George G. Blackburn

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George Blackburn, CM, MC
George G. Blackburn.jpg
Born George Gideon Blackburn
(1917-02-03)February 3, 1917
Wales, Ontario
Died November 15, 2006(2006-11-15) (aged 89)
Occupation World War II war veteran, playwright, writer
Nationality Canadian
Genre Non-fiction, historical non-fiction, creative non-fiction essay, literary criticism
Notable works The Guns of Normandy; The Guns of Victory; Where the Hell are the Guns?
Grace Fortington (m. 1942–2002)
Children Daughter Andrea of Tallahassee, sons Mark of Winnipeg and Ron of Ottawa: GRANDCHILDREN Kim Toronto, David Lanark, Nova Scotia, Aaron Winnipeg, Ben Winnipeg ; Maxine Ottawa, Great-Grandchildren: Victoria Toronto, Matthew Toronto, Thomas Winnipeg, Emily Winnipeg, Lochlan Lanark, Nova Scotia, Madelaine Lanark, Nova Scotia, Luke Winnipeg

George Gideon Blackburn, CM MC (February 3, 1917 – November 15, 2006) was a decorated Canadian veteran of World War II (Military Cross; French Legion of Honour), a playwright and award winning author. Born in Wales, Ontario, Blackburn worked as a newspaper reporter for the Ottawa Journal in Pembroke, Ontario.[1]

This is a copy of the obituary for George G. Blackburn that was sent to the newspapers announcing his passing: OBITUARY FOR GEORGE G. BLACKBURN

"Peacefully, in his sleep, at 11:11 a.m. November 15, 2006, in his 90th year at Ottawa ’s General Hospital where he’d been diagnosed with cancer. Predeceased by his wife of 60 years Grace Fortington, four years ago. Survived by three children, daughter Andrea of Tallahassee, Florida, his sons Mark of Winnipeg and Ron of Ottawa . George G. Blackburn is also survived by grandchildren Kim, David, Aaron, Ben, and Maxine, and by great-grandchildren Victoria, Matthew, Thomas, Emily, Lochlan, Madeleine and Luke.

A man of many talents, he suddenly found himself, late in life, with hundreds of new friends from around the world after authoring a World War II book trilogy, the first of which "Guns of Normandy," was winner ten years ago of the Ottawa Citizen Book of the Year Award (1996). The books provided a first hand account of Canadian soldiers in action but did not include details of how the author, as a young artillery officer, was awarded the Military Cross for helping save a key bridgehead at the Twente Canal in the Netherlands, on April 3 and 4, 1945. Blackburn's other World War II medals included 1939–1945 Star; France & Germany Star; Defence Medal; War Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal.

Late-in-life he was awarded the Order of Canada and the French Legion of Honour.

Blackburn's literary awards include the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction; the Ottawa Citizen Book of the Year Award and a Trillium Award jury citation that Guns of Normandy "May well contain the greatest Canadian memories of World War II."

Earlier awards included honours for plays and films of note.

After a pre-war stint as reporter for the Ottawa Journal in Pembroke, Captain George Blackburn returned from Europe to serve as Director of Information and Director of Fair Employment Practices, for the Federal Department of Labour. Starting in the 1950s he became producer of the longest-running radio show "Canada at Work", as well as an award-winning documentary film script writer, which films included topics on the Older Worker; Anti-Discrimination; a film starring Wayne & Schuster called "You Can Go a Long Way", encouraging teenagers to stay in high school rather than drop out and the country’s most successful government campaign, "Why Wait for Spring? Do It Now!" Winter Works Campaign, which revolutionized winter construction and employment during the winter months.

Born in 1917 in a farmhouse near Wales Ontario, a village which disappeared beneath the waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway, George Blackburn would later commemorate the ‘saga of the Seaway’ in his musical play "A Day to Remember" whose songs were among hundreds, for which he composed words and music. His musical was professionally performed for two summers, at a theatre of his own creation, near Upper Canada Village.

His last expressed wish was that "young people be made aware of the sacrifice made by (generations of) soldiers on behalf of Canadian freedom." Only weeks ago, he’d made his final, annual visit to Manitoba’s Camp Shilo – to address Canada’s young artillery officers.

On a personal note, George Blackburn never "talked the talk" of organized religion – though he believed in a creator God but he "walked the walk" never allowing anyone to 'pick up the tab' at any event he attended and providing a lifelong banquet for widows and others who could never repay him in kind. A great man, profoundly missed by those who survive him. A memorial service will be held at Pinecrest Cemetery, Saturday November 18 at 2 o’clock, 2006."

Military service[edit]

George Blackburn joined the Canadian Army in 1940, becoming a forward observation officer. He fought in the Battle of Normandy. Blackburn was awarded his Military Cross in 1944 for his role in defending the Twente Canal bridgehead in the Netherlands.

Blackburn returned to Ottawa after the war and found work as a journalist and with the Canadian Department of Labour as Director of Information as well as Director of Fair Employment Practices. He wrote a musical jingle, well known in Canada during the 1960s, Why Wait for Spring? Do It Now, that encouraged home owners to have home improvements done during winter. He was producer for a radio show, Canada at Work and also wrote a musical play, A Day to Remember, about the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, an event that permanently submerged his home town.[1]

Writing career[edit]

Blackburn wrote a trilogy of books based on his war-time experiences: The Guns of Normandy: A Soldier's Eye View, France 1944 The Guns of Victory: A Soldier's Eye View, Belgium, Holland, and Germany, 1944-45, and Where the Hell Are the Guns?: A Soldier's View of the Anxious Years, 1939–44. The Guns of Normandy received the "Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction" in 1996.[2] He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2001. He also received the French Legion of Honour in 2004 Légion d'honneur.

Blackburn died at the Ottawa General Hospital in 2006 where he was being treated for cancer.[1]


  1. ^ a b c George Blackburn - Obituary Ottawa Citizen, November 16–18, 2006, (retrieved 11/21/2012)
  2. ^ Wilfrid Laurier University 1996: George G. Blackburn, (retrieved 11/17/2012)

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