FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – There were barely any empty seats inside the Royal Canadian Legion as residents of Fort St. John came out this morning to take part in our city’s Remembrance Day ceremonies.
Councillor Gord Klassen served as Master of Ceremonies this year for the first time, taking over for Dan Davies, who had performed the role for the past 13 years. The ceremony began at 10:00 a.m. with the Remembrance Day parade along 100th St. to City Hall and back, followed by the wreath-laying at the Fort St. John cenotaph.
A standing-room-only crowd then packed the Legion itself for the indoor ceremony that began with ‘O Canada’ and The Last Post before a moment of silence at 11:00 to honour those that have served our country. Senator Richard Neufeld, Peace River North MLA Dan Davies, and Mayor Lori Ackerman all gave speeches and remarks about the sacrifices that our country’s veterans have made in conflicts over the past 100 years.
Davies pointed out that this year marks not only Canada’s 150th Anniversary, but also the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in World War I. “There has been a lot of debate over the past number of years over the Battle of Vimy Ridge as being one of the defining moments in Canadian history that really made us who we are today, and gave us our mark in the world,” said Davies. “Some argue that it is the birthplace of our nation because it did mark the first time that all Canadians fought together as one unit during that war.”
Klassen shared several stories of Canadian soldiers and veterans that have served in wartime, including the story of one of Canada’s most-decorated First Nations soldiers, Sgt. Tommy Prince.
“During the Second World War, he found himself in Italy, spying on the Germans from an abandoned farmhouse some 200 metres from the enemy. 1,400 metres of telephone wire connected him to his unit, allowing him to report on the enemy’s artillery placements. At one point when his communication line was severed by shelling, he donned civilian clothing, grabbed a garden tool, and in full view of German soldiers acted like a farmer weeding his crops. He slowly inched his way along the line until he found the place where the line was damaged. He bent down, pretending to tie his shoelace, and rejoined the wires. His reporting continued, and so did the damage to enemy artillery posts. As his citation explains, Sgt. Prince’s courage and utter disregard for personal safety were an inspiration to his fellows and a marked credit to his unit.”
The moving service wrapped up with the wreath-laying ceremony, and the singing of ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘God Save the Queen’.
The Legion’s Remembrance Day festivities are continuing throughout the day today with plenty of events, including turkey dinner and dance this evening.