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 casualtie
s 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.
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.