Thursday, November 09, 2006
Why Should We Remember?
My parents are and were both veterans of WWII .My father, who passed in 1994, was a Sargent in the Army Medical Corps. stationed at Camp Borden, Ontario. My mother, Private Davies CWAC , (Canadian Women's Army Corps) was the Colonel's Secretary. As my Father, was to joke in future years, The Colonel may have been the Colonel but My mother, Hannah, was the force to be reckoned with. At 81, believe me she still is!!
My Grand father, whom I still worship and called "Ernie", was with the Queen's Own Rifles( ONce a Queen's Own always a Queen's Own) at Vimy Ridge in April 1917. The Canadians won a major Battle at Vimy Ridge and it is a wonder that my grandfather survived when Ten Thousand Canadians lost their lives in 10 days. Can you begin to understand the terror of that? We who live with CNN every blessed minute. He was 16 years old! He lied to serve his King and Country. We are so spoiled. These are the people we have to thank for our attitudes. My Grandfather was in charge of the mules who dragged the caissons carrying the cannons to the front lines. Their lives in the trenches were filled with the horrors of the cold muck and dying of their comrades. They used candle wax to kill the lice that lived in the seams of their woolen uniforms. If you weren't careful the hot wax would burn the cotton thread and the uniforms would fall apart.
Can you understand that? Can you even imagine what he went through? He was so proud of me I was the light of his life. His only granddaughter. I was one of the reasons he had fought against the "Hun". Then I had 2 brothers and he was in his delight. But the evil that had filled his soul in his youth and the forgetfulness that only comes from "drowning your sorrows" finally took him from us. Too young... too young to loose him.. I could not say his name for almost 20 years without breaking down.
The Vimy Memorial was opened in France in1936. There was a lottery draw and my Grandfather , who at that time was working for the Toronto Star Newspaper, had his name drawn as one of the invited guests to go to France , by luxury ship , and be there for the unveiling. There was some concern about his pay envelope and how my father, my young aunt and grandmother would manage in his absence. While he was gone on everypayday a limosine would draw up in front of my grandparents house on Manor Road in Toronto and a pay envelope would be delivered to"Nana" compliments of the Toronto Daily Star.
If you ever heard Irving Berlin's song " Oh How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning" you have to know my grandfather was the Bugler. He had an incredible sense of humour and I am sure he loved every minute waking everyone else up! My Father, who wrote in a biography of his father, said that, "He was a faithful husband, a loving father, an Irishman and a gentleman. " He negelected to say, an example to us all.
So on the 11 th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour if you think of no one think of the comrades of Ernest Harold Cottrell, Queen's Own Rifles 1914-1917 who in whose memory we began this day and in whose memory we wear the poppy:
In Flanders Flelds the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row
That mark the place; and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you with falling hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
in Flanders fields.
To my grandfather, my parents , my brothers, my son and to all who have stood up and said "In this I believe!"