Remembrance Day ~ November 11
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Lest We Forget
Hillman Military Tributes




Lest We Forget
Selected items from our
As You Were . . . Our Monthly Webzine

Lest We Forget

Take a series of 360o virtual tours of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Museum


Prime Minister Stephen Harper's
Tribute to Canada's Fallen Soldiers 
at the Launch of Remembrance Week
November 6, 2006 ~ Ottawa, Ontario

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, students, veterans and members of the Canadian Forces. And thank you, Flight Sergeant Brooks (Tanya), for your kind introduction.

I have the honour of welcoming you all here today. But it is more. It is a privilege to be in the presence of so many people who have done so much for our country. We are gathered here in the magnificent new Canadian War Museum to mark the beginning of a week of remembrance.

Remembrance Week will climax next Saturday…

…at the eleventh hour…
…of the eleventh day … 
…of the eleventh month…
…with two minutes of silence…

…as Canadians pause to remember the more than 116,000 men and women who have laid down their lives for our country.

Canada’s tradition of remembrance began 88 years ago with the end of the Great War. Today the tradition continues as strong as ever.  In fact, turnout at Remembrance Day ceremonies has been growing in recent years. Much of the credit for the durability of this tradition goes to those Canadians who dedicate themselves to the teaching of history. They pass our story on from generation to generation. They are social studies and history teachers, authors and filmmakers, archivists and researchers, and songwriters and poets. 

No single storyteller has contributed more to our tradition of remembrance than Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. His immortal poem, "In Flanders Fields," was inspired by his aching grief for a fallen comrade.

When we hear his words…

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,"

We cannot fail to be moved by them: every schoolchild has been taught them.  The families of our veterans have lived them. They are carved deep into the Canadian soul. McCrae speaks on behalf of the tens of thousands of ordinary Canadians who, throughout our history have volunteered to fight and die to defend our society's fundamental values: Freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Every one of those brave young men and women has a story to tell. Most are almost anonymous, their stories known only to their families, who pass them down through the ages like precious heirlooms.

One such story is that of Private James Teskey. Born and raised in Deloraine, Manitoba, and Okotoks, Alberta, he was just 17 when he volunteered to fight for king and country. Wearing his uniform, and a proud smile, he left his family behind on the farm, shipped across the Atlantic, trained for weeks in England, and then found himself surrounded by death and destruction in the bloodiest war the world had ever known. After 34 days of horrific trench warfare at the Battle of Arras in June 1917, that war consumed him too. He was not yet 19 years old. 

I know his story because James Teskey would become my wife’s great-uncle. This summer Laureen and I visited his grave in northern France. Seeing the cross with his name on it for the first time brought the family stories of her childhood to life, and almost a century later his sacrifice still moved his grand-niece to tears.

Because we are Canadians. We remember.

We remember that the Dominion of Canada was barely 50 years old when nearly 100,000 of her 8 million citizens fought the famous Battle of Vimy Ridge. On Vimy Ridge, the Canadians succeeded where others had failed. It was the most imported Allied victory at that point in the war. But for Canada, it was much more. That day marked the beginning of a new era for our country.

Brigadier-General Alexander Ross, commander of one of the brigades that stormed the Ridge, put it best: 
"It was Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parade," he said. "I thought then that in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation." Six months later, Allied commanders called on the Canadians again, this time to break the stalemate at Ypres. Twenty thousand soldiers fought in the neutral zone and captured the Village of Passchendaele. The price paid was extremely high – 16,000 fallen, including the great Canadian patriot from Quebec, Talbot Papineau.

Papineau, a brilliant lawyer and orator - whom many expected to one day become prime minister - was one of Canada’s most eloquent champions of the cause. In defence of Canada's participation in the First War, he wrote: "It is true that Canada has not heard the roar of German guns, nor been struck by deadly zeppelins, But every shot fired against Belgium or France was aimed at much as Canada's heart as at the bodies of our brave allies." As was the case two decades later, when the mother countries of our English and French populations were attacked once again.

In the Second World War, we mustered one million volunteers for the Canadian Forces – an amazing number in a country of just 11 million people. By the end of the Second World War, we had the fourth largest navy on earth. Our air force was almost as formidable, and we provided the training grounds for more than 130,000 Allied airmen. Canadian troops took part in every major campaign against fascism. We drove them out of Sicily and Italy. We drove them out of Normandy and the Scheldt, out of the Netherlands and all the way back to Germany.

One of the Canadian heroes of the Second World War was one of my early mentors in politics:  the late, great General Stan Waters. He had been a member of the legendary Devil’s Brigade – and he led the victorious Allied troops into Rome. Later he became the top commander in the Canadian Army, a successful business and community leader and the country’s first elected senator. General Waters was an individual with an incredible courage of conviction, boundless drive and determination and the deep sense of humour of a man who believed he had cheated death more than once. He believed in war, in the nobility of service in war, when the cause is just, when the purpose clear, and only when there is no other way. 

Our military history is filled with larger-than-life characters like Talbot Papineau and Stan Waters. And their achievements have forged the character of our country. Our veterans have come from every part of the country, every walk of life, and every community that has found safe haven in this great country. 

Among the hundreds of thousands of our countrymen who served in Europe from 1939 to 1945 were 7,000 Aboriginal Canadians. Like in the First World War, Aboriginal Canadians enlisted in much greater numbers than their proportion of the country's population. Native soldiers were daring fighters who excelled at marksmanship and fieldcraft.  One of the greatest was the Manitoba Ojibway Tommy Prince. As a Special Force commando and member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry,  Prince was decorated nine times for his service and valour in Europe, and for his heroics during some of the toughest fighting in Korea.

Teskey, Papineau, Waters, Prince: The ordinary soldier, the commander, the war hero; The small, the great, the might-have-been; Because of their sacrifices and the sacrifices of tens of thousands of Canadians like them, We are privileged to live in one the most prosperous, civilized and safest countries in the world. They stood up for Canada.

How do we honour them? We remember them. We remember them. But we must do more. We must follow their example. As the poem begs of us:

"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."

And, indeed, generations of young Canadian men and women have been inspired by our veterans. Their example inspired us throughout the Cold War era, when we stood firm with our NATO allies against the Soviet forces – and won. They inspired our peacekeepers – our blue helmets in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Africa, the Balkans and Asia, to put their lives on the line to defend peace and security in the world. Often in places where Canada had no direct strategic interest: where their motives were purely humanitarian. But that’s the way it has always been. When the cause is just, Canada answers the call.

And so it is today in Afghanistan. More than two score of our troops have fallen since we joined the United Nations campaign to rescue that country from tyranny, terrorism and the Taliban in the months after 9-11. This week we remember them, too. Our grief is new and it is acute. 

"Short days ago," as McCrae wrote in 1915 of his comrades, these brave young men and women "lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved."

Each casualty hurts – hurts us deeply. But along with the pain comes an immense pride in today’s generation of Canadian soldiers. Last month, our Governor General announced that the military valour decorations would be awarded to four members of the Canadian Forces. These four members of the forces will be awarded the military valour decorations for the first time since these honours were created in 1993. Their names are:

Sergeant Patrick Tower,
Sergeant Michael Denine,
Master Corporal Collin Fitzgerald, and
Private Jason Lamont.

Each one of them displayed exceptional valour and devotion to duty during separate engagements with the enemy in the Kandahar region this year. As this is my first opportunity to do so in public, I wish to congratulate and thank these four, on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians. And I know I speak for all Canadians in expressing unequivocal support and sincere gratitude to all our troops and their families. As they have been asked, they are holding the torch high. They are keeping faith with our fallen. And the brave Canadians who lie beneath the poppies in Flanders fields can rest in peace.

And now ladies and gentlemen, I would like to beg your indulgence for just one minute longer. Today, we are unveiling the Remembrance Week Public Service Announcement, which will be broadcast on Canadian television channels throughout the week -- a tribute to those who have served and are serving our country.

So let us watch. And remember.

In Flanders Fields

 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.

                                                               - John McCrae

John Gillespie Magee Jr.
~ Author of the poem: HIGH FLIGHT ~
Died December 11, 1941

When the Battle of Britain was being fought in the hot summer of 1940, John was still a freshman at Yale. He was born in China, of an American clergyman father and an English mother. He came to England at age nine, attended the famous Rugby School, following in the footsteps of the great war poet Rupert Brooke, whose work he much admired. While at Yale Magee decided to give up his studies to join the RCAF in the hope of getting into the fighting in Europe, though war monger he certainly wasn't. "An aeroplane," he wrote home during his basic flying training in Canada, "is not to us a weapon of war, but a flash of silver slanting the skies; the hum of a deep voiced motor; a feeling of dizziness; it is speed and ecstacy."

Magee gained his wings in June 1941 and shipped out to Wales to complete his advanced training-- "Patches of brilliance, tendency to overconfidence" noted his instructor-- before joining 412 Squadron, RCAF, at RAF Wellingore, Lincolnshire, that fall. So exited was the 19-year-old about his first flights in a Spitfire that he jotted his feelings on the back of an envelope, and sent it to his parents with the note: "It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed. I thought it might interest you." The scribbled poem was "High Flight."

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941


Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.  Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg -- or perhaps another sort of inner steel: 

The soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity.  Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America  safe wear no badge or emblem.  You can't tell a vet just by looking. 

What is a vet? 

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel. 

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She - or he - is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang. 

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or didn't come back AT ALL. 

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat -but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs. 

He is the parade - riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals With a prosthetic hand. 

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by. 

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose Presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep. 

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come. 

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being - a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs. 

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known. 

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say Thank You.  That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded. 

Two little words that mean a lot, "THANK YOU." Remember, November 11th is Remembrance Day 


As You Were . . .
November 1999
November 2000
November 2001
November 2002
November 2005: No Man's Land Stereoviews
Air War Stereoviews 1914-1918


Remembrance Day 1999 CATPM Open House
Stuart Johnson's Freedom is Not Free ~ Pt. 1
Stuart Johnson's Freedom is Not Free ~ Pt. 2

RCAF Ex-Air Gunners Monthly Webzine

XII Manitoba Dragoons / 26 Field Regiment Museum ~ Brandon Armoury

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