ANAVETS Shoulder to Shoulder

May 2013

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THE NATIONAL WALL OF REMEMBRANCE PROJECT By Terence Cottrell W hy is it that great ideas seem to flourish whenever a group of old-soldiers and friends gather round a table with suitable refreshments and before the session is over they've solved most of the world's problems? It's probably because the modern military milieu does make – the old-soldier, at least – "wonder why," in Tennyson's immortal words. Well, the National Wall of Remembrance project owes its origin to such an occasion at a Kingston Royal Canadian Legion branch three years ago. And as the amateur oracles left the site after settling such common or garden problems as the war in Afghanistan, they carried with them the idea of a truly novel memorial to Canada's fallen. Several more formal meetings took place and a rudimentary committee was formed to pursue the idea. Soon a formal constitution and by-law was drawn up, the objects clearly defined, a method worked out and a roster of patriotic volunteers mustered: the National Wall of Remembrance Association (NWORA) was born, and later incorporated. So why did we want to do it? Perhaps we hear the reason at the Cenotaph on every Remembrance Day. But no address on that honoured day has yet surpassed "The Funeral Oration of Pericles" (c. 490 B.C), saluting Athens's fallen, as reported by Thucydides in The Peloponnesian War: …The sacrifice which they collectively made was individually repaid to them; for they received again each one for himself a praise that grows not old, and the noblest of all tombs – I speak not of that in which their remains are laid, but of that in which their glory survives, and is proclaimed always and on every fitting occasion both in word and deed. For the whole earth is the tomb of famous men; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men…. (Jowett translation) We thought the time had come to do something new; to give a local substance and a name to airy nothing. We sought to go beyond the columns and inscriptions, worthy though they may be, to inscribe upon the hearts of men and women an authentic account of Canada's fallen through the magic of the computer, and to give substance in full to the as yet "unwritten memorial of them." This self-funding project will create a single place of remembrance for all of Canada's fallen heroes - a facility that families, friends and the people of Canada will want to visit. The National Wall of Remembrance will honour those who fell in all conflicts of record, starting with the earliest, from the time of the 1791 Constitution Act up to today. It will not, however, seek to replace local cenotaphs and memorials as a sacred place. Using 21st century technology, the educational aspects of the installation will be of particular interest to schools. It will have two components: a series of panels portraying the various conflicts and a digital "wall" with a "search" function. An all-inclusive screen presentation of the name of each fallen hero together with biographies, photos and 14 SHOULDER TO SHOULDER Groundbreaking 10 November 2011: L to R: Terence Cottrell, Chair Advisory Board; Jim Kingston, Treasurer; LCol Ken Carr, Dep. Base Comdr; Debra St. Gelais, Secretary; Allan Jones, President NWORA; Jack O'Brien, Director; Maj Mike Jackson, DCO C & E School; Philip Osanic, Director (and son Nicholas). clippings will be augmented from time to time as new material comes to light. Just imagine: Old great-uncle Charlie's naughty postcard home from Paris at Christmas 1917 will finally be made available to the whole country – the whole world. His saucy remarks on the back that made Grandma blush will be revealed to all and sundry. Alas, Uncle Charlie never made it home. He lies somewhere in Belgium. But the National Wall of Remembrance will put flesh on his lost bones. His name on the Menin Gate, which nobody in the family has ever been to see, will not be his only sterile memorial. We'll be able to see what he looked like as a boy – he always was a bit cheeky. We can see him with his sweetheart on their way to church. We can read one of his letters to her – she kept the rest, but through that one letter we can get to know something about Uncle Charlie as a young man in love. We might even have a few pages of the diary he kept and was picked up on the battlefield by a comrade and sent home by the padre with a few words of condolence. We might even see that letter of condolence and learn a little from a man who knew Uncle Charlie from an angle slightly different from that of his comrades. Not just a name and number, perhaps wrongly spelled, hammered into bleak stone, but something of the whole man. Even going back to the War of 1812 we might have miniatures of soldiers or their loved ones. We might have letters home – treasured and kept in special protectors, but which a generous and concerned family might consider having scanned and donated as "airy nothings" to the project, all the while keeping the family heirlooms safe. Flesh on old bones. And eventually available to all Canadians. The more than 118,000 names will thus not have to be chiselled into blocks of granite with the attendant difficulties incurred by other such

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