Bondi Resort Blog

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I was honoured to be asked to speak at the Remembrance Day ceremony in Dwight this past weekend, representing the Township of Lake of Bays.

This memorial was built by members of the community. The service is run jointly by the Lion's Club and the Legion. This year it was good to see the Cadets present as well. 

I had a few people ask me, afterwards at the tea, for a copy of my words. It's nice to be asked.  So, for those who may want to see the copy, here it is.  Never forget.  We got here, to this place and this time, riding on the shoulders of the giants who fought the wars for us, bless them all.

Thank you. Thank you for coming here, on this day, at this place, to join in thanking those that made our country, our freedoms, our lives possible.  We gather on this date, marking the end of the War to End War.  Sadly, that was not so.  It seems now so distant, that almost a century past, at 11 a.m. on November 11th, the guns fell silent.

Almost a century.  And since then, the tide of events has been so dramatic, so vast and all – consuming, a world has been created beyond the reach of imagination. But this world we live in, well, we got here on the shoulders of giants. We got here on the courage and sacrifice of all those who came before, all those who marched to war, all those who stayed behind, all who returned.

Almost a century. The memories fade, dim at the edges like old photos, and yet they are not forgotten. Generals refer to campaigns as “theatres of operations.” It's easy to think of wars as a different kind of “theatre”, something  watched on big screens. The truth is that war is terribly real, and terribly close. Freedom is Never Free, and nobody ever goes to war alone. Like a stone thrown into still water, the ripples expand until everything is encompassed. Nothing remains untouched.   In war, it is said, there are no unwounded soldiers.

When it comes to holding memories, however, theatre has a place. An older war has suddenly come back into our focus this year, the War of 1812, two centuries past, stood up off the pages of history in a series of dramatic re-enactments and documentaries. For most this was a war barely remembered beyond the boxes of chocolates bearing Laura Secord's name. It remains the only war fought on Canadian soil, for which we should all still be grateful. It was pivotal in forging the country we live in, and gave us the nation's first 'anthem', The Maple Leaf Forever.’  

So this year, that distant War of 1812 has been commemorated -- to be honest, more north of the border than to the south.

This has not been the only long past War that flashed into the spotlight this year. World War One, that great war, the war to end all wars, the war that brought us to this day, this hour, this moment of Remembrance, has faded from most minds like old photographs. There are no veterans left alive to tell of that war.  But there are stories still to be told, and lessons still to be learned. This year, marching onto cinema screens and theatre stages came WAR HORSE.  We often overlook that we took these patient companions with us in our wars. Since Alexander the Great armies have marched with cavalry.

 Over 8 million horses died in war service during WWI.

Cavalry didn’t disappear with the advent of the machine gun.  One of my friends was a
Polish general who rode in the last cavalry charge of WWII -- in Poland. They charged a division of German Panzer tanks. In desperate times, one fights with what one has.

During the battle of Nevada Cities in Korea, a little mare named Reckless made, in just one day, 51 trips to the front lines of the battle -- carrying ammunition to the troops, and carrying
injured soldiers back to the field hospital. She made those trips with no handler at her head, during some of the worst shelling of that war. (as an aside, during the course of that battle she carried over 40 tonnes of ammunition to the front lines)  It is inconceivable to us now, but they are still there, active cavalry serves to this day in some of the conflicts in the Middle East in
regions that are inaccessible to vehicles.

We took dogs to war with us as well. During WWII, in Germany alone there were over 80,000 Working Military Dogs. This year, the USA gave a Medal of Honour to Cairo, a Military Dog that was instrumental in locating Osama Bin Laden. In the face of the horror of the human toll War exacts, it is easy to overlook the animals that served, but they deserve a place in memory, as a reminder that war reaches everything, changes everything, leaves nothing untouched. It is easy to forget that the ripples of the War flood over everything, washing away generations.

The faces of those who were there during the Great Wars get older. Young faces come forward from more current conflicts.  It is important to collect the memories, that they never be forgotten.   The veterans have lessons we still need to learn.

When Peril is Past, Shall Gratitude Sleep?   “Freedom is never free.” Every day is a gift...

So thank you, all. Thank you to those who fought, and those who let them go. To the community that came together to build this cenotaph, to those that keep the memories. These moments, this hour, this day, we dedicate to those who were lost to gain us this gift. We come to honour those who never returned, and to those who did, those heroes among us today.  We stand in silence to commemorate the eerie silence that fell over their battlefields on this day, and the silence that fell in homes to which they never returned.  And in this place where to be immortal is to be remembered, we declare of all our fallen – “they are not missing. They are here.”


  1. Beautifully said, Nancy.

    I've liked that monument since it was erected. If I recall, there weren't any locals in the area who died in active duty during the wars.

    A few days ago here in Ottawa, a monument was unveiled recognizing animals in war. It's set near the National Memorial, alongside the Boer War Memorial. It consists of three panels with depictions of horses, dogs, and birds in the military context, and an accompanying life sized statue of a rescue dog.

  2. Actually, William, there were a large number of men from the Lake of Bays who marched to the Wars and never marched home. Also a lot who did come home, and made a life here. There is a Book of Remembrance kept in the Library to honour them all. Also, up at Interlaken, the Norwegians had a R&R base for their airmen, which also served as a winter training base. The pilots flew out of the Gravenhurst airport, where there is a memorial to Little Norway now. Several of those young fliers died during crashes that occurred in training flights. The Lost Airmen of Muskoka group just this past year located another of the lost planes. War reaches pretty much everywhere. It certainly reached here...

  3. That I didn't know. I assumed that since there weren't names on it, that local soldiers came back from the wars without deaths in the ranks.