Farewell to gentle giant Gilbert ‘Benny’ Hyde

10/11/10- May Jackson with Captain (retired) Gilbert John Hyde CD
10/11/10- May Jackson with Captain (retired) Gilbert John Hyde CD

A romance that endured war and decades of separation came to an end this month with the passing of Canadian Benny Hyde.

The former soldier died on February 3 aged 93 in hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, but on this side of the Atlantic his sweetheart May Jackson, 90, of Little Common must come to to terms with his death after a relationship that blossomed back in 1942, and survived both marrying other people.

Benny - real name Gilbert - was born on October 5 1920 in Moosejaw. He enlisted at the age of 18 and made the army his career until retiring in 1947.

He arrived in the UK just before Christmas 1939 - one of the first Canadians to do so - and took part in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. His regiment joined with the British 8th Army and the combined force fought is way up through Italy. Benny was awarded many medals for his efforts - the 1939/45 Africa Star, the Italy Star, Defence Medal, the Canadian Voluntary Service medal and clasp, the war medal 1939/45, and the Candadian forces decoration and cross.

He met May, in the ATS, when both were stationed at Hastings and at the Olympia dancehall on Hastings seafront. She remembers it was “absolutely love at first sight”.

“I thought he was gorgeous...and he was,” said May. “He was a big impressive man, and he was pretty dishy - a gentle giant.”

The pair began to see each other but Benny was then sent back home and was unable to return. Both married other partners and it wasn’t until eight years ago, when each was again single, that the romance began was rekindled with Benny flying to England to be with May and relish time together in Little Common.