Lest we forget: 100 years of history

(Samraweet Yohannes)

Memorial wreaths commemorating the fallen sit in front of the Old City Hall Cenotaph, in Toronto. (Samraweet Yohannes)

For two minutes this morning the City of Toronto stood still. Nothing could be heard save for the rustle of the wind as it blew through the microphones. At Old City Hall, crowds of people including Mayor John Tory cradled the Cenotaph with bowed heads of remembrance and hymns of sacrifice.

One hundred years ago today on Nov. 11, 1916, on the muddy battlefield of northern France, the Canadian Corps took one of the final missions—the Regina Trench—in the final offensive of the infamous Battle of the Somme. One week later, they would work alongside British forces to capture the final objective and end one of the bloodiest battles of the Great War. The Battle of the Somme lives in infamy as “das Blutbad” (the bloodbath) where 24,000 Canadians paid the ultimate sacrifice. Just over one-third of the total number of Canadian deaths throughout the four years of war. The Somme raged from July 1 to Nov. 18, 1916 and would claim the lives of 200,000 soldiers. Although the Allies would emerge victorious, the battle, also known as the “Big Push” resulted in the advancement of the Allied line by a mere 10 metres.

The centenary of the Great War has been and will continue to be commemorated around the world. The Mackenzie House, just south of Ryerson at 82 Bond St. is currently working in conjunction with the Archives of Ontario to curate an exhibit entitled Eaton’s Goes to War. The exhibit will showcase the myriad of Torontonians who worked for the T. Eaton Co. and served in the Great War. They have posters plastered across the city with the phrase, Do You Know My Story?   They are encouraging those who have stories to contribute to reach out and share them for the exhibit, which will be on display at the Mackenzie House from Sept. 29, 2017 until Jan. 29, 2018.

As the last of the Great War veterans died years ago, with them so too did many of the stories, memories and our collective consciousness of the war that happened so long ago. But it is more important than ever for the young generations of today to remember the sacrifice of those so long ago. Those young men and women sacrificed their tomorrow so that we may enjoy our today, in peace, harmony and democracy.

O Valiant Hearts, who to your glory came

Through dust of conflict

And through battle flame;

Tranquil you lie,

Your knightly virtue proved,

Your memory hallowed

In the land you loved.

—Hymn: The Supreme Sacrifice

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