TRURO – Truro and Colchester has lost a fine man.
Herb Peppard, who served with the First Special Service Force, passed away June 12 with his family by his side. He was just shy of his 99th birthday.
Peppard was born and raised in Truro, spending most of his years in the home his family shared on Alice Street. He remained in the home as long as he could, but an injury from a fall saw the World War II veteran spend his remaining years at Camp Hill in Halifax.
The veteran had a love of writing, singing, poetry, and especially his family – his late wife, Greta, and their three children – Herbie, Lark, and Rosalee – as well as numerous grandchildren.
Born in 1920, Peppard was in his early 20’s when he joined to serve his country. At the age of 22, he volunteered for the First Canadian Parachute Battalion and was a member of the First Special Service Force, also known as the Devil’s Brigade, a force combining members from Canada and the United States.
Members of the Devil’s Brigade were trained in hand-to-hand combat, parachuting, rock climbing, demolition, and mountain warfare. From 1942 to 1944, they fought in Italy and France.
He was awarded the Silver Star in 1944, one of America’s highest military honours. In 2015, the United States congress honoured the members of the Devil’s Brigade with the highest civilian honour congress can grant – the Congressional Gold Medal.
Peppard was wounded in action on May 29, 1944, a day he often wrote about in his numerous stories.
“We were on the Anzio Beach Head in Italy. Our job was to help liberate Rome from the Germans. We had just passed the village of Velletri and our commanding officer figured we were about 20 miles from the Eternal City – Rome!” he wrote in his recollection of the day he received the Congressional Gold Medal.
“However, there was one German sniper who was determined that I would not be in the celebration of the liberation of Rome. So, he lined up his sights and fired.
“I felt a terrible smash on my right thigh. It didn’t hurt; it just seemed to numb my leg entirely. George Wright, a comrade of mine, came to help me, but he was shot in the stomach!
“You may wonder why I have so much fondness for this German sniper who shot me. The thing is, I realized how lethal this shot could have been.
“If he’d been a better shot, he could have hit me in the head or in the heart. Then my life would have ended instantly! I’d have no future after that.”
While still in the force, Peppard met Greta MacPhee in the summer of 1943. They married three years later.
The couple’s first child, Herbie, was born a year later, with Lark arriving two-and-a-half years following.
Greta contracted polio in 1951 and remained in hospital for close to a year before coming home. Paralyzed from the waist up, Greta and Peppard welcomed their third child, Rosalee.
Following his career with the military, Peppard turned to being an electrician, working in the United States and in Nova Scotia.
Following the war, Peppard started bodybuilding for his health, strength, and fitness. He was 54 when he competed for the first time, and aged 63 and 68 when he won the titles of Mr. Master Nova Scotia.
Peppard also joined the local Toastmasters club, speaking in front of an audience of 2,000 for the first time. He continued with Toastmasters for a few years, even winning a provincial title.
He was in his 70’s when he parachuted out of a plane for the first time since being in the forces.
Peppard was 72 when Greta passed away in 1992, after being married for 46 years. The couple’s wedding photo remained in a frame on his wall in his room at Camp Hill, his wedding band still on his finger.
No funeral arrangements have been announced at this time.