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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Monday, November 11, 2013

11/11/1918, Eleventh Hour

Today is Remembrance Day, a day when all Canadians remember those in our military who have served, some dying and many living with injuries, physical and mental, who answered the call of the government to go to war on behalf of our Nation.  I like to continue to focus of the Great War, this day being the anniversary of the date and time of the Armistice of that war.  It was to be the war to end all wars, or as Margaret Macmillan called her latest book, The War that Ended the Peace.  Europe before the First World War has a long period of peace. Progress was celebrated in the spirit of Emile Coué,  "Every Day in every way I am getting better and better."  How mistaken that was.  It only took a generation before WWII broke out and then only a few years after that the Korean War was fought. It seems wars have been coming regularly ever since.  How badly this reflects on the WWI veterans clarion call, "Never Again!"  There are reasons to be cynical of those who seem to so casually want to drag Nations into war again and again.

Lest We Forget!

The Great War for soldiers was the most devastating . The military casualties were almost incomprehensible.
While the Second World War was devastating for civilians and destruction of who countries and cities, soldiers did less of the dying.  And, there was of course the added horror of the Holocaust. 

In the First World War, the Battle of the Somme, had staggering casualties of one million men.  A small snapshot of this is well remembered in Newfoundland. The Newfoundland Regiment was decimated in a matter of minutes as they tried to move forward out of their trenches. Within 15 to 20 minutes all 22 officers were dead with 80% casualties among the rest of the 780 strong regiment.  For the small country of Newfoundland, not yet part of Canada, this was a dreadful loss of the young men of a generation. Almost every small community lost sons. To this day, Newfoundland remembers this on the day the rest of Canada celebrations our nationhood, July 1. For their sacrifice the Newfoundland Regiment was designated the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. 

Beaumont-Hamel Memorial

The monument at the Canadian memorial at Beaumont-Hamel in Northern France.  I wanted very much to visit this place when I was visiting Vimy Ridge a few years ago.  I tried in my polite way to persuade my friend Lynne and her brother to travel the short distance to here but they were eager to go and find a place for a drink.  I wish to this day I had been more insistent.

Canada has always distinquished itself in war. We downplay our military history and always seek the peace dividend when the conflict is over.  In the First World War we were part of the British Army but managed to fight under the command of Canadian Generals as the Canadian Corp.  Canada is best remembered for the victory at Vimy Ridge, after the British and French had failed to dislodge the Germans from their dug in position.  With a plan well worked out and some unique battle techniques the Canadians won the day with less casualties than expected in those day.  Wars are often fought with the techniques of the previous war. The First World War was certainly that, where soldiers were send out time and again against modern weapons to be slaughtered.  It seems the ordinary soldiers duty was to fight and die for God and Country more so that to fight and win.

It is worth remembering this day General Arthur Currie, the famous Canadian leader of the First World War. Canadians, in characteristic modesty, tend not to elevate their great leaders. If he were American, French, British or German we would know more about him and his accomplishments. He may have been the best General in that war.  I see in this mornings paper that a new book is being written about his contribution successfully leading the Canadians in the battle of  A Hundred Days.  I look forward to reading it.

 One could go on and on about Canada's military contribution in other wars. I watched on TV this week two shows about Canada's military victories in the Second World War and Korea. The first was the driving the  elite German soldiers out of Ortona, Italy a battle of attrition, a small version of the battle of Stalingrad and the second was the turning back of the Chinese at Kapyong such that they could not overrun  the city of Seoul.  Both of these were remarkable decisive battles in which Canadians did themselves proud in battle. 

While I am fascinated with  military accomplishments of Canadians in war I am most proud of Canada's contribution to peace keeping.  Sadly, for now, Canada's role as peacekeepers, under the command of the United Nations has been minimized. Our current government prefers that the Canadian military be more warriors that peacekeepers. I reject the idea that Canada is a warrior Nation. I trust that  some day Canada may do itself proud as peacekeepers once again.

If you have not done so today. Find something inspirational about the accomplishment of those who answered the call.

Must go the commemoration in Ottawa is about to begin on the radio.


At 3:09 p.m., Blogger KGMom said...

Philip--I too am remembering the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
And, I used a poem I know you like "In Flanders Field."

I always enjoy your posts--so full of information!

At 8:33 p.m., Blogger Ien in the Kootenays said...

I always learn something more about Canada from your blog.

WWI did not become real to me until I read about it. Have you read Jane Urquhart's wonderful novel abpout the creation of the Vimy monument? The Stone carvers.
I usually connect to Remembrance day, but Steven Harper's efforts to jingo-ize Canada have totally turned me off. Besides, I always do my remembering on May 4.

At 5:44 p.m., Blogger Owen Gray said...

It was First World War veterans like Lester Pearson who transformed the Canadian military into a peacekeeping institution, Philip.

Now those who have never been to war insist that we should become a Warrior Nation.

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Sorry, off topic - are you having email problems? Methinks you've been hacked. j

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