Town Halls and Squares and gathering spaces on every neighbourhood of The Villages were transformed into sacred sites of Remembrance on Nov. 11, just as cities and towns across Canada stood silent to honour the selfless service of hundreds of thousands of Canadians over the decades.
In The Village of Taunton Mills on Remembrance Day, music of the 1930s and 40s welcomed all as residents, guests and team members filled the space, eventually spilling out onto Main Street. The front of the hall was reserved for veterans, some proudly wearing rows of bright medals upon their chests, some carrying wreaths to lay in the name of those they remember this day and so many countless others when thoughts of fallen friends are sparked in the randomness of daily life.
Art Pearse is one of the veterans who spoke during the ceremony, reminding all of the futility of past wars and the inability of society to heed the lessons learned in The First World War. He spoke of the stories his grandmother shared of the hardships that came in trying to raise a family in the aftermath of that horrible four-year event. He spoke of a friend who joined the Royal Navy and went down off the coast of Norway in 1941, and he recalled another whose plane was shot down over France in 1944. Art also spoke of a nine-year-old cousin named Bobby who died during the German bombing campaigns of the Battle of Britain, noting that “he was a casualty of this war as well.” We honour the soldiers on Remembrance Day, Art reminded all, but we must never forget the toll of human conflict on every facet of society.
“Today is a significant anniversary,” Art said. “For a hundred years the promise after World War I has been kept: nobody has forgotten what happened back then. The slogan ‘Lest We Forget’ still seems intact in a world that is much changed.”
Residents, many with loved ones sitting at their side, nodded their heads in agreement. Much has changed in the past century, indeed, yet conflicts throughout the globe still create instability for so many people. The pursuit of true peace the world over must remain the ultimate goal.
Ivan Lloyd Thompson said he continues to hope for peace, recalling his time in the Second World War helping train the French resistance in the art of sabotage and strike-and-flee fighting. He held upon his lap a framed certificate he received just this year from the French government, thanking him for his service.
“It took a long time for it to come,” he said with a laugh that eventually fell quite as his eyes drifted back to a different time, back to when he was a younger man risking his life for those of others from a different land.
Perhaps it doesn’t feel so long ago.
Patricia Bayley, a resident poet from Taunton Mills, summed up the feeling eloquently with her poem Poppy Seeds.
They walk with slow, unsteady gait.
Once young could leap a five barred gate.
Now their numbers few, a warning
that, peace can die at dusk or dawning.
Old boots tell a story when old soldiers meet
comrades remembered, long treks and sore feet.
At home there was dread at the knock on the door.
Hopes dashed, cups smashed, shock on old kitchen floor.
Restrain the bells pealing on still Sunday morn.
Postpone negative news we now greet with a yawn.
Midst tales of war and bloody battle
the threats of more as sabres rattle.
The head of the warhorse is lifted with knowing.
The noise and the horror and bravery showing.
Good people study what held peace before.
Hot Shots restrained behind firmly shut door.
Balance and courage, words measured with skill.
To honour the fallen…remember them still.