to Montréal.
He would go back to Italy to mark the 75th anniversary of the Italian Campaign.
Pte. Dubé meets with members of the Royal 22nd Regiment in Italy. (Photo credit: Veterans Affairs Canada)
Senator Pierre J. Dalphond
“What’s remarkable is that Mr. Dubé’s service to his country didn’t end in Italy — he went on to serve with the Canadian peacekeepers in the Korean War in 1951 and stayed there until 1954,” Quebec Senator Pierre J. Dalphond said.
“He came close to dying when a stray bullet shot past him, not knowing where it came from.”
As a Quebecer with strong ties to Montréal, Senator Dalphond is proud to honour Pte. Dubé, 94, who brought honour to his family and to his region.
“He might have been called ‘ti-cul’ by his comrades on the front lines, but to all Canadians he is nothing short of a giant.”