Small Alberta hamlet receives 1st-ever war memorial in time for Remembrance Day

A small hamlet northwest of Edmonton celebrated Remembrance Day this year with its first-ever war memorial, a fitting occasion on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Riviere Qui Barre, Alta., is approximately 50 kilometres outside of Edmonton. During the war, a couple hundred people lived in the hamlet yet more than 80 men served in the First World War and the Second World War; not all of them made it home alive. Over the years, the hamlet saw its population plummet — the last census in 2016 showed only 15 people living there.

For years, in the absence of a cenotaph, residents marked Remembrance Day with ceremonies at the legion, school or church. But this year, they gathered around a new memorial installed at the local cemetery. It was donated by Roy McLellan.

McLellan was born in Riviere Qui Barre though he now lives in Calgary. Five years ago, he traveled to Normandy where he found his uncle’s cross. He said the sight was so moving and reminded him there was nothing in his hometown honouring those who gave their service to the country.

McLellan bought a stone from Italy, had it engraved in Calgary then installed the monument in the small hamlet.

“The children here in the schools can come and somebody can tell them what it was all about,” he said.

“They can know that this is the history we got our freedom from.”

The name of McLellan’s father, John Alexander McLellan, is engraved in the monument.

“I can tell you, it touches my heart so much — it’s unreal,” he said.

Watch below: Some videos from Global Edmonton’s coverage of Remembrance Day in 2018.

The Granger family helped found Riviere Qui Barre. Three brothers – Dan, Moise and Wilfred – all served in the Second World War. Moise died and was buried overseas and Wilfred was a prisoner of war before he and brother Dan returned home.

“It recognizes these people. They sacrificed their life for us,” Darcy Granger said of his three uncles.

“I think it’s great for people, especially for our family.”

Seeing the names of the three brothers brings a chill to Granger and makes his family history more real.

“Now it’s a place to come and honour them at any time. It doesn’t have to be Remembrance Day,” Granger said.

“This is a big deal.”

During the ceremony, all 83 names on the memorial were read aloud and descendants of the men came forward to lay poppies on the monument.

Wesley Caron and his family were among the dozens gathered on Sunday for the cenotaph’s first Remembrance Day ceremony.

Caron’s father Melvin served in the Second World War while his great-uncle Fred served in the First World War.

“To have my father’s name memorialized is pretty special to me,” he said.

“I’m sure he’d be very proud to have his name memorialized like this.”

Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ coverage of Remembrance Day in 2018.

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100 years later, Montreal’s Black Watch regiment returns to Wallers, France

Soldiers from Montreal’s Black Watch regiment marched Saturday through the streets of Wallers, France, returning to the French village their regiment liberated a century ago.

The village issued an invitation to the regiment to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

In October 1918, German artillery was set up on the western part of the city to hold back Allied forces. The German troops were eventually pushed back, but not before setting several buildings on fire during their retreat.

After four years of occupation, local residents greeted the Canadian soldiers as heroes.

To commemorate the anniversary, the Black Watch regiment sent a contingent of 100 past and serving members.

“To walk in the footsteps of those who came before us, whether in the Black Watch or other regiments, it’s moving,” said Eric Booth, a former Black Watch reservist. “It’s moving. The people have made us feel very welcome.”

Booth’s grandfather wasn’t in the same regiment, but did move through the same village in 1918. Private J.W. Thresh served with the 22nd Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery.

One of the stories Booth says his grandfather shared was how he found out the war had ended. The morning of November 11th, 1918, Thresh had climbed a hill of mining tailings to get a view of the area. When he came down, he ran into a young local woman.

“The miner’s daughter looked up at him and said ‘la guerre c’est fini’: the war is over,” Booth said.

The village was decked out in Canadian red and white for the occasion. Part of the parade route was under Canadian flag banners.

About 200 local residents turned out, including a local hockey team that’s preparing for a trip to Quebec City’s upcoming PeeWee tournament.

The day’s events started with a wreath-laying at a monument dedicated to local soldiers, but then moved to the town square in front of a church for speeches about Canada’s role in the liberation.

Rene Gonnez says he attended to thank Canadians personally.

“It’s to honour Canadians,” said Gonnez. “That’s very important.”

One member of the Black Watch regiment contingent was American Hugh Gemmell. The United States didn’t enter the First World War until 1917, and Gemmell’s grandfather turned to Canada for an opportunity to fight. Willam Gemmell joined the Canadian military and served with regiment. After the war, he returned to the US.

Gemmell never met his grandfather, who died in 1938 at just 45 years old.

“He was sick after he got back from the war,” Gemmell said. “He died young, like a lot of them did.”

There was also a dedication to a fallen Black Watch soldier. A street in Wallers has been named after Corporal Hugh Gray, killed by a German mortar shell just days before the signing of the Armistice that ended the war.

Gray made it through the village and was on a reconnaissance patrol alone. The street where he was killed is now called “Rue Caporal H. Gray.”

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Remembrance Day: This Belgian farmer lives on one of the most important battlefields in Canadian military history

The First World War may have ended 100 years ago this Sunday, but for Stijn Butaye, it’s still a part of daily life.

Butaye operates the “Pond Farm” in St-Julien, Belgium on what was a century ago the heart of the Western Front.

All these years later, the earth around his farm is still turning up everything from weapons and ammunition to gas canisters and buttons. For Butaye, who is passionate about history, these finds fuel a hobby. He’s built a small museum that gets about 2,000 visitors a year.

For a Canadian visitor, Butaye’s property is steeped in Canadian history. The farm is in the middle of some of the most important battlefields in Canadian military history. The cities of Passchendaele and Ypres are just up the road, while only a few hundred meters to the south is Canada’s “Brooding Soldier” monument. It’s a 10-metre tall white granite column depicting a solemn soldier at the top. It was erected in honour of the 2,000 Canadians killed in the first gas attacks of the war. The Canadian 1st Division was hit by chlorine gas over three days in April 1915.

Butaye’s latest find had him stumped for a while. It’s a 2.5 m long wood beam that is pock-marked with bullet holes. After some research, he found out it had been part of a German tank.

“It’s a ditching beam,” Butaye says. “They used that on the top of the tank to pull them out when they got stuck.”

Butaye is a farmer and electrician by training, but his passion is history. He’s collected hundreds of items from his land, enough to build himself a small museum. He gets about 2,000 visitors a year, by appointment only.

The piece that kicked it all off about a decade ago was an old rifle. It’s mostly rotted away and caked in dirt, but there’s no mistaking it’s an old Lee-Enfield, the rifle used by British Commonwealth soldiers, including Canadians.

“I don’t know what it did in the war,” Butaye says. “How many soldiers were killed with it? I’m always thinking about that if I’m finding something.”

During the war, control of the land went back and forth between five armies. Butaye almost runs out of breath going through the chain of possession.

“First we had it in Canadian hands,” he says. “Then it was in German hands, then it was British, but then they lost it again, then it was German, then it was British, then at the end it was Belgians and it was our property again.”

Butaye’s grandfather bought the farm in the 1960s, and set about destroying some of the remnants of the war, 38 fortified bunkers. He blew them up, and removed all of them except one. Butaye says it was too close to the farmhouse and the pressure from the explosions was damaging the foundation.

Instead of destroying the bunker, it’s used to store manure. Butaye says that was what his grandfather wanted.

“He really didn’t like German soldiers.”

Butaye finds lots of artifacts of Canada’s clashes with the Kaiser’s army. Gas canisters are something Butaye sometimes finds in what he calls his “iron harvest.” Each year, items from the war are pushed up from the ground by the spring thaw. The other dangerous season is the fall when the tractors are in the field for the harvest.

Butaye found two gas canisters this year. He keeps them in a secure cage until a special team from the Belgian military picks them up for disposal. He also has several unexploded British shells.

“They are high explosives,” he says. “So they can explode. If you hit them just on the fuse, they can still go off. That’s quite dangerous stuff.”

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Saskatoon civic services open and closed for Remembrance Day long weekend

Sunday, Nov. 11 is Remembrance Day.

Here is a list of what Saskatoon civic facilities and services are open, closed or otherwise operating on modified hours for Sunday, Nov. 11, and the statutory holiday Monday, Nov. 12.

City Hall: Closed.

Related

Installation at Western Development Museum commemorates end of First World War

New West children place poppies on veteran graves for No Stone Left Alone

Pay parking stations: No payment required on Nov. 12, however vehicles must be moved within the posted time limits.

Municipal impound lot: No vehicles will be released to the public.

Saskatoon Public Library: All branches closed on Nov. 11. Open with regular hours Nov. 12.

Remai Modern: Open Nov. 11 and 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT.

Landfill: Open between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Garbage and recycling collection: Collection takes place as scheduled on Nov. 12.

East and west compost depots: Closed for the season as of Nov. 10.

Civic Conservatory: Closed for renovations.

Saskatoon Transit: Will operate with weekend service on Nov. 11 and regular service on Nov. 12.

Access Transit: Operating with weekend service on Nov. 11 and holiday service on Nov. 12. Trips must be booked in advance as per normal procedures and customers are reminded that subscriptions do not apply on statutory holidays.

Saskatoon Transit, including Access Transit, will provide free bus transportation to and from the 2018 Remembrance Day ceremonies at SaskTel Centre on Nov. 11.

Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo: Open regular hours – zoo from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the park from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

ACT, Archibald, Cosmo, Gordie Howe Kinsmen and Lions arenas: Ice rental begins at noon on Nov. 11. Regular hours of operation for public skating as well as parent and tot skating on Nov. 11 and 12.

Cosmo Civic Centre: Closed on Nov. 11. Regular hours of operation on Nov. 12.

Harry Bailey Aquatic Centre: Open 12 noon to 6 p.m. on Nov. 11 – all fitness classes and child minding cancelled. Regular hours of operation on Nov. 12.

Lakewood Civic Centre: Open 12 noon to 6 p.m. on Nov. 11 – all fitness classes cancelled. Regular hours of operation on Nov. 12.

Lawson Civic Centre: Open 12 noon to 5 p.m. on Nov. 11 – all fitness classes cancelled. Regular hours of operation on Nov. 12.

Saskatoon Field House: Closed on Nov. 11 for a planned power outage. Regular hours of operation on Nov. 12.

Shaw Centre: Open 12 noon to 6 p.m. on Nov. 11 – all fitness classes and child minding cancelled. Regular hours of operation on Nov. 12.

Terry Fox Track: Closed on Nov. 11 and 12.

For more information on operating hours and programs, contact leisure services.

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How Global News is marking Remembrance Day 2018

How do you pay tribute to Canadians who have made the ultimate sacrifice?

The moment of silence is a time-honoured way of paying tribute to the dead, with origins dating back to the mid-1600s when Quakers started gathering silently for communal worship.

The Canadian Legion calls it “the most sacrosanct and central element in Remembrance.”

Global News will once again pause for two minutes at 11 a.m. local time out of respect for the generations of men and women who have proudly served and continue to serve Canada. As a modern-day way to mark the solemn occasion, this pause includes our social media platforms, which will also go silent at both 11 a.m. local time and at 11 a.m. ET in solidarity with ceremonies taking place in Ottawa.

On Remembrance Day, there are several ways to participate, including attending an event in person. Global News is also offering multi-platform coverage.

On television:

Global National anchor Dawna Friesen hosts Canada Remembers, a live, commercial-free, network news special, airing on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. ET/CT. Friesen will be joined in Ottawa by special guest Dean Oliver, military historian and director of research at the Canadian Museum of History, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. On Sunday evening, Friesen will anchor Global National (5:30 p.m. PT/MT/CT and 6.30 ET/AT) from Ottawa, with Chief Political Correspondent David Akin and Ottawa Bureau Chief Mercedes Stephenson live from the National War Memorial, while correspondent Mike Armstrong reports from Belgium.

Online:

On globalnews.ca, coverage of the Ottawa ceremony and the Canada Remembers Global News special will be live-streamed starting at 10 a.m. ET. You can also watch live via Facebook and YouTube. 

MORE: Latest Remembrance Day coverage

On radio: 

On Sunday, tune in for a 30-minute presentation that includes stories woven together from No Stone Left Alone events across Canada, and feature students sharing their reflections of fallen soldiers’ stories.

Watch: 2018 No Stone Left Alone ceremony in Edmonton

The special will air across the Global News Radio network with audio commentary by national host Charles Adler, airing on 980 CKNW in Vancouver, 770 CHQR in Calgary, 630 CHED in Edmonton, 680 CJOB in Winnipeg, 640 Toronto, 980 CFPL in London, and 900 CHML in Hamilton. You’ll also be able to watch it on Global TV stations across Canada at 10 a.m. PT/MT/CT/ET, and at 12:30 p.m. AT.

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Legion’s annual poppy campaign a benefit to community, region

The Royal Canadian Legion’s annual Beyond The Poppy Campaign is more than just a Remembrance Day campaign. Funds raised from volunteers selling poppies is used throughout the year and to help other organizations.

According to the Legion, the poppy campaign in Kelowna raises approximately $175,000 every year. Other social events also raise money, which the local branch then distributes. For example, Branch 26 consistently donated to the KGH Foundation to advance patient care for the elderly and children. In 2008, Branch 26 completed a two-year pledge of $50,000 for Hospice House.

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Penticton high school students gather for early Remembrance Day ceremony

Lt. Col. Christopher Comeau talks Remembrance Day

And this fall, Branch 26 presented the KGH Foundation with a $100,000 donation for JoeAnna’s House, a home away from home for the families of patients who must travel to KGH for advanced medical care. This includes veterans and their families from B.C.’s Interior. The vast majority of these patients are frail elderly and critically ill children.

“We were very moved when we heard about the need for JoeAnna’s House,” said Jim White, president Legion Branch 26 in Kelowna. “This project represents the values that we hold very dear – that as a community, it is our duty to take care of one another in the darkest times.”

“It is a great honour to receive this gift,” said Chandel Schmidt, KGH Foundation’s director of annual programs.  “Their kindness, generosity and earnest care for this community knows no bounds. This gift will have a huge impact for generations to come.”

The Legion also hosts other fundraisers, in addition to hosting a busy entertainment calendar for seniors. For many in this stage of life, the Legion has become a social hub – a place to connect with friends, share stories and have fun.

“I felt lost until I found the Legion,” said Legion volunteer Ila Hicklin, whose husband of 40 years passed away two years ago. “But then I started volunteering, and I met my friends and now we just have so many good times together.”

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