COVER

‘A casualty of Croatia’

BARBARA WICKENS March 28 1994
COVER

‘A casualty of Croatia’

BARBARA WICKENS March 28 1994

‘A casualty of Croatia’

COVER

BARBARA WICKENS

On Sept 12, Paul Delmore, a 26-year-old corporal in the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, took his shotgun— a personal belonging, not military issue—and killed himself. He lived alone off-base, and his death went unnoticed until he did not show up for duty at Winnipeg’s Kapyong Barracks the next day. The military buried him with full honors, but his death still haunts others. His mother, Margaret Delmore, a Toronto accounting clerk,

said she has been unable to return to work. “I just can’t concentrate,” she explained. Instead, she is left to ponder countless questions: What should she do with Paul’s belongings, including the stacks of books he loved to read? Should she stay in the neighborhood she has called home since she and her son moved from England in 1973, or should she move away from all the painful memories? Most of all, did her son kill himself as a result of his traumatic experiences as a peacekeeper in Croatia? His mother has no doubt. “He was a casualty of Croatia,” she says.

In the note he left for his mother just before his suicide, Paul Delmore blamed his time in the former

Yugoslavia. “He said the reason he had done it was because of Croatia and the hatred and hostility of the people,” says Margaret Delmore. “His life had become a nightmare and he just wanted peace.” He had been stationed there from October, 1992, to April, 1993. Before that, says his mother, Paul Delmore had always been friendly and outgoing, with no history of mental illness. But when he visited her for three weeks in July, 1993, he was very withdrawn.

Although the military launched an investigation, Delmore said she has never been given an official explanation for her son’s death. (She has applied under the Privacy Act to National Defence in Ottawa for the results of the investigation; a reply dated March 4 said that there could be a six-week delay in meeting her request.)

Croatia was not Paul Delmore’s first overseas posting. He had also served in Germany and Cyprus, and had enjoyed those experiences. But in phone calls home from Croatia, he told his mother that he hated the country. Far more devastating than the physical danger from land mines and booby traps, she says, was the reaction of local residents. Unlike Cyprus, where both Turks and Greeks welcomed the peacekeepers, Paul told her the Croatians wanted them to get out. “People here don’t understand that those people hate the Canadian troops,” she said. ‘Women and children were spitting in their faces. He didn’t think that they were prepared for that.”

Because of the hostility of the people, she said, he began to take care of stray cats and dogs. “That was my last Christmas present to Paul—a big box of medicine, food and toys for the animals,” she added. He found homes for many strays, she said, except for a dog he had found in Serbian territory. No Croat would take it in. “He complained that that was their mentality,” Delmore said.

She remains bitter that Paul and his comrades were not better prepared— and that they were not properly debriefed upon their return. “There was no counselling,” Delmore said. Before returning to Canada, medical officers asked Paul’s entire battalion whether they had any problems. In such a setting, she said, nobody would admit anything in front of his comrades. Added the grieving mother: “So the reaction was, ‘Oh well, everybody’s OK’ And that was it.”

BARBARA WICKENS