Hometown Hero – Harold “Harry” Lovelace (1905-1992)

From: Parks Canada

Backgrounder

Known as “Harry” to everyone, he became a legendary auto mechanic in nearby St. Stephen where he wed Thelma Kennedy to start a marriage that would last 60 years.

Harry tried enrolling many times when the Second World War broke out in 1939. Before his first attempt, his wife discouraged him since she was expecting their second child and had a toddler in tow. The second time Lovelace was turned away. Luckily, the third time was the charm. In 1941, he enlisted in the Corps of the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME). He went overseas to eventually become senior NCO (Staff-Sergeant) in charge of 800 troops at 1 Canadian Base Workshop in Bordon, England.

Mentioned in Dispatches as a “mechanical genius”, Lovelace invented many devices that improved the performance of fighting vehicles while reducing the time to repair them. He repurposed old or surplus tanks to become self-propelled guns, personnel carriers and armoured recovery vehicle (like a big tow-truck, known as an ARV). He also redesigned flamethrowers on tanks to significantly extend their effectiveness and reach. During the Battle of Normandy, Lovelace led a team of technicians to repair Allied tanks disabled in the field and return them to action.

That record of achievement led to his receiving in 1945, from The King, the rare British Empire Medal (BEM). Staff Sergeant Lovelace never attached much importance to his medal, simply saying he got it “for running a repair workshop in England”. Through time, many of Lovelace’s innovations became standard in the automobile industry and are still present in cars and trucks. He was awarded patents on many of these, but they were deemed post-war to belong to The Crown and eventually lapsed to enter public domain.

After demobilization, Lovelace started a new life with his family as a mechanic in the pulp and paper industry in Kenogami, Quebec, where he and Thelma raised their three sons (Bill, Pete and Gord). Harry brought the same skills to that job and rose to become his company’s Director of Operations by the time he retired in 1972.

In 2015, the Canadian Army named a Leopard 2 armoured recovery vehicle “Lovelace” in his honour. His story and medal are part of the RCEME museum at CFB Kingston in Ontario. In 2018, the RCEME unit of 3rd Canadian Division held a dedication ceremony in the presence of the Lovelace family at CFB Edmonton.

Harry was not the only one to create posthumous headlines in his marriage. In 2018, Thelma was recognized by researchers to be the last known person to hear Amelia Earhart’s pleas for help over shortwave radio in July 1937 before the famous pilot perished in the South Pacific.

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