My day of remembrance
The day after Remembrance Day a number of commentators remarked in the press that Canadians remember the sacrifice of our soldiers one day a year and then forget them. However, for me, this is far from the case. While I participate every year as a spectator to our Remembrance Day ceremonies, wear a poppy and place a poppy wreath on my door, my real day of remembrance is the 22nd of December.
It is on that day that the page is turned on National Book of Remembrance and the name of my grandfather’s first cousin is displayed.
The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill serves as a National War Memorial, just as the National War Memorial down the street on the corner of Wellington and Elgin. The Tower was built in 1917, following the fire and reconstruction of Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings. A chapel was placed in the tower, and a book of remembrance placed on an altar in the middle of the room. Every man and woman who died in service of Canada during the First World War had their name placed in the book. Victor’s name appears along with another 66 000 names. This book was joined with other books as the century went on, for the Second World War, Newfoundland’s War dead, the Korean War, the South African War, the Merchant Navy, and those who have passed since in service. There are 118 000 names now in these books.
Every morning at 11 am the chapel is closed off to the visitors and the guard in a silent ceremony opens the cases and turns the page. I have attended this ceremony only once, looking into the chapel from the hallway, and when the ceremony was over, looked at Victor’s name embossed on the page. And that is when I remember. I remember my grandfather in his old age crying over Victor’s loss, I remember the letters his family saved and continue to cherish from his time overseas, I remember the letters family wrote years later, mourning his loss, and I look at pictures of him, so handsome and young in his uniform.
This site provides a history of the book of remembrance and allows you to look up the names of the dead, and when their page is shown in the chapel: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/collections/books/history#peace