Thomas John Andrews, the third son of five to Teddy and May Andrews was born on 30 December 1924 and grew up in Fort Erie Ontario. In those times it seemed no one went by their real name nick names seemed to be determined by your habits, state of your health, whether you were good, bad or ugly so to his friends at home and later to his wartime buddies Thomas Andrews would be known as “Snap Andrews” the reason for this particular name is unclear. One final alias since the modern army usually addressed soldiers by shortening their surname he became know later to many as Andy.
Andy’s early exposures to the Royal Canadian Legion would be from his father Teddy who was a First World War Veteran and very active in the local Legion, chairman of the poppy fund, formed a youth band in the early 1930’s which is still in existence today, as well as sports and other Legion activities so Andy who was always with his father would spend a lot of time at the Legion.
Andy would leave home at an early age and at sixteen was working with a mining project in northern Quebec. When he became of age he enlisted in the Canadian Army and went to war as did his two older brothers. His war experiences from the landing in Normandy through France, Belgium, The Netherlands and into Germany could be the subject of a very interesting book on “how it really was” as he had an incredible mind for details as to places he has been, things he has done and people he has met including events that took place during the war years.
After the war and his return to Canada Andy at some point decided to make the army his career and in 1951 would find himself back in post war Germany which was still trying to recover from the devastation of the war. Andy’s fluency in the German language resulted in many interesting stories of that time and the hardships of those who survived the war and their attempt to recover mostly from the loss of family members and friends as he said it seemed that the whole country was in transit every one was still looking for someone. German was not his only language ability as he has a command of Russian and French languages and as a matter of fact he could communicate in many other languages including their dialects it was quite amazing. Later in his career he would see another long tour in Germany. On completion of a distinguished army career he would retire in Halifax as a Chief Warrant Officer Forman of Works RCE. Retirement only meant taking off the uniform as he was contracted to work in the engineering department at Canadian Forces Base Lahr, Germany where he continued to work in his trade until fazed out of the work force after a couple of extensions beyond age in 1992 at age 68.
Being a Legionnaire has become a way of life for Andy in addition to the Royal Canadian Legion he was also a member of the Royal British Legion and without a doubt if there is a Legion in town Andy will be there and if there is no Legion in town then Andy will get one going. Prior to the realization that a Legion Branch could be formed in Europe Andy would form groups of veterans in the Lahr and Baden area and attend many ceremonies of Remembrance in addition Andy as a war veteran was in demand to guide unit Officers and Senior NCO’s battle field study groups and his input was outstanding and greatly appreciated to the success of these tours.
In 1979 the Dominion Vice President was approached by Andy and another Canadian ex-serviceman from Lahr , Germany when he was attending the annual Vimy Remembrance Ceremony in France. In effect it was to find out if the possibility existed that a Legion Branch could be started in Europe. As a result of this inquiry, Branch 001 in Söllingen Germany became the first Royal Canadian Legion Branch formed outside of North America. Branch 002 in Lahr closely followed and a visit from the Dominion President in July 1980 brought two charters to Germany for the beginning.
Although Andy lives in the Lahr area he became a founding member of Branch 001 in Sölligen and would serve the Branch in all the executive positions and did a term as president in the 1980’s. In 1989 Andy would make arrangements for a third Branch which was founded in Geilenkirchen, in North West Germany. The majority of the members in this Branch are from the Canadian Armed Forces serving with NATO AWACS Service or the Canadian Support Unit at the Niederheit Kaserne in Geilenkirchen. With three Branches now established in Germany we were officially granted the right to a Zone which began in May of 1990. Andy would be elected as the Zone Commander a position he would hold until October 2003 when his health would render him unable to carry on his duties.
In January of 2002 Andy would start a second Branch in the Lahr area, Branch 004 "Friends of Canada Branch" was formed in Lahr/Hugsweier but have since moved their clubhouse to a new location at the Lahr Airfield. In August 2003 through Andy’s dedication to the Legion cause Branch 005 was established appropriately named the "Liberation of the Netherlands Branch" and is located in the town of Lochem, The Netherlands. Following the formation of the Dutch Branch Dominion Command granted us the name change from Zone Germany to Zone Europe. Andy has also laid the ground work to form a Branch in Belgium. Although the potential exists to this point they are having difficulties in forming an executive and in the meantime Belgium members are assigned to other European Branches.
Prior to reforming into a Zone in 1990 Legion Branches had always been involved in Remembrance Ceremonies in Europe. This is clearly evident when you look at the activity record of the European Branches over the last 20 plus years. What is more incredible is that all of these ceremonies were organized, administered and attended by the Zone Commander, Thomas J Andrews.
Unfortunately there is a sad end to the dedication and leadership provided to the Royal Canadian Legion by Thomas J Andrews that resulted in the many accomplishments of Zone Europe over the years. On 12 October 2003 while attending the 450 Remembrance Ceremony with the Royal British Legion in Scheemda a small village east of Groningen in the north of the Netherlands near the German border Andy would suffer a stroke. The stroke would leave Andy basically paralyzed on the right side of his body and the most devastating of all was that he was unable to speak.
During the first three years following the stroke Andy did have some progress toward recovery. He regained his ability to comprehend everything that was spoken to him but his physical conditions remain the same and he was still unable to speak. In spite of that he remains in incredibly good spirit and enjoys visitors. The last two years was all down hill probably due to another stroke.
The Royal Canadian Legion in Europe will endeavor to carry on in his absents because we know of no other way to preserve his legacy. Andy is certainly missed around the Branches by all who had the pleasure of knowing him and particularly on our ceremonies.