The World Re­mem­bers

Valley Journal Advertiser - - OPINION - Wendy El­liott

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.

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