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The Drumheller Mail - - REMEMBRANCE DAY 2017 -

Canada repa­tri­ated the re­mains of an Un­known Sol­dier from France in May 2000 and laid them to rest at the Na­tional War Memo­rial in Ot­tawa. The idea orig­i­nated as a mil­len­nium project of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion and was co­or­di­nated through the gov­ern­ment by Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Canada.

What the Un­known Sol­dier Rep­re­sents

The Un­known Sol­dier was orig­i­nally in­tended to rep­re­sent all war dead whose re­mains had not been iden­ti­fied, a com­mon prob­lem along static First World War bat­tle­fields fre­quently churned by ar­tillery and sub­sumed in mud. Since 1920, a sin­gle Un­known Sol­dier in Lon­don’s West­min­ster Abbey had rep­re­sented the uniden­ti­fied war dead of Canada and other Com­mon­wealth states. The orig­i­nal cer­e­mony, presided over by King George V, had in­cluded many of the Bri­tish Em­pire’s Vic­to­ria Cross win­ners, and a group of 100 women, each of whom had lost their hus­band and all their sons dur­ing the war. France and the United States fol­lowed Great Bri­tain’s ex­am­ple in 1921, as did nu­mer­ous other coun­tries in sub­se­quent years. These tombs and memo­ri­als grad­u­ally as­sumed broader sig­nif­i­cance, be­com­ing sites of mem­ory and mourn­ing for all war dead, and for civil cer­e­monies of broadly based re­mem­brance in­stead of sim­ple mil­i­tary com­mem­o­ra­tion.

Canada’s Un­known Sol­dier

In 1993, Aus­tralia marked the 75th an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War by repa­tri­at­ing from France the re­mains of its own Un­known Sol­dier, the first Com­mon­wealth coun­try to have done so since 1920. He was buried in the Aus­tralian War Memo­rial’s Hall of Mem­ory in Canberra.

Canada fol­lowed the Aus­tra- lian ex­am­ple in 2000 at the sug­ges­tion of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion and other groups. A sin­gle set of re­mains was se­lected from among Canada’s 6,846 un­known sol­diers of the First World War for re­turn to Canada and re-in­ter­ment at the Na­tional War Memo­rial in Ot­tawa. The Un­known Sol­dier ul­ti­mately came from a ceme­tery near Vimy Ridge and was flown home to lie in state in the Hall of Hon­our in the Cen­tre Block of Par­lia­ment from 25 May to 28 May 2000, where tens of thou­sands filed past to pay their re­spects.

The Un­known Sol­dier was buried on the af­ter­noon of 28 May 2000 in a na­tion­ally tele­vised cer­e­mony. The site has be­come an im­por­tant fo­cus of com­mem­o­ra­tion, es­pe­cially in the na­tional Re­mem­brance Day ser­vice held at the Na­tional War Memo­rial on 11 Novem­ber.

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