This past Saturday marked 99 years since the end of The Great War. On Nov. 11, 1918, at 11:00 a.m., the Armistice of Compiègne was signed, marking an end to what was at the time one of the deadliest wars in human history. Since then the day, Nov. 11 has come to be recognized as a day dedicated to fallen soldiers, war veterans, and those currently serving their countries.
Approximately 60,000 Canadian soldiers died either in battle or from disease during World War One, and along with 2,000 Canadian civilians. global it is estimated that there were over 40 million casualties during the war. Remembrance Day serves to remember those who have fallen as well as veterans who have served Canada. It is a day to be grateful for freedom we experience at the cost of so many lives.
Several countries around the world recognized Remembrance Day. Some give it a different name, such as Armistice Day or Memorial Day, and some countries choose a different date to mark the occasion, but the intentions are universal: honour the fallen and thank those who survived. Canada is one of those countries, and municipalities across the nation host ceremonies to partake in the commemoration.
The Niagara Region had several Remembrance Day ceremonies, including ones in Niagara Falls, Welland, and St. Catharines, among other cities.
The St. Catharines Ceremony began at City Hall at 10:15 a.m. Members of the Canadian Military as well as Cadets lined the street in formation, and hundreds of veterans and other members of the public gathered as well. The ceremony officially began with the Last Post, followed by a brief moment of silence and the lowering of the Canadian flag to half-mast. The military personnel and cadets then led the procession to the Cenotaph in Memorial Park, where the Remembrance Day ceremony was held.
The ceremony continued with the Canadian National Anthem, followed by greetings. Some of the most significant and deadliest battles from both World Wars were then recounted: April, 2017 marked 100 years since the Battle of Vimy Ridge; Nov.10 marked 100 years since the end of The Battle of Passchendaele, where — there were nearly 16, 000 Canadian casualties; August 2017 marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Dieppe,.
Following this, St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik addressed those gathered. He told the story of a first generation British immigrant to Canada, a citizen of St. Catharines. Remembrance Day 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of that man’s death; he fought in the Battle of Passchendaele and died one day after the Allied victory was declared.
“One-hundred years ago today, a member of our community died, never to see his wife again, never to hold his daughters again, never to see his grandchildren, never to realize the better life he hoped for, when he first arrived in Canada,” said Sendzik.
The presentation of wreaths was also an important symbolic moment as dozens of wreaths were laid at the Cenotaph in memory of and gratefulness to those who sacrificed their lives; among those wreaths was one from Brock University, presented by President Gervan Fearon.
At precisely 11:00 a.m., a cannon shot was fired, followed by the Last Post, to mark the beginning of a two minute period of silence. This moment of silence is traditionally recognized at 11:00 a.m. on Remembrance Day because that is when the armistice was signed and the First World War officially ended. The moment of silence is held to remember and honour those who served their countries during war times as well as those currently serving.
After the moment of silence had passed, the presentation of the wreaths continued until each wreath had been presented. The ceremony closed with final words, a prayer and an invitation to all in attendance to lay their poppies on the wreaths or at the Cenotaph as a symbol of their respect. Hundreds of poppies were brought forward.
Wearing a poppy has become a symbol of remembering in the days leading up to Nov. 11. The tradition has its origins in the famous poem written by Canadian Major John McCrae, “In Flanders Fields”; the poem mentions poppies growing among military grave sites, and the flower has now become a symbol of respect and remembrance for those who lie in those graves. They are worn as a symbol, lest we forget the terrible tragedies of war or the incredible sacrifices paid for our freedom.