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Canada skips ceremony for soldier who wrote In Flanders Fields

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Re: Canada skips ceremony for soldier who wrote In Flanders Fields

Post by Bruce72 on Fri 02 Feb 2018, 18:57

This is how the Canadian government remembers the fallen.

Lest, we forget.

We will never forget.

Bruce72
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Canada skips ceremony for soldier who wrote In Flanders Fields

Post by Bruce72 on Fri 02 Feb 2018, 18:55

Canada skips ceremony for soldier who wrote In Flanders Fields

Ottawa Citizen

TOM SPEARS - published January 30, 2018



On Sunday, Canada stood up Lt.-Col. John McCrae, the author of In Flanders Fields.

At least that’s the opinion of one observer who attended a ceremony in France to mark the 100th anniversary of McCrae’s death from pneumonia.

The ceremony took place at the town of Wimereux, home to the military cemetery where McCrae is buried.

Canada sent no one, though Veterans Affairs Canada says it laid a wreath and poppies at the new Vimy Education Centre, the scene of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

McCrae, an army doctor, is this country’s most famous soldier from the First World War.

On the cold, windy afternoon in northern France, about two dozen visitors stood as a French band played O Canada, and the French town supplied a Canadian flag. French veterans stood with their banners.

The town council of Wimereux laid a wreath. So did the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. So did one visitor from Britain.

Genevra Charsley, the British woman who brought her own poppy wreath to lay, said she’s upset at Canada’s absence. She said she asked Veterans Affairs last year whether it was planning a 100th anniversary event, as it is responsible for ceremonies at battlefields and other historic military sites in France.

She says they told her there was nothing planned.

“So we kept it on the radar anyway, and I had a backup plan, on a personal level,” she said Monday.

Charsley lives in Belgium with her fiancé and operates a company called Flanders Battlefield Tours, which takes visitors to sites around the Somme, Vimy and Ypres.

She has been to McCrae’s grave many times and decided to return on her own for the service organized by the Wimereux town hall. A representative of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was there with her family.

“There was not one Canadian person there at all,” she said. “I was gobsmacked. I was really quite saddened and upset for John, bearing in mind that his poem is probably taught through every single school in Canada. You have Canadian dollar notes that have been (printed) with the poem printed on them.


“I just thought all it needed was one official representative, that’s all, just to lay a wreath. Nothing as grand and as over-the-top as what happened at Vimy Ridge. I mean, I just couldn’t believe, not one Canadian person.”

“They can all turn around and say they may not have known of the service in Wimereux, but the bottom line is I know that John died on the 28th of January. I know that (Sunday) was his 100-year centenary of death. We made the effort to contact Wimereux.”

“I’m sorry, but they all stand underneath the Menin Gate (Belgium’s great war memorial). They all go to the Vimy Ridge service. They all wear poppies, and in my mind I’m sorry, but they are not worthy of wearing those poppies. … Absolutely disgusting.”

She posted video of the service on Facebook, and describes the event as “very simple, and to the heart,” unlike the major commemorations with “VIPs coming out of the woodwork.”

She said she was pleased with the simplicity. “But in another way, all it needed was just one Canadian representative to lay a wreath. But there was just no one, and that was sad considering that everyone likes to quote In Flanders Fields and, of course, wear their poppy.”

Veterans Affairs sent an email saying, “The centennial of McCrae’s death was recognized at the Centre on January 28, 2018 with a special wreath and poppy tribute and his contributions were also recognized online this week when information on the anniversary was shared with almost a million Canadians through Veterans Affairs Canada’s extensive social media network.”

It said it receives many requests to attend special events in France but has no record of being officially notified by the town of Wimereux.

A Canadian who has frequently visited McCrae’s grave says Canada missed an opportunity this week.

“He is the single most iconic figure in Canadian military history as far as World War One goes,” said Gary McKay of Calgary, who also organizes battlefield tours in Europe.

“There’s not a tour that goes in that area that does not include Essex Farm, which was his dressing station” near Ypres, he said, and this includes tours of visitors from other countries.

“He’s hugely, hugely important to Canadian history, and so it was a momentous occasion.”

Who was John McCrae?

• Born in Guelph, Ont., in 1872. Attended high school there, began to write poetry; later graduated from Royal Military College.

• Taught English and mathematics at the Ontario Agricultural College, but gave it up to study medicine at University of Toronto.

• Practised at Toronto General Hospital, then Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, then the Montreal General and Royal Victoria Hospitals in Montreal.

• He served in the Second Boer War as a lieutenant in the artillery, and after the war taught first in Vermont and then at McGill University.

• He joined  early in the First World War as a medical officer with the rank of major. He treated wounded at first in a dressing station — a bunker near the front lines. A close friend, Alexis Helmer, was killed at Ypres in 1915, and this is when McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields, which appeared anonymously in Punch magazine. Later he moved to a field hospital.

• Died of pneumonia on Jan. 28, 1918.

• McCrae is buried in France, but there is a memorial to him in Belgium at Ypres.

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/canada-skips-ceremony-for-soldier-who-wrote-in-flanders-fields

Bruce72
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Number of posts : 721
Location : Newfoundland
Registration date : 2014-03-13

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