A history worth remembering by Nick Vandergragt
One of Canada’s greatest periods in it’s history, is also one of mankinds darkest times. During the 20th century, There where two major wars fought by those who wanted to control the whole planet and the people on it, and those who opposed them. In both cases, Canadians play a role in these conflicts out of all proportion to her size and military weight. The men and women who stepped into the breach when called upon make sacrifices that we today can barely imagine. During world war one, the men who filled the ranks of the Canadian army are trappers, farmers, prospectors and woodsmen who are used to hard living and danger. The vast majority of the Dominion is still wild and untamed and so are the men who flock to the recruiting stations to fight against the Kaizers plan for conquest. The women too are hardened through a life of hard living and sacrifice as part of their daily experience. These things prepare them for the incredible hardships that await them on the European battlefields. It is no small wonder then that Canada earns for herself a reputation as a nation to be feared and respected on the world stage. During this conflict our country comes of age. A short twenty five years later, the test will come again, but it will test the mettle of the young country in ways the Great War never could.
The interwar years are not good ones for Canada, or for the rest of the world for that matter. The dirty thirties as they are called, come complete with a world wide depression, wars in China, Spain and Ethiopia and a rise in Germany of a new and far more sinister threat that goes unheeded even though the warning bell is rung loud and long by Winston Churchill. In spite of his best efforts people buy into the “peace dividend” that is supposed to be the good that flows from the 4 years of slaughter known as world war one. The new League of Nations holds the promise of stopping wars before they start, so governments allow their militarys to decay, concentrating instead on trying to pull themselves out of the world wide depression that now grips the globe. Most countries try to restart their economies by massive building projects and work programs concentrating on civilian infrastructure, but in German, Japan and Italy, another road is travelled. these countries and their leaders are successful in winning massive public support by rebuilding not only their military, but national pride out of the ashes of the Great war. By 1939, an axis of evil now threatens to engulf the world in a way never before experienced by mankind in his long history.
Canada for her part, has followed the lead of the other western democracies. The depression has been cruel, even more so on the priarries where a widespread drought has forced thousands of farmers to abandon their land as the bread basket becomesa dust bowl. The Army, Navy and Airforce are totally unprepared for the upcoming tempest, a mere shadow of their former ability and size from just a generation before. When war finally comes on Sept. 3rd, our Grandparents, aunts and uncles are thrust into it with not much more than determination and ill fitting uniforms.
Over the next six years, Canada is transformed from a mostly agrarian society to a massive industrial machine and once again plays a role well beyond her size and weight in overcoming the greatest threat to liberty the world has ever faced. The generation that fights this evil is called the greatest generation and deservedly so. Our men and women win countless medlas and awards for bravery and courage under fire, couuntless battles overcoming a well trained, equipped and determined enemy and once again play a huge role in the final outcome of this most terrible conflict.
When it is over, Canada has reinforced it’s position as a major player on the world stage through the sacrifices made by not only our military, but by the sacrifices and resourcefulness of those who stayed behind to work in the factories on the farms and in thousands of mundane but vital jobs in support of the war effort. In the ensuing years, Our military has continued to serve around the globe in Korea, Cyprus, the Balkans, Afghanistan and dozens of other places most of us are not even aware of. They have done this with skill and dedication, always serving us well no matter the job at hand.
Canadians owe our veterans a huge debt of gratitude we can never repay. Our forefathers have sacrificed more than we can possibly imagine and have done it under the most difficult conditions. Now it is up to us to not only recognize that sacrifice and honour them, but to make sure that we are ready to do whatever it takes to maintain and uphold our liberties. As John Mcrea says in his immortal poem In Flanders Fields”:
“…Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields…”