The Chemainus cenotaph in all its glory ready for a crowd to surround it on Remembrance Day. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Heroes of the Great War

Poem for Remembrance Day on the Canada First World War Facebook page

When the baby started crying, did anyone think or say,

He could be a great man, of heroic deeds one day

What makes a man a hero, more than a good man of the day,

Is he born with something special, or is he just special in his way?

Thousands of young Canadians answered the United Kingdoms call,

One thing most had in common, was no military training at all

Volunteers from all walks of life, from the cities and the farms,

Together they would assemble, together they would bear arms.

As each man left the trenches, he knew he could die or live,

For his fellow man and his country, his life he prepared to give

Each soldier on the battlefield, was a hero in his own right,

The medal he may receive, could be a bullet or shrapnel in the fight.

Let’s look at the deeds of men, who went far beyond the call,

Men who risk their lives in battle and were not afraid to fall

They sought the taste of victory, to halt the enemy’s greed,

Gallant men who risk their life, so their troops could succeed.

The 16th Canadian Scottish Battalion, at Regina Trench on the Somme,

Faced heavy enemy fire and barb wire, how could they go on

Piper James Cleland Richardson left the trench, to pipe outside of the wire,

With his courage, the pipe music, the soldiers regained their desire.

To aid a wounded officer, escorting prisoners, he laid his pipes down,

When he went back for his pipes, James lost his life on that battlefield ground

Shielded by courage, James inspired the troops, the objective was gained,

The Victoria Cross for valor, was awarded to the Piper Richardson’s name.

Hugh Cairns bravery was recognized, at the battle of Vimy Ridge,

Cairns received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for actions he did

That was only a sample, as Hugh Cairns character showed through,

At Valenciennes, Hugh’s single handed attack took out a German crew.

A second time the enemy, blocked Sergeant Cairns advance,

Sergeant Cairns killed twelve, captured eighteen when he took another chance

A Sergeant, wounded in battle but his jobs not done,

With a small force of soldiers, they captured, killed and seized the enemies guns.

Sergeant Cairns from Saskatchewan led another patrol to succeed,

He was critically wounded, making this his last final deed

Hugh Cairns was awarded the Victoria Cross, for valor next to none,

Hugh’s statue stands proud, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Imagine men suffering heavy losses, from close range enemy fire,

Irish born Frederick Harvey, ran forward to the enemy, jumping the barb wire

He shot the machine gunner, captured the gun with his single man advance,

Lieutenant Harvey earned the Victoria Cross, at Guyencourt in France.

Flowerdew led a Calvary charge into deadly machine gun fire,

The Horse Regiment with swords slashing, forced the enemy to break and retire

Lord Strathcona’s Regiment, engaged two lines of enemy, resulting in great loss,

For his spirited leadership, Flowerdew, was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The Military Cross was awarded to Frederick Harvey, who led a troop into the fight,

Ordered to dismount, fighting hand to hand, Harvey had victory in sight

Flowerdew’s surviving troops secured positions and were joined by Harvey’s men,

With death in the air, courage and valor prevailed, in the defeat of the enemy once again.

With orders given, a mission to accomplish and often a heavily armed enemy to face,

Seventy two Canadians in the Great War, armed with courage and valor set the pace

Defeating the enemies deadly machine gun fire, with odds only angels could win,

The Victoria Cross was awarded to Canadian hero’s, seventy two of the bravest of men.

Amid bullets racing, piercing the body does victory fuel a hero’s fire,

His fearless actions for his fellow man, his country and the freedom we desire

While many soldiers bled and died, they are honoured for being brave,

Our most courageous remembered by the Victoria Cross, on the stone which marks their grave.

Eric Shaffer,


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