Honouring and Remembering

In this month’s cover story, we honour and remember those deployed in the many conflicts home and abroad, the numerous peacekeeping missions, and NATO duties in the name of the Canadian Armed Forces, Mechant Marines, RCMP, and the other militaries of the world.

November is a month to reflect on the impressive men and women who have served and continue to serve our country.

Closer to home…

Prior to the First World War, the population of Pender Island was about 200-250 and 60 men volunteered, most in the fall of 1914.

Of those, 10 did not return, which is gut-wrenching, most of whom were killed in 1915. Many were originally from the UK and they returned home to join local regiments. Only 2 of the 10 who died were born in Canada. Ross Brackett was 26 and didn’t sign up until 1916 with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was killed in a gas attack at the Battle of Hill 70 in August 1917.

Pilot Officer Grover Sargent was killed in 1943 when his Hawker Hurricane plane crashed near Clam Bay Road. A cairn marks the crash site and every Remembrance Day, a small ceremony is held at the cairn.

Pender Island pays tribute to many of these people that have served. There are Honour Rolls at all the churches: Pender Island Community Church (plus plaque for the Corbett brothers); St Peter’s Anglican, and Church of the Good Shepherd on South Pender. There is an amazing photograph banner which was created in 2006 and displayed at the Legion. The banner includes all the former members of the military who have chosen Pender Island to be their home.

In 2002, Doug Pirie, President of the Pender Island Legion, was the driving force behind a plan to involve our local school children in a candle lighting ceremony to honour local veterans buried in the Pender Island Public Cemetery. The children travel by bus to the cemetery and walk with a veteran to place a candle on each of the more than 125 crosses that identify veterans who served so proudly on behalf of all Canadians in war and peace.

Our Pender Island Museum is an excellent source of Pender Island Military history, complete with photos.

Here are a couple of interesting facts about Remembrance Day.

- Remembrance Day was first observed in 1919 throughout the British Commonwealth. It was originally called “Armistice Day” to commemorate the armistice agreement that ended the First World War on Monday, November 11, 1918, at 11 am, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

- From 1921 to 1930, Armistice Day was held on the Monday of the week in which November 11 fell. In 1931, Alan Neill, Member of Parliament for Comox-Alberni, introduced a bill to observe Armistice Day only on November 11. Passed by the House of Commons, the bill also changed the name to “Remembrance Day.” The first Remembrance Day was observed on November 11, 1931.

- Every year on

November 11, Canadians pause in a moment of silence to honour and remember the men and women who have served, and continue to serve Canada during times of war, conflict, and peace.

History of Canadian Service in the 21st Century

The Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) and Canadian Corps were the field forces created for service in the First World War. Over 619,000 men and women participated by enlisting as nurses, soldiers, and chaplains, including segregated Black units and Indigenous people. 66,000 were killed and 173,000 wounded.

In 1918, the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service (RCNAS) was created. A post war permanent force of 4,000 was formed in the following units: Royal Canadian Regiment, Royal 22e Regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the Royal Canadian Dragoons, and Lord Strathcona’s Horse.

Canada entered World War II on September 10, 1939, days after the German invasion of Poland. In total, approximately 1.1 million Canadians served in the Canadian Army, RC Navy, and RC Air Force with 42,000 killed and another 55,000 wounded. The Canadian Merchant Navy completed over 25,000 trips across the Atlantic and played a major role in the battle of the Atlantic. There were more casualties in the Merchant Navy than any other branch of service.

In 1951, Canada formed an infantry brigade to join UN forces in the Korean War, where 2,200 served, 312 were killed and 1,200 wounded. In 1968, the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, and the Royal Canadian Air Force were unified as the Canadian Armed Forces.

Canadian women in service have contributed in all conflicts and peacekeeping missions. From 1942-1946, 6,783 women enlisted in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS) and served in 39 trades from cooking and cleaning to signalling, coding, wireless telegraphy, and submarine tracking. Women also served in the Canadian Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (CWAAF) and the Canadian Women’s Army Corps in both WWII and the Korean War.

From 1954 to the present, Canada has served in 14 peacekeeping theatres: Afghanistan, Balkans, Cambodia, Congo, Cyprus, East Timor, Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Gulf War, Haiti, Mali, Rwanda, Somalia, Syria. Missions varied but mainly were to stabilize, rebuild, provide stability and relief, restore order, and keep the peace. Canadian Forces proudly shared in the 1988 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to the UN for its peacekeeping work. Canada contributed 80,000 personnel to these missions - approximately 10% of the total UN forces between 1948-1988. Over 125,000 Canadians have served in peacekeeping missions with approximately 130 deaths. Lest We Forget.

Sources: Simone Marler, The Pender Island Museum; Mike Wiley, The Pender Post; veterans.gc.ca; and thecanadianencyclopedia.ca. Terry Shepherd, Kenneth Pelley, and Michel Pelletier

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