The World Remembers
The World Remembers is the title of a multi-year international effort, which has carried through a number of years. This Canadian effort concludes this Nov. 11 with names of the war dead projected night after night.
It commemorates the soldiers, nurses and other military personnel killed during the First World War. This year alone, 1,003,167 names of those who lost their lives will have their moment of light. Approximately 23,700 of those names belong to Canadians.
This year, it will take more than 12 hours a night over a stretch of 61 nights (between Sept. 11 and Nov. 11) to project the names of those who perished in 1918. Their names were drawn from 16 participating nations, underlining the overwhelming loss of life in the “War to End All Wars.”
This series of unique vigils in various countries featuring the names of the war dead has gone on over thanks to the diligence of Canadian actor R.H. Thompson and lighting artist Martin Conboy. They began by marking the 90th anniversary of the dreadful Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Conboy remembers the impact of that vigil as phenomenal. People came with candles and stood in silence. I managed to take part in the watch that paid witness to the 1915 dead at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Halifax.
Having heard about the vigil of light I decided to see if I could find out when my great uncle Hugh Munro’s name would blaze out. I have the CP Telegram that reached my great grandmother Ellen in Halifax on June 26, 1915.
It indicated her son had died from wounds on May 25 and was buried in Bethune Cemetery. It took a whole month for her to learn of the loss.
By dint of online research I found that the 33rd Casualty Clearing Station was in Bethune. The cemetery in this northern French town contains 3,004 British and Commonwealth graves of the First World War – 55 from Canada. It looks as if great uncle Hugh died when the final German attack east of Ypres was repulsed. Ypres was where poison gas was used for the first time in the history of warfare poison gas.
Hugh’s name was due to be up in lights at 1:05 a.m. on Nov. 7. I wanted to be there for some strange reason. I decided to wear the silver cross his mother received instead of getting her boy back. It was a solitary night of waiting and watching name after name.
Sitting by some late roses in that oasis between Barrington and Argyle Streets, I listened to some party animals on foot who naturally had no thought of world wars. A couple, taking a shortcut, did a double take when they saw me. Then they took in the projections.
“The unprecedented loss of life during the First World War devastated nations, communities and families. Death on this scale is difficult to imagine,” Stephen Quick, director general of the Canadian War Museum noted in a release. “The projection of the individual names as part of The World Remembers project provides visitors with another way to see and understand these losses from a very personal perspective.”
The final name to appear in the early morning of Nov. 11 will be that of George L. Price, the 25-year-old Valley native who was killed just two minutes before the Armistice was declared at 11 a.m. that November day in 1918.