REMEMBRANCE 2015. 2015/11/08.
On April 22 1915 the Canadian Corps of the B.E.F. along with the French were attacked by the Germans in an attempt to close the Ypres Salient in Belgium. This was the first time that gas (Chlorine) was used in warfare. The French Morrocan Colonial troops were the first to be exposed to this weapon of terror and understandably broke leaving the Canadian flank exposed. Two days later on 24 April it was the Canadians’ turn. Using urine and mud soaked handkerchiefs as improvised gas masks the Canadians held at a cost of 6,035 casualties including over 2,000 dead. Here in the mud of Flanders the Canadian Military reputation was born and over the next 45 months would grow earning them the title of “SHOCK TROOPS” and raising Canada to her rightful place in the family of Nations. (Battle of the Somme, 2nd Ypres)
Remembrance Day was originally Armistice Day proclaimed by King George V in April 1919. Its’ purpose to remember the 1,244,589 Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen from the British Empire that made the ultimate sacrifice on land, sea, and in the air. In Canada Armistice Day official became Remembrance Day at the 11th hour of the 11 day of 11th month (November) 1931. In the 4 years, 106 days from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918 Canada had 61,082 killed and 154,361 wounded soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Canada was a young nation in 1914 just 47 years old with a population of 7,800,000 of which 625,825 served in World War 1 and almost 10% of those who served paid the ultimate price. It has been 101 years since Europe went mad and dove headlong into the Hell of the Western Front. The War to end all Wars was just the prelude to WW II 21 years later when Germany smarting from the humiliation of losing WW I plunged Europe once again into the Charnel House of War and genocide. Canada was there again declaring war on Germany on 10 September 1939, one week after Britain had. The population in 1939 was roughly 11 million and by wars end in 1945 10% of the population had served in the military. The Canadian casualties were 42,042 dead and 54,414 wounded. In Bomber Command alone Canada lost 9,980 of its’ young men.
After WW II under the command of the United Nations Canada sent over 27,000 to fight in the so called “Police Action” (WAR) in Korea where 516 soldiers were lost. After Korea came years of “Peace Keeping” under the U.N. with 119 Canadians dying trying to maintain peace in different corners of the world. In this the 21st Century Canada became involved in the War in Afghanistan where 158 were killed. Since 1899 when Canada sent troops to help fight the 2nd Boer War through the 20th Century up to now, the 21st Century, Canada has always answered when called upon to help stop aggression. Although the number of dead might seem small in the greater scheme of things for us the numbers are great as even now we are a small nation in terms of population.
At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month each years since 1919 we honour and remember all those Canadian who served and especially all those young sons and daughters of Canada who made the supreme sacrifice so we could be free. Remembrance Day does not, as some will say, glorify war instead it reminds us of the horror and cost of that most cruel of all humankinds endeavours. All the veterans of WW I have passed away and each year those of WW II and Korea grow fewer in number and soon they too will be but memories of the sacrifice our nation was willing to make to keep peace and be free. As our National Anthem says we are the “True North. Strong and Free” because of their courage and commitment to keep us so. Remembrance Day is the day we publicly honour our heroes alive and dead but we should not just do so on a particular day. Lest We Forget means just that, never forget all the brave young men and women who paid for our freedom.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.