‘Tanks’ for the memories: Retired soldier donates maintenance manuals

The manuals will be preserved and digitized

 

CALGARY — As an army brat, Lisa Pearce remembers the manuals her father would drag along with the family, posting after posting, over his 30 years in the Canadian Forces.

Now the knowledge that Sgt. Lewis Pearce gathered during his military career has a new home.

His time in the Forces, before he retired in 1991, included a lengthy spell at CFB Borden where he became an instructor.

Pearce was with the Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and worked on military vehicles, including the Leopard 1 tank, which eventually would see action in Afghanistan.

Lisa Pearce said she and her brother Derek were at their parents home in Gander, Nfld., last year and found four of their father’s mechanics manuals in the garage. One was on artillery, another on recovery vehicles, a third covered tanks and the fourth was more of a general instructional guide.

With his blessing, they decided to donate them to the Ghost Squadron, volunteers who keep decommissioned military vehicles running at The Military Museums in Calgary.

“Like all military men, they’re pack rats. They take things from one base to the next, so we have a lot of military paraphernalia around the house, but these ones here we didn’t want to sit and gather dust,” said Pearce at a thank-you ceremony at the museum.

“Dad started teaching the Leopard in 1985 and so he started … at that time. He said he looked at the instructor manuals that were there, made corrections of the errors that were there and then started putting together this instructor manual,” Pearce said.

“It’s meant for anyone off the street who had never worked on a tank before.”

Keeping old military equipment operational is a struggle for the Ghost Squadron, which currently has several vehicles to repair, including two Leopard 1 tanks. A third is on the way.

“The level for this find — it’s in the platinum level. If you look at the periodic table of elements, this is ‘unobtainium’ and we’ve got it,” said group leader John Senior.

“When you hang your uniform up, you hang up all your smarts you gained during the service.”

For Scott Vanderveer, one of the few volunteers who worked as a military tech, it brings back good memories.

“It is basically getting right down to the brass tacks of the very basics of mechanics,” he said. “When they would bring the recruits into the school, and they would start teaching them, this is the book that would be used.

“When I went to Borden as a vehicle tech, I actually remember flipping through the different books that made this up.”

The manuals will be preserved and digitized for future generations.

Lewis Pearce, 74 and in ill health, took a moment away from a card game with his wife, Rita, to watched the ceremony on Facetime.

“My son saved those books and they were going to go in the garbage,” the elder Pearce said. “I was thinking about some place to send them or give them away and he came up with the idea.

“I’m happy that they’re saved and I’m happy that they’re going to a good cause.”

 

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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