war memorial

Beaumont Hamel

While in Belgium, we visited the site/memorial of Beaumont Hamel.

The Newfoundland regiments signed up to fight for King and Country in a time when they were their own dominion, not yet a part of Canada (not until 1949). They sent a contingent over to fight, and on July 1, 1916, at the beginning of the battle of the Somme, they attacked. The Battle of the Somme was the regiment’s first major engagement, and during an assault that lasted approximately 30 minutes the regiment was all but wiped out.

Newfoundland purchased the land and preserved it and it stays to this day untouched. Shell holes and trenches remain. Although not a part of Canada yet, this is truly a Canadian place. The walking paths encircle the battlefield area and one can tour around from the Newfoundland side to the German side. From the German side, you can see a clear view of the Newfoundland position and can see how they had easy sight lines to mow down the opposition. Its terrible.

One of the cemeteries included a number of tombstones next (very close) to each other. I wondered why. I later learned that those this close together indicate comrades who died in close proximity or in the same battle together.

This is a very powerful site to visit.

The calling Caribou – iconic monument

Died in 30 minutes, brothers in arms.

The Menin Gate

We stayed in Iepre (Ypres) a short two minutes from the Menin Gate. Every night at 8pm, they play the last post. The monument is dedicated to the 54,395 British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown.

The time we were in there, it was coming up to the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge. On this occasion, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were there. Of course. I go half way around the world to see Canadian Mounties.

The structure is humbling. Everywhere you look there are names in this quiet little town.

Never Forgotten

Remembrance Day was this past week. The time to consider those who made our current lives what they are (the recent attack on Paris, France aside).

At the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Canada, at the end of the services, the public has a more recent ritual of coming up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to place their poppy, and give thanks.

I walked by the memorial yesterday. Not only are the poppies still there, but in the time it took to make the image below, no more than ten people came to take time to remember. One woman specifically to place flowers and have a personal moment.

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Canada truly respects and honours its servicemen and women. Its what makes this country awesome.

And if I ran the circus, France, Canada was there for you in to great wars, we are with you now.

Changing of the Guard

As Spring arrives, so does the honour guard at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa. This tradition starts April 9 (the anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge) and continues until November 10. It was initially instilled a number of events from youth with no respect for those who fought for their freedoms. From Wikipedia:

Dr. Michael Pilon, a retired Canadian Forces major, observed and photographed a group of young men urinating on the war memorial on the evening of Canada Day 2006. Two teenagers later issued apologies and undertook community service, while another man, Stephen Fernandes, 23, of Montreal was charged with mischief by the Ottawa Police Service…The incident, along with the common sight of persons skateboarding and riding bicycles on the memorial’s podium, prompted the posting of sentries at the site, though they are only present between 9 am and 5 pm from 9 April to 10 November.

The guards are there continually, except for that day in October, when another loser shot a sentry in the back, then made an attempt to storm Parliament Hill.

It was a short-lived halt. You see, we Canadians are tough and stubborn, and don’t let such idiocy and slow us down.

Now that Spring is here, the guards are back. Each lunch, I walk by the memorial, and when timed right, I hear the bagpipes as the change of the guard occurs. On this occasion, I was front and centre for the change.

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This year they have included the huts as well, as you can see in the back. I learned this is to prevent any other loser…er…person from getting up behind the guards.

I have been to the Arlington cemetery as well, where they have an honour guard.

It it a great tribute to those who keep us safe.

After

As with each year, I attend the Remembrance Day services downtown Ottawa. More so important this year, given all the happenings recently, and it being the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War (something I’m totally fascinated with and have read many books on).

For a change, the weather was really nice; sunny and warm (usually cold and damp) as if the gods above said, “have a nice day, you all deserve it”.

Since the installing of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it has become a custom after all the dignitaries have left, to have everyone come up, leave their poppy and have a personal moment of reflection. While we typically will do this, this year I suggested we not, again, given the recent events and overly large crowd (estimated at 55,000). On our exit, I took the time to take this shot, with my X-T1 and 10-24 wide angle lens, showing the masses swarming the memorial.

We Canadians are very proud of our armed forces, what they do, and how they represent this country.

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