THIS IS A REMEMBRANCE DAY like no other in Kamloops.
In years past, thousands have stood together at Riverside Park on damp ground under bare trees and grey skies. The sound of bagpipes and drums, and jets overhead have broken the silence between us as we stood.
But still, each of us is spending today in some way remembering what Nov. 11 means to us individually and collectively.
Remembrance Day happens once a year, but for me, one of the most memorable ceremonies happened on a warm June day a few years ago. My nephew and I visited Belgium, and spent a day cycling through the countryside around Ypres, visiting World War I battlefields and cemeteries. Mile after mile, as we cycled, the causalities mounted. A new cemetery around each turn in the road. Immaculate gravestones for young people, mostly men, far too many younger than my 21-year-old nephew.
Then, at the end of the day, we visited the Menin Gate at the entrance to Ypres’ old centre. For all the cemeteries we visited that day, there were so many that had no grave. On the gate are carved the names of 55,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in World War I with no known grave.
The names of soldiers from United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa, India, and British West Indies are on the gate. Almost 7,000 Canadians are listed on that gate: 7,000 with no known grave.
Every evening, since 1928, a Last Post ceremony has been held at Menin Gate to remember the fallen. A remembrance ceremony, repeated, every day.
There we found ourselves, after a day of cycling, standing side by side with others from around world. Some individual families laid wreaths, some regiments did too. There were school groups laying wreaths as well. From all parts of the world, people stood together at the gate, coming together in remembrance of one, and of many.
In so many ways, it was no different than when I’ve found myself on Nov. 11, standing in Riverside Park. There were marching bands and a bugler. A prayer and a moment of silence. It was very simple, yet deeply moving.
There we were, my nephew and I, standing with strangers, bound together to remember.
You don’t have to peddle around the Flemish countryside to see the graves of the war dead. In Kamloops’ Pleasant Street Cemetery, there are graves of 39 veterans who served in World War I and World War II.
The youngest buried there are Roscoe Roadhouse, who died at the age of 19 years on 28 February, 1916, in World War I, and Bruce McLean Hammond, who died at the age of 18 years on June 10, 1942, in World War II. In B.C., only three cemeteries have more graves of World War I and World War II veterans than Kamloops’: Esquimalt, Victoria and Vancouver.
Today, we might not be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with friends and strangers. But we are bound together in remembrance. One hundred years and more since the end of World War I, we still remember.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.