November 11, 2004

Thank you, veterans

Today is the 86th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I. I didn't have the opportunity this morning to attend the national Remembrance Day ceremony downtown at the War Memorial. I saw some of it on TV: despite the cold weather, apparently something like 15,000 people lined the streets to attend. Also in attendance were something like 4-600 veterans - including at least one surviving veteran of WWI, of which there are still eight in Canada.

Attendance continues to increase year by year. Interestingly, so does attendance by young people. With WWI all but a 90-year-old memory, and WWII and Korea veterans now in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, this gives me hope that their dedication and sacrifice will not be forgotten. Thank you, all of you.

This evening I walked past the War Memorial and was glad to see that it had not yet been cleaned up. All the wreaths laid at the base of the cenotaph were still there (veterans on the west side, diplomats on the east), as were the hundreds of poppies on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It has only been four years since he was interred at the base of the cenotaph, but it has already become traditional for onlookers to take the plastic poppies from their lapels and leave them on the sarcophagus.

Today I came across the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, a service of Veterans Affairs Canada. It has a search engine for the Canadian registry of war dead. Out of curiosity, not to mention incredible ignorance of my family history, I plugged my last name into the form. It turns out that two of my relatives were killed in action in WWI: Ernest Ethelbert McClare (d. Oct. 29, 1918, age 20), and Percy Winthrop McClare (d. May 5, 1917, age 19). There's no question these are relatives of mine - Ernest McClare's parents are even buried in the same Baptist churchyard as my grandfather - though I don't know the exact relationship. Any McClares in the Hants County area reading this? Please feel free to drop me an email and enlighten me, if you can. (William Howard McClair of Halifax is likely also a more distant relation.)