Royal Cana­dian Le­gion rep­re­sen­ta­tives salute af­ter plac­ing wreath of Remembrance at St. Thomas Ceno­taph at ser­vice to kick off 2018 poppy cam­paign.

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - REMEMBRANCE DAY - By Eric Bun­nell | St.Thomas Times Jour­nal

I t was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.And St. Thomas cel­e­brated the Ar­mistice. Big time. The end of the Great War be­tween Great Bri­tain and Ger­many, and their al­lies, was ob­served in the city with what the Times-Jour­nal re­ported – with no lit­tle emo­tion – was the great­est cel­e­bra­tion in the his­tory of the com­mu­nity: “Vic­tory! Vic­tory! “The air re­ver­ber­ated with the po­tency of the words to­day that were on the mouths of the 40,000 joy­ous cel­e­brants who thronged ev­ery street and cor­ner of the old city: The mon­strous pa­rade or­dered by Mayor Hor­ton which left the Hor­ton mar­ket square at 1:30 p.m., was a per­fect suc­cess in ev­ery way – a won­der­ful pageant of color and noise.

“The en­tire vic­tory pa­rade was over two miles in length. So long was it that when the head of the pa­rade led by Mayor Hor­ton and the al­der­men of the city, reached the city hall af­ter a cir­cuitous march, the tail end of the great cav­al­cade was just pass­ing the mu­nic­i­pal build­ing.”

Many years and many bat­tles later, Ar­mistice Day now is Remembrance Day, and ob­ser­va­tions are solemn.

For Rev. Canon Nick Wells, who is padre of Royal Cana­dian Le­gion Lord El­gin Branch 41, and who will of­fi­ci­ate at the Ser­vice of Remembrance on Nov. 11 in St. Thomas at the Vet­er­ans’ Me­mo­rial Gar­den, Remembrance Day is a na­tional fu­neral.

“To me, it’s a na­tional fu­neral where we get to re­mem­ber all of the dead. Not just those who served in the army, navy and air force, but all those who not only sur­vived the war, but those who have died over the last year.”

And he says re­mem­ber­ing them is a duty Cana­di­ans owe them.

“We have to re­mem­ber,” the Angli­can priest says.

We owe it to them. They gave up their lives for us and we didn’t de­serve that. We re­ally didn’t.

“It’s an in­cred­i­ble gift that has been given to us. And when a gift like that has been given to us, you al­ways have to say thank you – and we get so say thank you by be­ing there.”

Though it isn’t the fo­cus of the 2018 ser­vice, the day will salute the 100th an­niver­sary of the Ar­mistice, none­the­less.

Shelly Hay­cock, past Branch 41 pres­i­dent and cur­rent pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cer, says, “We wanted to do it in a nice, sim­ple man­ner.”

Four mil­i­tary re-en­ac­tors in pe­riod uni­form are to form a guard of hon­our at the Ceno­taph, each stand­ing on a cor­ner of the mon­u­ment, heads bowed, hands crossed on the butts of their down­turned ri­fles.

Later, they will fire a three-vol­ley salute of mourn­ing. “That’s al­ways a sign of mourn­ing,”Wells says. “You fire that over the grave of the dead.” While it holds no body, the Ceno­taph is con­se­crated as a tomb.

Wells, a mil­i­tary re-en­ac­tor him­self, is to dress in pe­riod uni­form as a Great War padre.

And Hay­cock, who is mis­tress of cer­e­monies for the day, is to don the uni­form of a Vol­un­teer Aid De­tach­ment civil­ian, in trib­ute to the women who served in the Great War. The VADs pro­vided vi­tal sup­port, from cooks and can­teen work­ers, clerks and driv­ers, and un­trained nurses.

Hay­cock says women in the Great War of­ten are over­looked.

“I don’t think we as­so­ciate them as much as we do our men who went over­seas in bat­tle.”

The ser­vice is to be­gin at 10:45 at the me­mo­rial gar­den on Moore St.

Hay­cook ex­pects dig­ni­taries are to place about 50 official wreaths in hon­our of Canada’s war­riors.

At the con­clu­sion of the 2017 ser­vice, many on­look­ers un­pinned their in­di­vid­ual pop­pies and left them in trib­ute, as well.

“It was quite an ex­pe­ri­ence last year af­ter the ser­vice was done,” Hay­cock says.

“There al­ways have been a few but not like last year. It was quite a sight to see all those pop­pies there.”

She says there is in­creased aware­ness of Canada at arms.

“I think the younger gen­er­a­tion now have fam­ily and friends go­ing over­seas.”

Af­ter­ward, par­tic­i­pants are to gather for fel­low­ship, as they do ev­ery year, at the Le­gion on John St. Bob Fin­lay is to en­ter­tain.

They likely will not have to heed the words of Mayor Hor­ton 100 years ago to his au­di­ence, as re­ported in the Times-Jour­nal:

“In con­clud­ing the af­ter­noon cel­e­bra­tions, Mayor Hor­ton told the vast crowd that the city was theirs for the af­ter­noon and all he asked was that they be care­ful and not burn it down or dam­age it be­yond re­pair.

“‘It is ‘The Day’ we have been wait­ing for and pray­ing for and fight­ing for these last four and a half years,’ de­clared his wor­ship. ‘And I am not go­ing to stop you cel­e­brat­ing now. I re­al­ize your joy, and I want you to give full vent to it.’”

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