Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 11th - Remembrance Day

Armistice Day, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day. Whatever you call it – in Canada November the 11th is the day we set aside to honour our war dead. It has always struck me as odd that we needed one day to remember – many I am certain over the years needed one day to forget.

So many lives lost, so many people changed forever.

Canada was far removed geographically and did not suffer first hand the devestation and heartbreak suffered by those in Europe.. My uncles served ‘overseas’ in the European theatre ( odd to call it a theatre, I am certain it was not entertaining at all). I know very little about their service, one uncle served with the Black Watch, another with the tanks, another with the RAF.

I don’t know what youngsters did in Europe; many were transported away from their homes to other countries for safety. In my country little boys donned pots on their heads, took up wooden rifles and banged on pot lids as they marched off to ‘war’ like their dads. They played their war games with a ‘bang bang, you’re dead’ For the fathers of many of these little boys the game was real, and their fathers were dead.

I was barely a toddler when my one uncle went away and I repeatedly asked “why”. I know that at the end of the war the medals were stashed away and we were not allowed to discuss the war with my uncles. They left young lads and returned grown men; many with nightmares to follow them through life. One of my uncles left in high spirits and returned an alcoholic. He worked every day of his life and drank every evening to forget. Another uncle was on leave in  a liberated country and a native of that country slit his throat, robbed him and left him for dead in an alley. Another uncle lied about his age to join the ‘fly boys’ – when they discovered his age he had already flown missions over Germany and was celebrating the birthday that now made him of legitimate age.

Many died and did not return. Many returned with war brides. Many returned strangers to those who loved and knew them. Many children were left ‘fatherless’. Many orphans.

I remember one grandmother busily knitting toques, socks, scarves and gloves. My other grandmother used to unravel the nylon threads from parachute rope pieces and knit into the stockings – they lasted longer with the nylon threads. I remember them assembling care parcels and shipping off with knitted goods, chocolate, cookies, tea, tobacco and various other items. They gathered and made up red cross bandages, the women took on men’s jobs.

When the ‘boys’ were on leave my grandmother hosted a party and dance …. The huge dining room turned into a dance floor complete with band and loads of food on the kitchen table. Particularly I remember the huge cello and the violins and dancing couples.

Many, many stories to tell about this time in my life; too many to include here today. Mostly I remember my best friend in the whole world, my uncle, leaving to be a soldier – I was barely a toddler butI was definitely going to do the same ‘when I grew up’, I would go with him.

I remember the town parades on November 11th folllowing the end of the war. One uncle would dress and march in the parade, the other got ‘stinking’ drunk instead. The whole town attended waving little flags and cheering. Never cared much for those parades … I couldn’t find anything to cheer even as a very small child.

I remember, I know many of you do also; and now that I know more of those involved in the conflict; and in conflicts of other wars – I still ask “Why”.

And I apologize for this not being an ‘upbeat’ blog. Maybe tomorrow.


  1. Ruby, such a nice tribute today!

  2. down on earth, another war, all those brave boys and girls. doesn't seem right that childhood should end this let us pray, for one more day.