[Home page] [Who is Past Forward ] [Contact Us] [Publications]

Past Forward is now on Facebook "LIKE" us to keep in touch


December 30, 2005

Year of the Veteran 2005 – Well done!

Checking my file on the Year of the Veteran confirms my observation that Canada did an excellent and well-deserved job recognizing the contribution of our veterans from the past conflicts.  In among all the accolades there have been comments, not usually put forward, on the tragedy and stupidity of war.  Michael Enright on CBC Sunday Morning while talking about the death at age 106 of Clare Laking Canada’s last solder seeing action in WWI talked about the 66,665 Canadians who died in WWI because old monarchs in fancy uniforms didn’t have enough brain-power amongst them to find peace and caused unbelievable slaughter for no good reason. 

I have written on a couple of occasions about how soldiers didn’t necessarily believe in the necessity of the war they were fighting as exemplified in the remarkable spontaneous Christmas Truce December 25, 1914 when soldiers from both sides visited, played soccer and exchanged gifts for 24 hours.  Alfred Anderson, the last survivor of this event who died recently at age 109, remembered the silence and the friendship.  The remarkable new War Museum in Ottawa, which I visited and wrote about in July, is a lasting memorial that looks at not only the glory but the horror and stupidity of war. 

One of my favorite WWI stories this year from many wonderful ones that took place was that of local Chisholm Township resident Linda Thompson’s success in recognizing Chisholm nurse Edith Parkin’s contribution in WWI.  In one of the most solemn and touching ceremonies I have ever seen dozens celebrated the overdue unveiling of a stone and participation in a memorial service in her honour at the Boxwell Cemetery.  This event led Bert Simpson of North Bay to seek recognition and head stones for his aunt Jean, a WWI nurse and his uncle Harvey Cameron-Smith a Major in WWI.   


Another touching story is that of Mattawa’s Joffre Ribout who was shot down in his Spitfire in Belgium in 1942 and died when his parachute did not open.  Sixty-three years later in Belgium Josef Dupon traced a piece of the wreckage to the Ribout family in Mattawa.  Dupon and a neighbour then brought the piece to Mattawa where a presentation was made at the Canadian Legion Branch 254 in Mattawa.  A permanent display including the piece of the plane, a Belgian banner, photos and documents was established at the Mattawa Museum while the Belgian guests were here.  A fitting memorial to a man who gave his life for his country. 

This year recognition was given to women involved in the war – many at home.  I recently mentioned the contribution of Isabel (McDonald) Mauro from North Bay who worked as a communications officer intercepting Japanese code in WWII and who gave artifacts to the Military Communications and Electronics Museum in Kingston. 

Recent books and stories on native soldiers have given them some delayed recognition.  Books on sniper Francis Pegamagabow and one on Henry Louis Norwest who had 178 fatal shots have recognized their work.  The powerful novel on 2 WWI snipers (Three Day Road) has received wide recognition.  A “Calling Home Ceremony” took native veterans to Europe and events like the Nipissing First Nation event at the Nbisiing Education Centre celebrated past contributions of native soldiers.  

In North Bay Remembrance Day this year, celebrating 60 years since the war’s end, was special and held at Memorial Gardens with a candlelight tribute at the Empire Living Centre and a ceremony at the Cenotaph.  North Bay had 3000 men involved in WWII and 150 did not return.  North Bay’s Cliff Alger who flew 30 missions and won the Distinguished Flying Cross was at the Memorial Gardens event and talked about how he and a friend flipped a coin to see who would fly in a training exercise and his friend flew and was killed.  Alger recently published a book Last Standing Member (available at Gulliver’s Books) which tells of his war experiences.  The Nugget had an excellent special section on Remembrance Day giving profiles on some veterans including native veterans.  It mentioned a Veterans Affairs Canada website with excellent Year of the Veteran information www.canada.gc.ca - click Veterans under the A-Z index.  The Almaguin News had a supplement on their area veterans with recognition of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan including the editor’s son. 

Canadian veterans have generally been well respected over the years, but all concerned in this Year of the Veteran with its many events, some of which are touched on here, should be pleased with the detailed recognition of the Canadian veterans involved in World Wars, smaller wars like Korea and Peace Keeping like Afghanistan.  Well done! 


Heritage Perspective Home Page

Past Forward Heritage Limited: 

330 Sumach St. #41, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5A 3K7   Tel. (416)-925-8412


Copyright © Past Forward Heritage Limited