Mak­ing a pledge to re­mem­ber

Bay Roberts woman re­flects on trip to Euro­pean bat­tle­fields

The Compass - - ORTHTE -

Re­mem­brance Day is the of­fi­cial day hon­our­ing the sac­ri­fices of thou­sands of sol­diers since the Great War. I thought I knew what WE RE­MEM­BER means, but it was only when I stood on the bat­tle­fields, watched poignant cer­e­monies, and saw the nu­mer­ous ceme­ter­ies that I truly un­der­stood.

In June 2009, I trav­elled to Europe with the Queen’s Own Ri­fles of Canada As­so­ci­a­tion, who hosted a Cana­di­ans at War tour to com­mem­o­rate the 65th an­niver­sary of D-Day, 1944. This trip in­cluded vis­it­ing First World War and Sec­ond World War bat­tle­fields.

We trav­elled throughout France and Bel­gium. Re­peat­edly, we were told by the lo­cals that “if it had not been for Cana­di­ans, the out­come would have been very dif­fer­ent.”

The Queen’s Own Ri­fles con­ducted a cer­e­mony at each site, and each cer­e­mony would con­clude with the recit­ing of the Act of Re­mem­brance.

The trip, over­all, was a very in­tense, emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence. The high­lights for me were: Beaumont Hamel, Menin Gate, and Juno Beach.

Beaumont Hamel, France — here, the land­scape has been left with the trenches still in place. The bronze cari­bou over­looks the tran­quil spot that was once a place of such enor­mous tragedy. Young New­found­lan­ders, who be­cause they loved peace, left their home­land and did not re­turn. We ran our fin­gers lov­ingly along names that we rec­og­nized on the mon­u­ment. There were nine from Bay Roberts, plus a Jer­rett rel­a­tive from Bri­gus.

Menin Gate, in Ypres — a busy gate­way that has names of 55,000 British Com­mon­wealth sol­diers recorded on its arches. They died in Bel­gium and have no known graves. New­found­land names, in­clud­ing four from Bay Roberts, are listed. Ev­ery evening at 8 p.m. all traf­fic stops and the fire depart­ment pa­rades to the Gate and plays the Last Post; the Act of Re­mem­brance is cited and wreaths are placed by peo­ple from all over the world.

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