Honorary Colonel Finestone was
born in Sacramento, California, USA on the 24th of July 1920. He began
his military career in the Canadian Officer Training Corp in the Active
Militia of Canada on the 8th of March 1937 where he served with the
McGill University COTC while qualifying as a Lieutenant in the Infantry
and Artillery, retiring with the rank of Company Sergeant-Major. 2nd
Lieutenant Finestone transferred to Camp Borden in January 1940 to the
Canadian Armoured Fighting Vehicle Training Centre where he completed
his armoured training in September 1941.On
the 11th of January 1941 Lieutenant Finestone transferred to Active
Duty when he joined the 9th Armoured Regiment (British Columbia Dragoons)
and served with the Regiment overseas in a variety of junior officer
appointments, including Battle Captain of an armoured squadron.
|Canadian infantry fighting
in Italian cities during WWII
1944, he was involved in heavy action during fierce resistance by the
enemy at Casino, the Moro River and Ortona on the Adriatic coast in
eastern Italy.In April and early May, as part of the British Eighth
Army, the 1st Canadian Corps was moved west from the Adriatic coast
to join in the US 5th Army’s struggle for Rome. Because, as in
WW1, the Germans had come to associate the presence of Canadians with
an impending offensive, the transfer had to be made in secret. Finestone
was among those Canadians moved west in secret. In the battle to free
Rome, Finestone led his tank detachments as the Battle Captain in B
Squadron, against the fiercely defended Hitler Line, located on the
north side of the Liri River, just before it was finally breached. He
was forced to move his planned point of attack to a second location
for crossing the Liri River.
|German 88 mm Flak artillery in
action during WWII.
On May 30th 1944, when returning
to his tank from reconnoitering the best place to cross against the
Hitler line, he was struck with almost the full force of an exploding
88 mm shell.
Captain Finestone was hospitalized from 25 September 1944 to 22 January
1945 returning to active duty with the Regiment on the 23rd of January
1945 where he continued to serve in a variety of appointments until
the end of World War II and his transfer to the Supplementary List on
the 8th of September 1945.
taking shelter from artillery shells, Gari River valley, May 22nd,
1944. Photo by Alexander M. Stirton
Captain Finestone couldn’t
praise the men of the medical corps and the stretcher bearers too much,
"They were right behind the front lines and often right on the
line or ahead of it if they were needed there and they have plasma and
drugs right with them. They don’t waste any time", he said.
"At 11 a.m., I was given plasma at a place at which, at 5:00 a.m.
was three miles ahead of our lines". After repatriation Captain
Finestone was treated at Queen Mary Veterans’ Hospital in Montreal
and was discharged from the army in September 1945. In recognition of
his distinguished and courageous wartime service, the government of
France decorated him with the Croix de Guerre.
staff treat wounded Canadian soldier on WWII battlefield.
Honourary Colonel Finestone returned
to the service of his Regiment, The British Columbia Dragoons, on the
16th of May 1990 when he was appointed as the Honourary Lieutenant-Colonel
of the Regiment, serving in this capacity until the 7th of November
1997. Upon completion of his service, Honourary Lieutenant-Colonel Finestone
was appointed as Honourary Colonel of the British Columbia Dragoons
on the 8th of November 1997 in which capacity he has served the Regiment
to 4 March, 2006.
|BCD Hon.Col Bernard J. Finestone
with a reporter at VE Day celebrations
with serving with his Regiment, Honorary Colonel Finestone has held
many other appointments including; Honourary President of the Royal
Canadian Armoured Corps Association (Calvary), Major and Commander of
the Fort St. Helen Garrison of the 78th Fraser Highlanders, Secretary
and Chairman of the Honourary Colonels of Canada, President of the Montreal
Port Council, Vice Chairman of the Montreal Port Authority, President
then Chairman of the Montreal Board of Trade, President and currently
Honourary President of the Jewish General Hospital, and founding Vice
President of the Combined Health Appeal. Throughout this busy schedule
of duties Honourary Colonel Finestone maintained a close tie to his
Alma Mata by remaining a member of the McGill COTC Military Cross Country
Ski Racing Team.
Colonel Finestone has during his career received many awards for his
contributions to country and community including, the Queen's Jubilee
Medal, the Croix Du Combattant De L'Europe, the Canadian Forces Decoration,
the Croix de Guerre (France) and the Canadian Efficiency Medal for wartime
service in Europe. In addition, Honourary Colonel Finestone was awarded
the 1993 Citation Award for Citizenship by the Government of Canada
and the Bronfman Medal from the Canadian Jewish Congress.
his long period of service as the Honourary Lieutenant- Colonel and
Honourary Colonel of the BCDs and especially while serving as the Chairmain
of the Honourary Colonels of Canada Association, he served ably in representing
the needs of Canada's Army Reserves during a time of major transformation
within the Canadian Army.
|CBC reporter James Cudmore interviews
Hon. Col Finestone during VE Day events.
Colonel Finestone is married to Ms Rita Shuchat and currently divides
his time between his residences resides in Montreal, PQ and Palm Desert,
CA. He has two sons and four grandchildren.