Remembering Our First World War Veterans
Ottawa - May 8, 2014
It was an honour for me to attend the First World War Ceremonies in France and Belgium last month.
As the morning fog withdrew from Vimy Ridge, a feeling of awe and wonder overtook us all as the full sight of the monument was revealed. But even more moving during the ceremony was the participation of a young Canadian singer from Newfoundland whose melodious voice echoed through music what all of us were feeling in our hearts.
Throughout the visit to various monuments and historic places in France and Belgium, it was hard to imagine and accept the death, destruction and grief this particular war brought to people around the world.
In Arras we visited the Wellington Quarries where 24,000 British Commonwealth soldiers were billeted underground while waiting to carry out a surprise attack on the German lines.
At Beaumont Hamel we saw the ridge where the Newfoundland Regiment was almost decimated in one day of fighting.
In Ypres at the Menin Gate Memorial we attended a simple but moving ceremony that has taken place every day since 1928 (except during the Second World War). Volunteers, commemorate the missing 50,000 soldiers, including 6,940 Canadians, whose names are inscribed in stone on the Gate`s magnificent vaulted walls.
Also in Ypres, we visited Essex Farms where LCol John McRae from the Canadian Army Medical Corps wrote the famous poem “In Flanders Fields”.
On occasion, our guides offered us some snippets of information, such as the possibility that both Hitler and Churchill were communications runners during World War One, and that these soldiers had the highest incidence of death because of the importance of their duties. Just imagine if their fate would have been different, what would have been the future of the world?
All of the sights we visited reflect on sacrifices made by Canadian families. The evidence of the impact of war on people can never be overestimated. There will always be a price to pay and a debt owed by the Government to ensure the well-being of those affected by conflicts.
With the passing of our last Veterans of the First World War, these defenders of our freedom and values are now all reunited as comrades-in-arms. We must never forget their legacy to us in helping to build Canada and make us the country that we are today.
Lest We Forget
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