Remembrance Day this year will land on a Saturday. Will you be at the Tillsonburg cenotaph?
During WWI when the names of the dead boys and fathers were being telegraphed home, they started fundraising for our cenotaph and in 1929 it was set in front of our once, unique, Town Hall. On the cenotaph you can find the names of the battles that these Canadian men fought and died in in World War I.
Since that war, the town added to the cenotaph, “In Memory Of Those Who Paid The Supreme Sacrifice And In Honour Of Those Who Served In The Great Wars.” But the wars didn’t stop, and added after was “And Korea” and then “United Nation Peacekeepers” and also in 2015 “Afghanistan” was added where we lost 158 mean and women.
In 2015, thanks to Jerry Turner and the Rotary Club, the names of the fallen from both world wars were added on black granite to the side facing the Town Centre Mall.
From Confederation 150 years ago, I found about 20 conflicts outside of Canada that our people served in. Some had no deaths or wounded, but in total I calculated at least 113,266 have died and 228,954 wounded. How many children were left fatherless or motherless? How many parents and sweethearts had their heart broken? How many men and women from all these conflicts came home broken in mind, body and soul? After the war, many walked away from family and committed suicide because they could not live with themselves after doing what they had to do to win their battles. How many suffered their entire lives, with no help, on our behalf.
The original hospital in town, on Broadway, was not large enough and John Smith left in his 1923 will, the funds to create a trust for a new hospital on condition it was named the Tillsonburg Soldier’s Memorial Hospital. It was so named until 1950 when ‘Soldier’s’ was removed, leaving the word Memorial to represent all of our armed forces from both wars. Unfortunately, today no one realizes who our hospital is a memorial too. Perhaps honouring the original intent by putting ‘Military’ in would be a wonderful way to honour the 100th Anniversary and there is another year to arrange it before it is over.
We are now in the fourth year of WWI Anniversary, the worst year so far with so many Canadians dead and maimed. Two battles alone, Vimy Ridge and Hill 70, amounted to almost 20,000 deaths with 22 men from Tillsonburg and area.
Most people in Canada have had someone in their family tree that fought in a war. I had two grandfathers in WWI (one eventually died from the gas), and two uncles (one died) and two uncles-by-marriage in WWII. If your family didn’t live in Canada, they most likely served their former country's armed forces and suffered as well. Don’t forget them!
Having no family in more recent conflicts, I decided to make one conflict more personal by finding a Canadian with my last name to ‘adopt.’ Beechey didn’t work, but I found someone under my maiden name, Lieutenant William Montague Turner, who died just before my birthday on April 22, 2006, serving in Gumbad, Afghanistan. I hope his sister in Edmonton doesn’t mind that I honour him every Remembrance Day along with my other Turners and family who served.
You might like to try the profound, The Silent Walk on the 11th, by meeting prior to 10:30 at Veteran’s Memorial Parkway, at Rolph and Bridge Street. It concludes at the cenotaph by 10:45 a.m. when the Remembrance Day service begins to honour those who have kept Canada and the world free. You might ask a neighbour or someone in Long Term Care or a Retirement Residence if they would like to go with you and your family on Saturday. Get them a Poppy, too, and help our Legion and veterans!
Before Remembrance Day, on Nov. 5, you can combine both a Canada 150 and small tribute to WWI, with a very talented Canadian singer who has been warmly received in town more than a few times - Michael Toby! Many of you know this gifted singer from his music about Underground Railroad songs, used by slaves fleeing the United States. Well, he will be singing music composed and/or performed by Canadian singer/songwriters, as well as a short programme of WWI music at 2:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Church on Ridout St. W. Tickets ($20) and available at 519 688-0011 or at the door. Proceeds will be going to provide meals for hungry people in Tillsonburg.