Back at home after almost 3 weeks away, I walk to my favorite Coffee House past the inner harbour in Victoria. I look at the cenotaph where the annual ceremony of remembrance will happen at the end of the week.
I think of what I would say if I got the chance to speak on Friday. I think it would go something like this:
This day is not about triumph or celebration.
We are here to honour those that serve
We morn those that gave their lives
And we express gratitude that we have not had to do either.
I think about the Canadian Flag being raised at the Vimy memorial and the 90 year old monument of 60,000 Canadian dead being restore for the next 100 years of remembrance. But it is hard to relate to large numbers, and despite standing on that ground there is nothing in my experience that lets me imagine how it really was. It is easier to think of individuals.
In going to Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth Cemetery, I saw two names that have stayed with me and I think that is who I will think of on Friday – Private Robertson and Lance Corporal Martin.
In addition to holding over 10,000 graves Tyne Cot has walls of 30,000 names of those that have no grave. The names are there because the Menin Gate Memorial wasn’t large enough to hold all the names.
They couldn’t build a memorial big enough to hold all the names, that says alot.
Tyne Cot has the grave of Private James Robertson, Victoria Cross of the Manitoba Regiment. One of the names on the wall was Lance Corporal Henry Martin.
I still remember the note below the name of Corporal Martin – placed there by a student or a family member that was written in the voice of Corporal Martin.
“I spent 14 months convalescing in Blighty only to return to Passchendaele and be blown to pieces at Poelcapelle on 27th November 1917.
I have no know grave, only my name on this panel and a plaque dedicated to me at St Georges Memorial Church, Ieper.
I did my Best
Please Remember me.”
Both Private Robertson and Corporal Martin died in November of 1917.