Private Esko Makela
Pte. Esko Makela was born on February 16, 1917, in Vaasa, Finland. He immigrated to Canada and found work as a tailor with a number of firms including the British Knit Co. and T. Eaton Co. He lived at 559 Norfolk Street North, Simcoe, Ontario and was a bandsman with the 25th (Norfolk) Field Brigade, Royal Canadian Artillery (Militia). Makela attempted to enlist in the Canadian Active Service Force in September of 1942 however he was not accepted due to his Finnish nationality. Determined to see combat, he persisted and was finally accepted into the Infantry on January 6, 1943. He was described as an aggressive, ambitious man, with high learning ability and keen to become a Paratrooper.
Three weeks later Makela was sent to No. 20 Canadian Army Basic Training Centre in Brantford followed by Advanced Training at A10 Canadian Infantry Training Center at Camp Borden. He was at #10 District Depot in Winnipeg when on July 10, 1943 his request for transfer to the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was approved. Less than two weeks later he embarked with the Battalion to the U.K. and on September 18 he became a qualified Parachutist at No. 1 Parachute Training School in Ringway. He subsequently became a qualified Marksman (Rifle & Bren).
Over the next 8 ½ months Makela continued to train with the Battalion in preparation for Operation Overlord, the codename for the invasion of Normandy. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, he parachuted into France as part of B Coy and fought with his comrades to successfully secure all objectives assigned to them. After nearly three months of bitter fighting, the Battalion returned to England to regroup and refit.
But the war was not over yet for Makela. He fought with the Battalion in the Ardennes Offensive, known as the Battle of the Bulge and parachuted into Germany on March 24, 1945, during Operation Varsity, the largest airborne operation in history. Makela survived the war returned to civilian life to pursue his career as a tailor. He married Irene Kuchar and continued to live in Simcoe until his passing on October 16, 1998. He and his wife are both resting peacefully at Oakwood Cemetery.
Bren Light Machine gun
This is a Bren Light Machine Gun, Private Makela would have used one similar to this one while serving overseas. This magazine-fed weapon system uses 303 calibre ammunition. It weighs 25 lbs with a firing rate of 500 rounds per minute with an effective range of 600 yards.