Lest We Forget

Remembrance Day is a solemn day for me.  I have a niece and a nephew in the Canadian Armed Forces and I’m immensely proud of them, but at the same time it makes me ill to think they might be called upon to sacrifice their lives.

My respect for those who serve in our military began at a young age when I was privileged to know my great-uncle Bob.

uncle Bob montage

Robert James (Bob) Moss 1888 – 1978

Great-Uncle Bob (Robert James Moss, 1888 – 1978) was one of my favourite uncles. At the dinner table, he’d catch the gaze of one of us kids, then sneak the jelly dish over and surreptitiously eat the jelly, teasing us with mischievous glances. If he cracked a hard-boiled egg, we’d hear a sudden peeping (I’m sure his pursed lips were entirely coincidental). His eyes would widen in feigned surprise as he peeked inside the egg while we sat enthralled, half-believing there might be a chick in there.

That was the gentle, humorous, soft-spoken man I knew.

He never talked about the war, but in 1917 and 1918 he was part of the 44th Battalion Canadian Infantry.   They saw some of the heaviest fighting in World War I in the frigid mud of hellholes like Ypres and the Somme, and I use the word ‘hellhole’ in its most literal sense.

The front was a barren wasteland of torn-up earth and barbed wire, pockmarked with shell craters that rapidly filled with icy water in the relentless rain.  Many of wounded drowned or died of hypothermia rather than of their injuries.  The trenches were just as bad, with men often standing for hours or days in frigid water up to their knees.  The mud on their boots and clothing added fifty pounds or more to the weight they already carried.  The din of shelling rarely ceased, and any foray out of the trenches was met with a hail of bullets.  They were never dry; never warm; never safe.

Uncle Bob also fought at the battle of Vimy Ridge, where in three days the Canadian Corps suffered over 10,000 casualties, but secured the ridge.   Uncle Bob was awarded the Military Medal for acts of bravery and devotion under fire.

I often think of him; not just on Remembrance Day. I think of the horrors he willingly endured for his country. For us.  And I think of all the others in our Armed Forces, past and present, whose names and stories I’ll never know.

Thank you to all our brave and dedicated troops of yesterday and today. Not just on Remembrance Day, but on every day that I live in peace and safety:

I remember.

* * *

Remembrance Day:  It’s “A Pittance Of Time” (by Terry Kelly)


42 thoughts on “Lest We Forget

  1. Thank you for such a wonderful tribute.
    My grandmother’s brother served in WW I. I think Air Corp but not sure. According to the story he had a choice of Air Corp or submarine. He chose air corp as “what ever went up had to come down but not necessarily vice versa”. My grandfather’s health kept him out of the war and kept my father (only son) out of WW II as he had to run the farm. I am glad for men like your great uncle. I have read a great deal about his war, including Pierre Burton’s “Vimy”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “…what ever went up had to come down but not necessarily vice versa” – great wisdom, that!

      I haven’t read Pierre Berton’s ‘Vimy’ – although I’m interested in it, it’s a little too much for me. I know from my own reading what the conditions were like at the front, and the thought of someone I knew and loved enduring that hell just makes me feel ill. But I guess that’s the whole point of Remembrance Day – keeping those terrible memories alive so future generations might think twice before initiating war again. So far it doesn’t seem to be working, though. *sigh*

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the Canadian ‘Remembrance Day’ is the same as your Veterans Day on November 11 (the U.K. calls theirs ‘Armistice Day’).

      And well done on the provinces! Most people from outside Canada can’t name them all… but we actually sneaked in a 13th one while you weren’t looking. In 1999 The Northwest Territories was divided into The Northwest Territories and Nunavut (Noon-a-voot). So we now have 10 provinces and 3 territories (Yukon is also a territory). If you’re interested, there’s a description of the difference between provinces and territories here: http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/aia/index.asp?lang=eng&page=provterr&doc=difference-eng.htm

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A beautiful tribute, thank you for sharing. No one talked much about that war in our house. My Uncle Robert was in Germany during and what I could eavesdrop and make out, he had ben captured but escaped with the help of some others. It must have been bad as we kids were told to not ask him about it. All I knew was that he smiled at us a lot and called me “Pun’kin”. I loved when he visited us. He had a farm in Oregon that we visited. He always said he was “Fixin’ to get my arse to Canada”. LOL I’d ask him why and he’d just laugh and say it would be the right thing to do! He was a character. I think about him once in a while and hurt for the hurts he must have suffered. As do all military in times of conflict.
    Bless yours, and all, for their service.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Fixin’ to get my arse to Canada” – I love it!

      I can only imagine how terrible the war must have been for him. But it’s wonderful how men like your Uncle Robert and my Uncle Bob can come back from experiences like that with their humanity intact. That shows true strength of character.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This absolutely choked me up and brought tears to my eyes. What a lovely way to remind us of how we should be grateful to all of our veterans and those who are serving now. My father served with the 100th RCT/442nd in WWII – a second generation Japanese from Hawaii. But he never spoke about the war. Lord, how we miss him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My uncles were like that. When I was little, I would hear them talking about things like that with each other on rare occasions, but they would change the subject before the kids got anywhere close.

      My dad’s next oldest brother, one of my very favorite people in the whole world, was in the U.S. Navy. My aunt brought out an old photo of him in uniform and had it greatly enlarged for his funeral. It showed his medals. They were numerous, but the photo was very grainy, and it was impossible to tell what they were for. She didn’t know, either. He didn’t keep the citations or anything after the war. None of my uncles did.

      All any of them would say was something like, “America’s the best country in the world, and I’m glad to be back home.” That’s it.

      All of my uncles had a lot of medals showing in the two or three old photos that they kept, but we could not tell what they were for all the graininess…and they weren’t talking. But they did not earn all that hardware for keeping their fingernails clean or spit-polishing their boots or pouring the coffee just right for the big brass. THAT, they would have talked about! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I enjoy all of your blogs and your writing. This one touched me it where I live. am . Your heartfelt response to your feelings or your uncle Bob touched me to the core of my being. Thank you for your heartfelt sentiment and I honor you for them. Many people today do not understand the sacrifices that has been made by so few that the majority may their life in freedom

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Coming from a military family (my mother and father were both in the Air Force and my brother currently serves in the Navy and even I had a brief stint in the Reserves while participating in the Katimavik program), I applaud your veneration of all who’ve served. We should never forget the sacrifices of those who never returned. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Terry Kelly’s song expressed those sentiments beautifully. The best I’ve managed to do is to ignore the cretins until the time was up, tell them to learn some manners, and offer them a trip to the emergency room if they objected.

    His way is better, I think. But I’ll have to stick to mine. I can’t sing a note. 🙂


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  8. A wonderful tribute Diane. My respects to your Uncle. My paternal grandfather fought in WWI. I never knew him as he die d from throat cancer when my Dad was a child. It was thought the mustard gas was a likely cause. A hell hole indeed. May we never forget their sacrifices.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My father, the baby of his family, had three brothers and sisters. His oldest brother served with distinction in WWI. Dad was born about the time Uncle Edgar came home. Edgar had a hoarse, raspy voice from being gassed in the trenches. Affected his health all his life. What I remember most about Uncle Edgar, boy, could that guy shoot! Rifle or pistol, he simply could NOT miss! Dad said I took after Edgar in that regard. I wish. The guy was unbelievable.

    Dad’s two other brothers served with distinction in WWII. Dad, the youngest, was old enough to serve, but being the youngest of four brothers got him exempted. So, unable to enlist, he moved his new family (Mom and my older sister who was very young) out to Los Angeles and spent the war years building bombers and fighters. “They also serve who stand and rivet.” That’s all dad would ever say about his work there. Well, that and, “Huh?” Nobody wore hearing protection, and, well, you get it.

    Most of my male cousins have served, some achieving high rank and even duty in the Pentagon. Me? I just enlisted, served my hitch, and got on with my life.

    I teach college these days, and I have a lot of veterans in my classes. Many of their other instructors have no inkling what these young men have been through. I take good care of my students, especially my veterans.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a military heritage to be proud of, and so is your own service. ‘Just enlisted, served my hitch, and got on with my life’ is a simple sentence that doesn’t take into account the fact that even though you weren’t called upon to lay down your life, you were prepared to do so if necessary.

      I’m glad you look out for your veterans, and I’m glad that we civilians are slowly beginning to understand that even those who come back without physical injuries may nonetheless be dealing with wounds we can’t see.

      Liked by 1 person

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