Heroes too soon forgotten
Not content with sending 60,000 Canadians to die in the trenches of France and Flanders, the politicians and military High Command just couldn’t resist. Yep, it seemed just the right time to invade Russia.
As the First World War was coming to a climax with the Canadian Corps leading the charge against the retreating Germans the powers-that-be in Ottawa decided to send 4,192 conscripts off to join the Brits in the fight against the dreaded Bolsheviks, who were getting the upper hand in Russia’s Civil War.
In the end, they didn’t see much action after landing in Vladivostok in the spring of 1919 and they certainly didn’t stop those nasty Commies from eventually winning the day. But they did manage to inadvertently cause the deaths of thousands of Canadians across the length and breadth of this land.
The Spanish flu was raging in parts of the continent, so when the military loaded those Siberia-bound troops in eastern Canada onto cramped railcars the inevitable happened. Many became sick from the flu.
That’s where true military genius emerged. At every stop along the westward-bound CP rail line they’d drop off those who’d become ill. Thus they managed to seed the flu into every large town between Halifax and Vancouver.
With Remembrance Day upon us, it’s a timely reminder of the callousness of political and military leaders when it comes to men under their command and the civilian hoi polloi.
Consider the latest guff emanating from Ottawa. Despite making a big deal about compensating vets properly during the last federal election campaign, the Grits have followed the same path of saying one thing in public but making sure their bureaucracy did entirely another.
Every year millions of dollars are budgeted but not spent by Veterans Affairs, so it hardly comes as a surprise that Ottawa admitted this week they accidentally shortchanged vets $165 million over the last seven years because of a wonky calculation.
Contrast that with former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, who has received $1.6 million in pension payments since leaving the post in 2005. On top of that, she’s claimed more than a million bucks in expenses since she exited the job, along with a nice $3-million grant to help her on her way as a legacy payment.
In her defence last week Clarkson pledged herself to the Canadian people as long as she lives. There were lots of Canadian servicemen who did that too, many of whom saw that vow actually run its course far too quickly.
Whatever his imperialist sins, Rudyard Kipling understood the ordinary soldier. His common voice verse about the mythical Tommy Atkins will still resonate in those who put their lives on the line for Canada.
“For it’s Tommy this an’ Tommy that, an ‘Chuck him out, the brute!’
But it’s ‘Saviour of ‘is country’ when the guns begin to shoot.”
Please. Let’s remember that too, come Sunday.