For the glorious few
no longer stand so straight
As they did long years before
when they faced a hard and cruel fate
on a far and distant shore.
Their tunics faded, green and blue
poor shelter from this cold;
the memories made yet raw and new
at the calling of the roll.
Garnet Rogers – 11:11
Alyssa and I went today to watch the VE Day 60th Anniversary Parade, as the veterans who did so much for us paraded from the National War Memorial on Elgin Street to the opening of the new National War Museum on Le Breton Flats.
On the drive into Ottawa on Friday night, I heard a few stories about VE Day celebrations. One was about this organization of women who’d served overseas as drivers, clerks, nurses, etc, and who were disbanding their organization after this VE Day because there were too few remaining to and those remaining weren’t able to travel to reunions. And a similar story later about how this 60th anniversary celebration in Holland will probably be the last, and certainly the last “significant” anniversay, where vets will be able to come in any number, and how the damn politicians are ruining it for them by crashing what was supposed to private dinner and dance for the vets and their wives only because partisan bickering kept the politicians from going to the public ceremony today.
The vets were supposed to come along Wellington Street at 11:30, but since there were politicians giving speeches at the National War Memorial, of course they were late. They started streaming by at about 12:45. I tried to keep Alyssa entertained by telling her some of the stories my parents and grand parents told me about their experience in the war. I’m hoping that these sorts of stories will help keep the memories alive and maybe spark some later interest in the history. Of course this long delay meant that I was standing far longer than I should have been, and my knees and hips are screaming in pain in spite of the Celebrex I’ve taken.
First was an honour guard, most of whom were wearing “spam medals” (Canadian Volunteer Service Medal) or other campaign medals or ribbons. Then some marching soldiers, some obviously WW-II vets as well, others more recent. A few wearing peace-keeping blue berets. Then some more of the WW-II vets came riding an assortment of era vehicles including Bren Gun Carriers, Deuce and a Halfs, Jeeps, DUCWs, and Sherman (“Ronson”) tanks.
As everybody passed by, the crowd applauded constantly, and called out “Thank you”. It was touching how many of the veterans called back “Thank you for showing up.” The people next to us were holding an Air Force ensign, and all the Air Force vets commented on it as they went by.
I was amazed to see in amongst the vets was a man in a motorized wheel chair wearing a Glengary with the cap badge of the Lorne Scots (Peel Dufferin and Halton Regiment), the same unit that I spent my time in. I ran along side him a bit and told him that I’d been in the Lorne Scots, but he couldn’t hear that well so I didn’t get a chance to ask him where he served. The Lorne Scots were all over the place in the war, including Boulogne, Dieppe and Sicily. But even if he was one of the people involved in the training brigades that never left England, there is nothing in my valiant defence of Canadian Forces Base Boredom from the perdiferous Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (the “ASH-CANs”) that even remotely matches his service. But I hope my brief time trying to carry on the regimental traditions carries some weight.
A little while later there was another man wearing the cap badge and the Glengarry, and also the primrose hackle of the Lorne Scots, but he wasin a truck with a bunch of other people and he was talking to them and couldn’t hear me calling out to him.
Of course with both men, I had to resist the urge to call out some of the Lorne Scots regimental songs, all of which I only know the extremely rude words for, not the “real” ones.
Lorne Scots once
Lorne Scots twice
Holy Jumping Jesus Christ!
We are the Lorne Scots,
We wear our kilts, we wear no jocks
We wrap our putties around our cocks
To keep our balls from freezing.
and so on.
Every few years I have a dream where I’m back in the Lorne Scots. It was a period of my life I have very mixed emotions about, but I’m glad that I served.