Honouring their sacrifice
Banners displayed in downtown Stratford pay tribute to the local veterans of the First World War
One-hundred years ago this Sunday, the guns fell silent in Europe marking the end to the First World War.
To commemorate the occasion and to honour those who fought and died in the trenches, a few special tributes have been added to this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony.
As a way to remember the soldiers who fought in the First World War, Stratford resident and singersongwriter Loreena McKennitt and her staff led the way in hanging 12 large banners throughout downtown Stratford displaying the photos and names of veterans who fought in the First and Second World Wars.
Speaking to the Beacon Herald while on tour in South America, McKennitt said she originally had the idea when she saw similar banners hanging in towns in France commemorating last year’s 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Upon her return to Canada, McKennitt’s staff and Stratford Royal Canadian Legion members reached out to John Kastner at the Stratford Perth Museum for help researching and selecting the veterans who would be featured in the banner initiative’s first year.
“Sometimes we need visual reminders of things, of events, and in this particular case, really putting names to people who did something, who fought in the First World War,” McKennitt said.
“It was the collective feeling that we wanted to imitate those (banners) in Stratford ... and this is just the beginning. We’re hoping that, because there’s, I think, about 100 possible locations around the city that one can put banners, over the coming years we can continue to add on to this list of soldiers.”
The banners themselves were designed by Heidi Holdsworth of Creative Feats and were hung by Lange Bros. Tree Service and Stump Removal, both of which donated their services free of charge.
The second special tribute this year will take place at 5:03 p.m. Sunday. As the sun sets on Remembrance Day, churches in cities and towns across Canada will ring their bells 100 times to mark the 100th anniversary as part of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Bells of Peace initiative. In Stratford, local churches will participate in the bell ringing, which will conclude with a piper playing at the Stratford cenotaph.
“It should draw a crowd down at the cenotaph again because you’re going to be able to hear the bells from St. Joe’s, St. James’ Anglican, Knox Presbyterian is geared up to ring, and St. Pauls Anglican – they’re in on the bell ringing too,” said Dale Bast, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 8 in Stratford. At Knox, Bast said Jeff Orr, whose great-great uncle, Henry Orr, was killed at the Battle of Lens in France, will be ringing the bells 100 times with his son. Similarly, in other churches in Stratford and across Canada, people with connections to First World War veterans will also be ringing the bells.
Sometimes we need visual reminders of things, of events, and in this particular case, really putting names to people who did something, who fought in the First World War.” Loreena McKennitt
As for this year’s Sunday morning ceremony, McKennitt and her team have been working to create a Stratford Remembrance Day manual with Second World War veteran Art Boon, who has, along with his family, organized the annual ceremony in Stratford for as long as anyone can remember.
McKennitt said she originally approached Boone, who turns 94 on Monday, to see if he would be interested in creating a transition plan for the yearly organization of the Stratford ceremony.
“He has an amazing mind, but still I thought it’s probably weighing on his mind and so myself, along with Rev. Lorne Mitchell from St. James’, who is the legion’s padre, we had some chats with Art and said, if Art would like, we would be able to help create a transition plan or process. My team has a fair familiarity with mounting big events, and I thought if we can help mount it this year and learn really closely all the key ingredients with Art, it would also make sense to render all of this knowledge into a manual so that in future years it would help others be able to take this on,” McKennitt said.
As the Stratford legion moved from its former location on Erie Street earlier this year, Sunday’s Remembrance ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. with the Colour Parade marching from the Stratford Armoury on Waterloo Street, up to Cobourg Street, and over to the cenotaph. Once the procession is in place, McKennitt, who also serves as an honorary colonel for the Royal Canadian Air Force, will sing O’ Canada.
Following the singing of O God Our Help In Ages Past and a scripture reading by Archdeacon John Spencer, McKennitt will lead the Call to Remembrance and Mitchell will read out the honour roll of veterans who have died over the past year. At 10:59 a.m., bugler Robert Pope will play the Last Post, followed by a moment of silence at 11 a.m. After Pope plays Rouse, the Stratford Police Band will play Lament, and Mitchell will lead the memorial prayer and benediction. Those present will then be invited to sing Faith of Our Fathers before Boon will lead the placing of the wreaths.
The ceremony will conclude with performances by the Stratford Concert Band, the Stratford Police Services Band, and the Stratford Middle Years School Chorus, as well as McKennitt singing God Save the Queen before the Colour Parade marches back to the Armoury.
Post-ceremony receptions will be held first at the Army, Navy and Airforce Club, and then at the legion starting at 1:30 p.m., and finally at the Armoury starting at 3 p.m.
Stratford legion president Dale Bast and vice-president and Poppy Campaign chair Ken Albert hang a Remembrance Day banner in the Legion Hall Thursday in preparation for Sunday's ceremony.
Twelve banners have been hung through Stratford's city centre this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Each of the banners display pictures of area residents who fought in either the First or Second World War.