Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Flanders Fields

Remembrance Day is not a holiday in Ontario.  Apparently it was when my parents were growing up, but hasn't been in my lifetime, not sure why, gov't workers get it off though.  So, we always has a special day in school, where each class crafted a wreath to put on stage during our assembly and we heard stories from veterans and kids reading their grandparents' stories of war.  When I was little, one of the schools I went to was Col. John McCrae Public School.  Yes, the Col. John McCrae, of In Flanders Fields fame.  He was born in Guelph, his birthplace is now a museum.  When I attended the school, as a member of the choir, we went down to the memorial at the museum and sang Oh Canada and occasionally, In Flanders Fields.  I can still recite the poem word for word.  Our little service was usually attended by the veterans who couldn't get around very well or couldn't deal with the crowds at the cenotaph downtown.  

So now that I am home, I suggested to mom that we go down to McCrae House today for Remembrance Day services.  Unfortunately, this year, the school has been torn down and is being rebuilt bigger and better, and the school has been relocated to an old school building a few kilometers away.  In recent years, as veterans have died, the service at the McCrae Memorial has become the Remembrance Day assembly for John McCrae school.  So, now that the school is no longer there, there was no service at 11:00 today.  

Alot of people still showed up at McCrae House though, there were about 25 of us, and apparently every year they have the local Ham Radio operators society set up a station in the museum for the weeks around Remembrance Day, so my mom and I stayed and looked around the museum and then stood for 2 minutes of radio silence and then the woman who was operating it read In Flanders Fields.  Then radio thank yous flooded in from around the world.  It was really neat, and we were quite impressed with the number of young people who showed up.  

The pictures are from my Great Uncle George Abraham's scrapbook from WWI.  He was a Second Lieutenant in the 37th Flying Squad pictured above.  This picture is an aerial view of France taken while on a mission.

If anyone had a relative in the First World War, you might be able to find their attestation papers (enlisting documents) on the Collections Canada website.  Just hit search and look for them.  I have found my dad's grandfather, Harry Petter, who had just moved to Canada with his young family and felt it was his duty to go back and fight.  When he got back after the war, he was given a job as a groundskeeper at the University of Guelph, but his family remained in Colpoys Bay, which is just outside of Wiarton (Willy) Ontario, which is a three hour drive away today.  He hitchhiked home every two or three weeks to see his family and bring his pay home to his wife.  I have also just now found my mom's Great Uncle John Abraham's papers (George's brother), but I still can't find Uncle George's.

I hope you all were able to find time today to contemplate the tremendous gift of peace our soldiers have given us, and continue to fight for.

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