Remembrance Day

So, as I post this it is already Remembrance Day, Remembrance Sunday in Britain …

In the morning I will, as I usually do, walk to the cenotaph, in my case the National War Memorial here in Ottawa. I will leave my home and walk North to Wellington Street, as I do I will pass under the ‘arch’ (it’s a bridge actually) that connects the East and West Memorial Buildings, built just after World War II, on the arch there is engraved a verse from Ecclesiasticus, Chapter 44 ~ that’s the chapter that begins “Let us now praise famous men” …


… the verse, the 7th, on the arch says “All these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times.” But a later verse, the 9th, which says “And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them” reminds me that not all those who died were “famous men.” And that verse will be on my mind as I walk along Wellington Street where, just about across from the Supreme Court I will pass Saint Andrew’s Church where there is a statue called Whatsoever


… which recalls Matthew, Chapter 25, verse 40 which some translate as “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me” and I will think that “all those” who “were the glory of their time” were, by and large, “the least among us” they were those “with no memorial … who are perished as though they had never been.” It reminds me of the lines that Shakespeare gave to the Herald in Act IV, Scene 8 of Henry V, when they enumerate the English dead:”Edward the Duke of York, the Earl of Suffolk, Sir Richard Ketly, Davy Gam, esquire; None else of name; and of all other men But five and twenty” … none else of name was how “the least of my brothers” were often considered. Most of the 110,000 men and women who dies in Canada’s service were people like that.

I will pass Parliament Hill and soon I will be at the War Memorial … there will be a big 16bcrowd and I will have to wind my way through to the South end. I may be a bit later than most because I have no interest in the speeches and prayers, I find them all a waste of my time and, even, rather vaguely, a bit inappropriate. I will not be noticed, I will have a coat on over my medals ~ many wear their medals on their overcoats so that people will know they are veterans. I will not belabour the point, but Remembrance Day is NOT about veterans. Anyway I will get there after the chatter and just before the Act of Remembrance ~ “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them” ~ I will stand to attention for the Last Post, the two minutes of silence, the Lament and the armymess-main-floor-panel-roomRouse and I will wait until the Silver Cross Mother has gone to lay her wreath. Then I will, fairly quickly, make my way to the Officers’ Mess where I will join my “family” … my son, an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy, and the men and women like me who served and who now remember, and men and women who stills serve and who also remember dead friends. We will all be wearing our medals and regimental ties and blazers with shiny crests … we are nothing if not obedient to custom and tradition, but it’s OK because we will all understand that we don’t really matter, not on Remembrance Day. We’ll have a drink or two, someone will, likely, say something about “absent friends.” Then I’ll make my way over to the Wardroom (the Navy officers’ mess) with my son and he and I will raise a glass to his grandfather who was killed in action at sea when I was less than a year old.

The crowds may, I expect, be a bit smaller than in recent years, despite it being the centenary of 11 November 1918, because it’s a Sunday and it’s a long weekend for the civil service … but for myself, I have something and someone to remember:


4 thoughts on “Remembrance Day

  1. But you are lucky, you can still do that The best I can swing is to watch the Ottawa celebrations and stop and think about those who are gone, young men, of course I’m young to, it’s just my husk that is old and crumbling, so make use of your place in life, soon enough the cliff edge will appear.

  2. I just arrived home from our local Remembrance Day ceremonies. As in years past a very large turnout. Not that unusual for a small town on the prairies. The people in attendance spanned all age groups from children to seniors. As I scanned the faces in the crowd, to gauge people’s reaction to the ceremonies, I could not help but notice that as Canadians “We Do Remember”.

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