"We've always been, as Canadians, the first to be called on. When we were called, we showed up."
The Agenda has launched The Flanders Project in the lead up to next May, the 100th anniversary of the moment John McCrae wrote the iconic In Flanders Fields, amidst the carnage of the Second Battle of Ypres. The Flanders Project is in part a tribute to the beloved poem but, just as importantly, an effort to better understand the notion of remembrance.
The first chapter of The Flanders Project is The Queen's Own Rifles Remember: members of The Queen's Own, a reserve regiment that predates Confederation (and in which John McCrae was enlisted) give a poignant recitation of the poem and share what they think about when they are asked to remember those who fought.
The next in the series is the above video: Men and women who have served in Canadian forces, during conflicts from the Second World War on, speak on aspects of their experiences that they believe are important to remember and consider, not just every year on Remembrance Day, but always.
About the veterans in this video:
Bill Shields was a Stoker 1st Class serving on Canadian corvettes during the Second World War. Corvettes played a crucial role in the war: protecting merchant convoys from German U-boats. Mr. Shields served on the HMCS Trentonian (K368), torpedoed in February 1945. It was the last allied corvette to be sunk by enemy action. Oddly enough, TVO's David Erwin was only able to speak to Mr. Shields because David’s father, Jim, had also survived the sinking of the Trentonian.
George St. Cyr was a tank gunner in the Second World War. Canada supplied over 50,000 tanks to the war effort. Mr. St. Cyr rode one of those tanks from France, right into the heart of Germany, witnessing some of the heaviest fighting of the war. Mr. St. Cyr was recently awarded the French Legion of Honour for the role he played in the liberation of France.
Irene Shields is the wife of Bill Shields. They did not meet until after the war, but both take pride in their military service. Mrs. Shields served in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) during the Second World War. The CWACs were formed in August of 1941, and by the end of the war more than 20,000 women had enlisted. Prior to Second World War, women traditionally served as nurses, but CWACs performed a variety of duties both at home and overseas. The contribution made by the CWACs proved vital to the Canadian war effort.
Hub Lalonde was a corporal with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PCLI) during the Korean War. Members of the PCLI were the first Canadian soldiers to set foot in Korea. By the end of the war, more than 26,000 Canadians had served and 516 lost their lives. Mr. Lalonde refers to the Korean War as the forgotten war and vividly describes what being an infantry man was like during the Korean conflict.
Fred Smith joined the military in the 1970s. He served Canada in the Golan Heights where he experienced severe trauma. It took 26 years of homelessness and strife before he was officially diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Today, Fred Smith is a strong advocate for veterans' rights.
Darrell Esson served 21 years in the Canadian military, much of it during the height of Canada’s peacekeeping missions. Canada has sent more than 100,000 personnel on UN peacekeeping operations, more than ten percent of the UN total. Canada has lost approximately 130 peacekeepers, not including those who have died in training accidents and related duties.
Video shot and edited by David Erwin.
May we have a moment of your time?
Our public funding only covers some of the cost of producing high-quality, balanced content. We depend on the generosity of people who believe we all should have access to accurate, fair journalism. Caring people just like you!