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Peacekeeper Eugene Bellows proud of contributions while stationed at Suez Canal

Eugene Bellows never saw eye to eye with his teacher in the four-room school on Country Road in Corner Brook.

Eugene Bellows talks about his experience as a peacekeeper during the Suez Crisis of 1956 during a reception Friday commemorating the 60th anniversary of the first United Nations Peacekeeping Operation.

Bellows had a great fondness for trout fishing when he was a youth and he would play hookie from school from time to time.

After skipping class one Monday to go fishing, Bellows knew he was in hot water when he returned to school for a geography class.

His teacher posed a question to the class: How far is it from the Straits of Gilbraltar to the Suez Canal? The teacher asked Bellows, to which he replied that he didn’t know.

The teacher asked why not and he responded: “I have never been there before”.

This brought a chuckle from his classmates, but his teacher responded by telling Bellows to write the answer on the blackboard 500 times.

Two and a half years later, Bellows would be an 18-year-old Canadian peacekeeper travelling on a ship through Gilbraltar when one of his fellow peacekeepers asked him if he knew how far it was from Gilbraltar to the Suez Canal. Bellows was quick with the tongue.

"It’s 2,000 miles,” he said, much to astonishment of his new friends. “Newfoundlanders are really keen on geography.”

Bellows shared his story of spending one year as a peacekeeper as a signalman for the 1st Canadian Contingent United Nations Expeditionary Force sent overseas as part of the first UN Peacekeeping Operation — The Suez Crisis of 1956.

He was the guest speaker for a reception Friday at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 13 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first UN Peacekeeping Operation.

Bellows was a soldier stationed in Camp Borden when the call went out for peacekeepers to head to the Middle East. He was eager to go. He said he was tired of Borden.

It was an experience he will always remember and he looks back on it years later as interesting time in his young life at the time.

“You know when you’re 18 you’re looking for adventure and you want to get out there and do something,” he said.

They had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they went. They only knew about throwing grenades and firing rifles, and really not sure what was expected of a peacekeeper.

He quickly found that the focus was on helping the people and making them realize you’re a friend and not an enemy. He believes his group was able to do that with success.

“They were waiting for somebody to come. They needed a friend and we were greeted very warmly,” he said.

He will never forget the poverty he saw first-hand and certainly some of the images he saw are still fresh in his mind.

There was peace in the area for 10 years so he took comfort knowing he played a small role in helping turn around the climate. But the fighting still continues today and that bothers him.

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