Stu­dents do ‘their duty not to for­get’

High school hon­ours Chatham-Kent dead in world wars with an­nual Re­mem­brance Assem­bly

The Chatham Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - ELLWOOD SHREVE

Ge­or­gia Craven is only 17, but she’s learned a lot about the sac­ri­fices lo­cal sol­diers made dur­ing the First and Sec­ond World Wars through re­search­ing their sto­ries.

Since Grade 9, the ChathamKent sec­ondary school stu­dent has helped de­scribe the con­tri­bu­tions and sac­ri­fices sol­diers from Chatham-Kent made dur­ing their mil­i­tary ser­vice at the school’s an­nual Re­mem­brance Assem­bly.

“It is an hon­our to be part of this cer­e­mony and an hon­our to be able to re­mem­ber all of the dead and tell their sto­ries to other gen­er­a­tions, so that they can con­tinue to re­mem­ber them,” Craven said.

Re­mind­ing young peo­ple of the sac­ri­fices that were made is im­por­tant, she said, “es­pe­cially in the present time, to re­mem­ber the con­se­quences of war and the dam­ages that it can put on a coun­try.”

Fri­day ’s Re­mem­brance Assem­bly had an added fo­cus on the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War in 1918.

Craven spoke about John Bab­cock, the last sur­vivor of the 650,000 Cana­dian sol­diers who served in the war, who en­listed at age 16 and lived to be 109.

Shortly be­fore his death in 2010, Bab­cock re­al­ized he was the last Cana­dian vet­eran from that war.

“Bab­cock, ”Craven­said,“summed up the his­tor­i­cal sit­u­a­tion when he re­marked: ‘The duty not to for­get now falls on a gen­er­a­tion who has been sep­a­rated from the his­tory of the Great War by a pe­riod go­ing on 90 years. I think there is dan­ger.’ ”

She said the dan­ger in Bab­cock’s mind was that gen­er­a­tions of Cana­di­ans would for­get the sac­ri­fices of the 650,000 Cana­dian sol­diers who served in the Great War, “par­tic­u­larly the 61,000 Cana­di­ans who made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice and gave their lives in ser­vice to Canada.”

Craven said at least 358 of the Cana­di­ans killed in that war came from Chatham-Kent. She pro­vided de­tails of sev­eral of th­ese lo­cal sol­diers dur­ing her pre­sen­ta­tion.

One was Cpl. Harry Miner, born in Cedar Springs, who earned the Bri­tish Empire’s high­est mil­i­tary award for brav­ery, the Vic­to­ria Cross, as well as the high­est French ci­ta­tion, the Croix de Guerre.

Craven said Miner was rec­og­nized for his ac­tion in bat­tle on Aug. 8, 1918.

“De­spite mul­ti­ple wounds, in­clud­ing se­ri­ous wounds to his head and shoul­ders, Harry re­fused to with­draw from bat­tle to get med­i­cal at­ten­tion,” she said. “Ig­nor­ing his ter­ri­ble wounds, Harry rushed at an en­emy ma­chine post, killed its crew and turned the ma­chine gun on the en­emy.”

Once out of am­mu­ni­tion, she said Miner moved on to as­sault two more en­emy po­si­tions, killing an­other two en­emy sol­diers in hand-to-hand com­bat be­fore be­ing mor­tally wounded by en­emy grenades.

“It’s sur­real,” Craven said about re­search­ing the sac­ri­fices of lo­cal peo­ple made. “I think that could be some­one just like a year older than me or one of my broth­ers that is go­ing to war and dy­ing.

“It cre­ates a lot of em­pa­thy,” she added.

Al­though they lived 100 years ago, Craven said “. . . they’re real peo­ple, they’re not just peo­ple his­tory books, th­ese are real peo­ple like your fam­ily mem­bers who have sac­ri­ficed their lives for the good of the coun­try.”

Jim Costello, di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion for the Lambton Kent Dis­trict School Board, told those in at­ten­dance: “Re­mem­brance Day is a spe­cial event on our school year cal­en­dar as it is on this day that we look back in time and re­mem­ber those that gave their lives so we can live ours in free­dom.”

He said in to­day’s fast-paced times, “it’s easy for us to fo­cus on our­selves, our prob­lems and our sched­ules.”

Costello said it up to to­day’s gen­er­a­tion to en­sure the sto­ries of th­ese brave sol­diers do not fade from mem­ory, “but in­stead help to illuminate our fu­ture.

“For, if we fail to learn our lessons from those young who have walked ahead of us, we are sure to walk in their shadow with­out the ben­e­fit of learn­ing from our col­lec­tive past ex­pe­ri­ences,” he added.

Greg Row­den, who re­tired from mil­i­tary about eight years ago as cor­po­ral with the Es­sex and Kent Scot­tish Reg­i­ment, was among the younger vet­er­ans to at­tend Fri­day’s cer­e­mony.

Hav­ing been de­ployed to Bos­nia in 2001 as a peace­keeper with the Third Bat­tal­ion Royal Cana­dian Reg­i­ment out of Petawawa, he said, “It was def­i­nitely an eye-opener as a young 21-year-old.”

Row­den, who has at­tend the cer­e­mony at CKSS sev­eral times, said, “It’s re­ally nice to see the great deal of re­spect . . . the younger gen­er­a­tion is giv­ing the vet­er­ans and the fallen.”

He was par­tic­u­larly im­pressed with Fri­day’s pre­sen­ta­tion, which also rec­og­nized the 44 grad­u­ates of the for­mer Chatham Vo­ca­tional School – pre­de­ces­sor to CKSS – killed in the Sec­ond World War, as well as the 158 Cana­di­ans who died in Afghanistan.

“It was above and be­yond,” Row­den said.

Cpl. Harry Miner


Ge­or­gia Craven, bot­tom right, tells the story of Cpl. Harry Miner, who was among the Chatham-Kent na­tives rec­og­nized for their ser­vice in the First World War, dur­ing the an­nual Re­mem­brance Assem­bly held at Chatham-Kent Sec­ondary School.

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