Sgt John Peter Schlathau

John Peter Schlathau was born in Gleisdorf, Austria on June 2, 1920. His father immigrated to Canada in 1923 and was joined by the family in 1928, where they settled in Richmond, Saskatchewan. Within six months, Schlathau had learned English and joined Scouts Canada. The skills that he acquired in this organization enabled him to save his sister Joan who had a mishap and almost drowned in the North Saskatchewan River. Decades later on a family outing to Sauble Beach, Ontario, he saved the lives of his sister-in-law, a non-swimmer, who had run into the lake to assist his drowning son Martin.

In 1930 the family moved to Medicine Hat, Alberta. He again joined the Scouts and in 1936 was awarded the Medal for top Scout in Alberta. In the same year he joined the South Alberta Regiment and served until the end of 1937. From 1938 to 1940 worked in Weston, Ontario at the A.W. Robinson Company, where he was paid sixty cents an hour.

In 1941, he re-enlisted in the Army and after completing basic training he received a directive letter stating that as he was born in Austria, he would be unable to serve overseas. He was transferred to the Signal Corps but requested a transfer to the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. Upon approval he proceeded to Fort Benning, Georgia, U.S.A. on December 17, 1942. He completed the Parachute and Packing Course on June 16, 1943 and certified as Marksman on March 30, 1945 which entitled him to wear the Crossed Rifles Badge.

“Slats” as his fellow soldiers called him, instructed men at the Canadian Parachute Training Centre (CPTC) at Camp Shilo, Manitoba until November 30, 1945. He also served six months with the Regimental Police. On April 24, 1946 Slats was promoted to Sergeant. He was attached to the Queen's York Rangers and served as a course instructor at Camp Borden and Camp Meaford until he retired from the Army in 1947.

Slats exchanged vows with his bride Georgette in 1944. She would bear him seven children, five daughters and two sons. His post-war civilian career began with the John T. Hepburn Company in Toronto. He started in the Core Room and gained experience in all aspects of a grey-iron foundry. In 1951 he began his sales career with Hepburn and by 1956 was Sales Manager for the Foundry Division and the Machine Shop. He held this position until his retirement in 1985.

During his retirement, Slats travelled, spent time fishing which was his life-time passion and started a new hobby, bird watching. Georgette died in 1986; he remarried in 1988 and continued to live in Toronto until his death in April of 2011. Slats was extremely reluctant to answer questions from his children concerning his service during his Army career, but his pride in being a member of Canada's First Parachute Battalion was expressed in other ways. His Battle Dress always hung in his closet, the red beret was worn whenever yard work was done and a statue of a paratrooper in full regalia was prominently displayed on his bedroom dresser.

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John Schlathau and his bride Georgette in 1944. Courtesy of the Schlathau family.
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Another picture of John Schlathau and his bride Georgette in 1944. Courtesy of the Schlathau family.
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Sgt Schlathau in the group picture. Courtesy of the Schlathau family.
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Sgt Schlathau wore this uniform and private purchase beret during his was time service.

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Uniform and private purchase beret (three-quarter view).

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Uniform and private purchase beret (side view).

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Sgt Schlathau - Identification card, Parachute Badge entitlement card, dog tags and other items.

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Lee Enfield Rifle

Sgt Schlathau was entitled to wear the Marksman badge, known as crossed rifles to many.  The rifle shown here is what he would have become proficient in shooting achieving a score high enough to earn the Marksman badge.  It’s a Lee Enfield 303 bolt action rifle with iron sights. You can read more about this rifle in the Equipment section of this website.