Saturday, February 22, 2020

21 Gun Salute

21 Gun Salute

Every year for the last 100 years, we take the time to remember our war dead, starting with those who gave their lives in WWI (The Great War), WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the list goes on and on.  We have been involved not only in various wars to fight for the freedom of people around this home we call Earth, but have also contributed to Peacekeeping missions in volatile areas overseas, where soldiers have put their lives on the line, some being injured, some coming home with PTSD and too many shipped home in a coffin to take their final ride to their resting place.

In Honoured Memory

In Honoured Memory of Those Who Died in WWI and WWII

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 1918, the Great War came to an end.  The war to end all wars was finally over after 4 years of mostly trench fighting, where men were subjected to horrible things in order to ensure that Canada and other countries remained free of oppression.  We take a moment to bow our heads and remember the men and women, the Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and their support staff who gave their lives during this time.  Close to 61,000 Canadians died and another 172,000 were wounded in this war.  “We Will Remember Them.”

WWI Soldeir on Guard Duty

WWI Soldier on Guard Duty Patrolling the Perimeter at Camp Hughes in Manitoba

During WWI there were many training centres set up across Canada to prepare the troops for battle.  One of these was Camp Hughes, close to Shilo, Manitoba.  The soldiers learned how to fight in trenches, that were over 7 feet high and often in conditions that would simulate what they would encounter once they arrive overseas and sent to the front lines.  Camp Hughes still remains as a memory of what once was, and although the buildings have long since been removed, some of the trenches are there and the public is welcome to do a self-guided tour of this area or once a year in the Fall, attend Camp Hughes Heritage Days and see the reenactment of what it was like during this time.

Camp Hughes Cemetery

Camp Hughes Cemetery

As well as being able to see what it was like to train as a soldier during WWI, the Cemetery at Camp Hughes remains in place.  Although it is a small cemetery, it is still an important one as it honours those wo served and died for King and Country in the First Great War, from 1914 – 1918.  I spent some time in this special place recently, and did some thinking about what all this means to me personally.  I will talk about this in more detail as you read further.

Leo Fierce - RCN WWII

Leo Fierce, Royal Canadian Navy, WWII

My Father was a WWII Veteran who entered the war during the last two years.  He was 18 when he joined and 20 when the war ended, and he was one of the lucky ones to return home.  He died in 1969 after a lengthy battle with cancer, and was a man who I will always look up to and keep in my heart, not only as my Dad, but as someone who joined the military during a time of war.  I too am a Veteran, but not a war Veteran, as I joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1970 when I was 17, and spent a few years training to defend my country and any others I might be called upon to serve.  Being a Veteran of a peacetime era is not the same as that of a wartime era, but there is still a commitment to fulfill and as others have done, to give your life for freedom and democracy, as those before us have done.  I had friends and fellow soldiers who died in peacekeeping missions and have seen some things during my time with the military that no man man should ever have to see.

Cross of Sacrafice at Brookside Cemetery in Memory of WWI - the Great War

Cross of Sacrifice in the Teardrop Section of Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg

Brookside Cemetery is home to one of the largest and oldest municipal Military Field of Honour in Canada. More than 10,000 Veterans, Service men, Service women and their families have been interred here since 1915.  There are over 140 war dead in this "Teardrop" Plot which was established in 1915 by the Manitoba Chapter of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE). The IODE had petitioned the City of Winnipeg to set aside a section of the cemetery for the interment of Veterans and the group was subsequently given responsibility to assist families in the arrangement and funding of Veterans funerals, to provide foot markers and conduct plot maintenance.  All graves of all war dead are now taken care of by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  The Cross of Sacrifice within this plot and the nearby Stone of Remembrance are also the responsibility of the Commission.

Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget!

Lest We Forget is another war memorial in Brookside Cemetery that honours those who gave their lives in wars, peacekeeping missions, police actions and any others who served Canada as part of it’s military force.  This memorial is a raised cross, with both the Canadian and Manitoba Flags flying on either side of it, and has a Poppy engraved in Marble on a pedestal in front of it.  There are also a number of Veterans names engraved on all sides of the cross with some bearing poppies that friends and family members have placed there.

Brookside Cemetery Veterans Panorama
Brookside Cemetery Veterans Field of Honour Panorama

I spend a good deal of time photographing the Veterans Field of Honour at Brookside Cemetery this past week, and it gave me time to reflect on my own time spent with the Canadian Armed Forces.  I joined the Forces in 1970, but not really knowing at the time what I wanted in life and thought that this would give me some guidance and at the same time allow me to serve my country.  I was younger than most and had to have my Mother’s consent in order to join.  I spent time training, first in basic training in Nova Scotia, and then in Infantry Skills based out of Workpoint Barracks in Equimalt, BC.  I soon joined the Drum and Bugle Corp, which was also the Armored Defense Platoon during training exercises.  I learned many different skills while in the military, some of which I didn’t really grow into until later in my life, long after I was out of the military.  I will always fondly remember my time as a soldier and would have given my life for my country without thinking about this, had I been called to do so.

Minto Armories

Minto Armories in Winnipeg

Regardless of whether it is peacetime or wartime, Canada will always have a military force, in the form of a Regular Armed Force and Reserves, Militia and Cadets who will train to protect our country and the freedom and rights of other across the globe.  Minto Armories is home of the 38 Canadian Brigade Group, which includes The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, 17 Service Battalion, 17 Field Ambulance, 38 Signal Regiment and 13 Military Police Platoon.  On Remembrance Day, November 11th, each of these units will take part in a ceremony honouring our war dead.  I have participated in this ceremony in the past and may again in the future, but this year I will make sure to remember everyone who has gone before me in order that I can live in freedom.

Poppy Engraved in Marble

A Poppy Engraved in Marble

The Poppy has become the symbol of Remembrance Day, with millions of these distributed and worn on our coats, shirts and uniforms during the first few weeks of November each year.  But how did the poppy get to be this symbol we have today?  Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae lost a friend and former student who had been killed by a German bomb when he wrote the poem In Flanders Fields, on May 3, 1915 during the 2nd Battle of Ypres, Belgium.

The World’s Most Famous WAR MEMORIAL POEM
By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Purple Poppy

Purple Poppy in Remembrance of Animals Lost in Service

The first Murphy’s Army Purple Poppy Campaign was launched in 2016 to encourage members of the public to come together to pay tribute to the many animals lost in Service, and to those who Serve us today.  Research had shown that although the traditional red poppy was well known, the significance of the purple poppy – to remember the animals – was less so.  Hopefully the efforts over the years have changed that as many more purple poppies are now being worn with pride.  This campaign was started in Great Britain and has slowly been gathering those who want to also remember the animals.  I personally will be ordering a Purple Poppy from their website, to wear along with my Red Poppy for future Remembrance Days.  You can find them at Purple Poppy Campaign

Their Name Liveth For Evermore
Their Name Liveth For Evermore

This photo of one of the memorials at Brookside Cemetery speaks volumes and there is nothing more to be said other than “We Will Remember Them” 

I hope that each and every one of you takes the time to reflect on what these brave men and women, each heroes in their own right, sacrificed for all of us.  We don’t ever want to forget why and we don’t ever want to have to go to war again.  Teach your children so that they can teach their children and share your family history from each of the world wars along with other wars that Canada has taken part in.  Go out and find a Remembrance Day Service near to you, rather than stay home because it’s too cold.  Just think of how cold it was for those who fought in each war, cold to the bone and not able to find the warmth of a comfortable home like we have today.  Be proud of who they were, so you can be proud of who you are in their memory.

Until next time…