Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Lest We Forget

Today we remember those who fought and fell during Canada's wars. Most particularly, today marks the 90th anniversary of the WWI Armistice. For the seven days leading up to today the names of the 68,000 Canadian soldiers who perished during WWI have been projected onto the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Similar displays took place in six other Canadian cities and in London, England, where the Queen and Prince Philip participated in an event last week at Canada House in Trafalgar Square.

During my career as a high school music teacher, my students were always called upon to perform at the school's Remembrance Day ceremonies. Most recently we'd play "O! Valiant Hearts", "Eternal Father Strong to Save" and "Amazing Grace". And either I or one of my students would perform Last Post and then after an interval of silence, Reveille. I remember singing those hymns when I was in elementary school and later, playing in the community band at our local cenotaph on November 11, which used to be a school holiday. We also memorized the words to John McRae's poem "In Flanders Fields" and Canadian school children recite it to this day. The first verse is on the back of the Canadian $10 bill.

As I write this, I'm watching the ceremony from Confederation Square and Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Our last WWI veteran, John Babcock, now 107 years old, passed the torch today to younger soldiers.

When I was a student, Canada was not involved in any wars but more recently as peace keepers, we've lost many young men and women overseas. Now I really notice how young the soldiers are. I sure hope they can all come home soon.

It is a day to remember.

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our 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 from failing 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment