100 Years – In Remembrance

This is my 3rd and final post this week with a Remembrance Day theme.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that this is the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day marking the end of World War I.

For a war that was so long ago, The Great War still plays heavily on the psyche of Canadians.  This was not a war Canada chose to enter.  At the time, our foreign affairs were dictated from England and when she declared war on Germany, the entire Commonwealth was dragged into it as well.

This year, special ceremonies have been occurring all week to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.  These ceremonies will culminate tomorrow on Remembrance Day.

One of those ceremonies this week really touched me.  It was held at a Toronto-based school called St Basil-the Great.

 

Remembrance Day 10

The students at St Basil planted hundreds and hundreds of small flags in front of the school in honour of those who died in service during World War I.

Remembrance Day 4

On each of those flags was the name of a Toronto-area resident who died in action during this war – one of the 60,000 Canadian casualties.

Remembrance Day 9

The weather this week has been miserably wet with blustery winds. I half-expected to find that the majority of flags would have been blown away.  While many were missing, it was heartwarming to see that the vast majority were still there.

Remembrance Day 2Even where flags were missing, the tributes were still attached.  They even included remembrances of those who died in service in a non-fighting capacity.

It seemed fitting that by the time I finished taking photographs, I was covered in mud.  In spite of the freezing temperatures, the ground was still soft.  It brought to mind the infamous muddy trenches of the front line.

 

Remembrance Day 1

Again, my family history is connected to The Great War.

When Germany invaded neutral Belgium on route to France in 1912, hundreds of thousands of young Belgians fled their country – many of them never returned.

One of those men was my maternal grandfather.  He was a young teenager when he fled his home for the Netherlands where he would later meet the Dutch woman he would marry following the war.

1919 - Mans
1919 engagement photo of my grandparents, Alphonsus Mans and Gerritje Welgraven

Tomorrow I will be braving the cold to attend one of the many Remembrance Day ceremonies in the city.  I will be honouring all those who fought to protect our freedom, those who served on the Homefront to support the troops far away, as well as all the members of my family who are no longer with us but have special ties to this day.

My hope is that we will always be grateful and that we will honour their sacrifice by speaking out against practices that deny freedom and peaceful coexistence for everyone.

73 comments

  1. The flags remembrance is such a beautiful tribute but it is your worlds in conclusion that bring it home for me. Sadly, as the last of our soldiers from the second ‘great war’ are leaving us, we seem to be setting ourselves up to make the same mistakes all over again. Will we never learn.

    PS – love the pic of your grandparents

    Like

  2. Joanne I Thank you for this special tribute. My grandfather who I never met served in WWI. The stories told to my Dad of the trench warfare make my heart ache.
    Wonderful to see the school in Toronto making such a tribute to those soldiers from the Toronto area. Bravo to them and to you for facing the elements to bring us the story.

    Like

  3. Days of remembrance are very important, especially if your family was somehow effected. Oh, it is the Dutch side probably where we connect:) I grew up without any grandparents, so to be one myself now is a trip:)
    Actually my mother’s side was French, and it must have been because of one of the religious wars why they fled to Holland, and from there to Indonesia.

    Like

    • I grew up without grandparents too and I’ve always envied those with large extended families around them. I know there can be a lot of drama that comes with close nearby family, but there is a lot of good too.

      Like

      • In Holland contact with adult children and grand children is more limited than in the USA (generally speaking). Between generations there is more visiting, than sharing vacations or even weekends together. So, there is not as much “invasion” (if one would see it that way) of privacy. Also, in general, the number of kids and grand kids are lower than here.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. We had a very good turnout at the 11am ceremony, here in the Village!

    Did you hear the bells for peace ringing as the sun went down? I got to hear them in stereo as both the Catholic Church (on one side of me) and the Presbyterian (on the other) got to ringing them at the same time.

    Deb

    Like

    • Wow! You had a primo location for the bell ceremony! Sadly, nothing here.
      I had been downtown for the 11 am service, but I hadn’t slept the night before and went home for a nap. I didn’t make it back downtown 😕 I was really disappointed.

      Like

  5. The school’s tribute to Armistice Day must have brought the reality home to the students who, merely by the passage of time, are so removed from the World Wars, Joanne. What a profound experience to plant all those flags. I love your closing statement, “My hope is that we will always be grateful and that we will honour their sacrifice by speaking out against practices that deny freedom and peaceful coexistence for everyone.” Yes! We can best honor those who lost their lives by working ceaselessly for peace. ❤

    Like

  6. It’s great that the children are involved in commemorating this historical event as morbid it may be. I have asked and listened to war stories from the generations before me. Men tend to glamorize the brevity of being in a combat. Back to your stories, I still enjoyed reading the love stories in between.

    Like

  7. Yes, it does seem fitting that Remembrance Day events are often held in poor weather! Here in Calgary it was snowing, though I got my photos for my post the day before when it was cold but sunny.

    Like

  8. Wonderful post. I’m heartened to see that our two countries celebrate this holiday in some of the same ways. We too plant flags for the veterans. We also wear silk poppies in honor them. Usually they are given out by veterans collecting for families in need outside of stores or businesses. Do you have these as well?

    Like

    • Yes, we have poppies as well usually sold by the Canadian Legion via collection boxes left in businesses or by veterans. I think it’s a universal symbol adopted around the world.

      Although I seen planted flags before, this is the first time I’ve seen the names of soldiers who died in action included on a flag as a tribute. It made the memorial so poignant and personal.

      Like

  9. As a mother who has a son in the army who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, I not only think of those men and women who died in all of these wars to bring about peace, but I am also grateful that my boy came home. For so many every day is remembrance day.

    Like

  10. Very nice post on this very important weekend. We must always remember or we will make the mistake of thinking choosing war over peace negotiations will be a quicker solution. It never is and families pay for generations. I have appreciated your effort this week to remind us of the historical connection to CN.

    Like

    • It was a bone-chilling one, Deborah, but for a few brief moments the sun came out.

      It was poignant, I cried, and in a few short minutes when the sun goes down, the bells in the city will start ringing – a 100 times to commemorate the Armistice. I’m sad I won’t be downtown to experience it.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I saw the story about St. Basil-the-Great on the news this week. I thought it was a wonderful tribute and including the names of those who died would have so much more meaning for the students than just planting random flags. Great post.

    Like

  12. WWI lives in the shadow of WWII and deserves to be remembered as the start of an area when the world changed. It should be a reminder of how quickly things can escalate, but I fear it does not hold the power at all. We are on the march to repeat history again. Perhaps that’s what we will do until the day we will either learn, or destroy all life for good.

    Liked by 2 people

    • There has certainly been a lot written over the years about how WWI destroyed our ‘innocence’ and ‘romantic’ notions about war.
      WWII escalated war to a whole new horrific level.
      This ultra conservative populist trend right now alarms me.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. I, too, celebrate peace, Joanne, and I love what you shared. I agree that we should speak out for peace and do all we can to keep it, while realizing that there may be a another time when it’s impossible to do nothing. I pray that time doesn’t come, but with the history of the world the way it is, I’m not sanguine about that.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

  14. 60,000… The casualties of war, the scope of it makes my blood run cold. I love that they put the names and info on the flags.
    It’s lovely to see the old photo of your grandparents, Joanne. I can see a resemblance between you and your grandmother. Great big hug.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I too love the fact that they made the memorial personal by adding the names and details of a person who died in action. Casualty numbers are just statistics – cold and impersonal – until you put a face &/or name on it. Then it becomes a real person and the loss is tangible 😞

      Liked by 2 people

  15. My father always called it Armistice Day. That, he said, was what WWI was all about, and therefore he’d respect the sacrifices made in the name of peace. The engagement photo of your grandparents is delightful. Stay warm tomorrow.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s