Friday, November 11, 2005


If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In Flanders Fields -- John McCrae

Today was the first Remembrance Day on which there were no veterans of World War I in attendance at our national ceremony in Ottawa. The last survivor living in the Ottawa area passed away earlier this year. The Armistice that ended the Great War went into effect 87 years ago today, meaning that even the worst abuses of "boy soldiers" (whether enrolled at the proper rank of Boy or slipped into the regular ranks) can leave us with no veterans of that war younger than ninety-six.

(Yes, folks, there were uniformed people in the world's militaries as young as nine years old. An overgrown 13-year-old could find his way into the infantry if he was determined to do so, and there were Boys used as buglers, drummers and messengers. Boys were supposed to be thirteen, but then I was supposed to be thirteen when I joined the cadet corps too. I was only two and a half years short of that. The only real difference is that nobody was shelling the drill hall when I was a cadet.)

In a lot of ways, World War I was Canada's war of independance. While we legally shed our colonial status in 1867, we were still very much in the war for King and Empire. At the beginning of the war, Canadian troops were treated as just another element of the British army, and would not have operated in consolidated Canadian units at all were it not for the "chum brigade" philosophy. By the end of the war, Canadian troops under Canadian commanders at Ypres and the Somme, at Vimy Ridge, at Amiens, at Passchendael and Cambrai, had won Canada a new status as a fierce, strong, capable and proud people worthy of respect. Our progress from colony to country was paid for with the blood of a quarter million casualties, with the lives of 66,655 young men.

Nearly all of those who came home from the Great War are gone now. Let none of them ever be forgotten.


STAG said...

When the allies invaded France in June of '44, the Canadians took the left flank, the Poles and British took the middle, and the Americans took the right flank, so that they could hook up with their buddies coming up from the south. The left flank was the coast. As you remember, the coast was heavily defended, and rolling up the entire heavily defended coastline was a bitch. When the Brits took Antwerp, the Canadians had to secure the banks of the Scheldt river.
The battle of the Scheldt is the great unknown battle of WWII. The more you read about it, the more you realize that those other actions...Battle of the Bulge, Market-Garden, the Po River, which happened about the same time were a walk in the park compared to the flooded fields of the Southern Holland.
My uncle (the one I was named after) died in the lead up to that battle.

Anonymous said...

I leanred a bit about the battle of Paschendale through the music of Iron Maiden (Yeah, heavy metal can have intelligent lyrics). I didn't know Canadians were involved, but the song makes it clear that very youg boys were enrolled and never came back from that war.

I think it's a shame now that our kids (well, my oldest one) are not told about these stories. War has become something you watch on TV and that you don't care about, thinking it doesn't affect you. I think that when my daughter gets her driver's licence and pays for her gas, she will realize that what happens elsewhere, even very far away, will have effects across the globe.

"They say if you're not aware of history, You're doomed to repeat it
" - Triumph, Never Say Never (yet another Metal band, and Canadian too!)

Benoit Dubuc

STAG said...

Stan! I uploaded a picture of one of your old Sea King Helicopters on my blog site! If you look closely, you can SEE the cracks!