“We will remember them.”
That familiar refrain will ring out across the country Saturday, including the Chemainus Cenotaph, during Remembrance Day services.
The ceremony at the Cenotaph commences at 10:50 a.m., but it’s a good idea to get there early for a decent vantage point because another large crowd is expected.
A two-minute silence will be observed at 11 a.m. A parade forms up and marches from the Cenotaph to the Chemainus Legion Branch 191 at 11:15, with an open house beginning at 11:30 at the Legion Hall.
The Legion lounge will have camaraderie and entertainment from 2 to 5 p.m.
Janet Mitchell of Legion 191 said the turnouts have consistently been in the 600-700 range in recent years, as the importance of the occasion continues to resonate with the younger generation.
She also points out poppy fund donations go toward veterans, the veterans’ dinner plus bursaries, a poster and literacy contest and more.
Legion members have already been extremely busy in the days leading up to the service with the wide-spread distribution of poppies and a veteran’s dinner. Sunday featured a church parade at the St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church followed by a cemetery service where Rev. Michael Wimmer officiated and Wes Everitt, Mike Beggs, Frans Vandenbrink, Gordon Hughes and Dave Monro served as the colour party for the march toward the Legion 191 veteran’s plot.
Visits were also conducted by vets last week to Penelakut Island and Thetis Island Schools as well as the Chemainus Health Care Centre. Further schools appearances were being made this week to Chemainus Elementary, Crofton Elementary, Chemainus Secondary and St. Joseph’s to share experiences and reflect on the occasion with students.
The Chemainus Legion is fortunate to still have nine surviving members who served in the Second World War: E.C. Rees, George Davison, Dennis Lyon, Gordon Hughes, Al Dyer, Ray Bullock, John Saqui, Howard Valleau and George C. Smart. Several others were involved in conflicts that followed.
Hughes, 91, is sharp as a tack and maintains a vivid memory of his wartime experiences. He enjoys going to the schools to promote an understanding of the war with students.
Visiting Penelakut, “I’ve been doing that since they built the new school,” Hughes pointed out. “Those kids are wonderful. All the young children are. They have no conception of what we’re there for.”
But the vets soon enlighten them a little and hope some of those thoughts will remain with them as they grow older.
Hughes, born in Liverpool, England, spent the better part of two years and eight months in overseas service in several parts of Europe, including Italy, Malta, Yugoslavia, and into operations in Asia off the Burmese coast.
In Italy, “I went in on a landing craft as a replacement for a guy that was killed,” Hughes noted.
He had a couple of brushes with death along the way.
Hughes was just 17 when he went into service after basic and special training overseas.
“It was an exciting time and a scary time,” he conceded.
Hughes’ stories of the war are abundant and would require perhaps an entire book to document since his memory is so good. This will be an especially poignant Remembrance Day for him, the first since the loss of his wife Alma in July.
“She lived very close to where I lived,” Hughes indicated. “But I didn’t meet her till after the war.”
They came to Chemainus after many years in Alberta where Alma operated the St. Albert School of Dance.
A special salute will surely be reserved for her this Remembrance Day while the rest of us acknowledge all the veterans for their sacrifices in providing us with a better way of life today.