THE ULTIMATE SACRIFCE

The 100th anniversary of the commencement of WWI along with the 75th anniversary of the commencement WWII represents an opportunity for Canadians to reflect on the country’s proud military history. Both conflicts are among the most important chapters in world history, touching the lives of countless families and communities across Canada. We must ensure that those who served and those who continue to serve our county in an effort to uphold the values of freedom and peace, are honored. The sacrifices and contributions of the veterans are never to be forgotten.

My family was one of the many Canadian families who certainly felt the aftermath of the war on a personal level. My great grandfather, David Johnston had four of his six sons join the forces in WWI. One was a prisoner of war for 3  years, another son died and is buried in a Belgium cemetery. His youngest son attempted to enlist but was rejected due to poor eyesight. The family felt blessed that three of the four came home. My father, Willis David Johnston (named after his uncle who died in WWI) enlisted in WWII thereby continuing the family history of military service.

The oldest son, Hugh “Norman” was recruited by the Edmonton 101st Fusiliers “D” Company in August, 1914. He was subsequently taken to Valcarier, Quebec where he was transferred to the 9th Battalion. He sailed aboard the S.S. Zealand and arrived in Plymouth, England in October 1914. As the 9th Battalion had been dispersed, he was transferred to the 3rd Battalion. After four months of training, the 1st Canadian Division crossed the Bristol Channel to France in February 1915. On April 22, 1915, Norman was at the front for the “Second Battle of Ypres”. The Germans, in an effort to eliminate the salient, released 160 tons of chlorine gas which drifted into the French and British trenches. The Canadians were the only division that was able to hold the line. On April 23, 1915, Norman suffered a gunshot wound to the left chest area, fracturing a rib and perforating the left lung. From there he was taken prisoner and transferred to a POW camp in Stendal, Germany. Camp life was documented as very harsh with shortages of food and illnesses being rampart. Once armistice was declared, Norman was a repatriated prisoner of war and arrived in England on January 2, 1919 following which he sailed for Canada and was discharged in Edmonton in April 1919. Norman received the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Norman passed away on August 8, 1942 at the age of 53 from heart failure and is buried in the military section of the Edmonton Cemetery. Unfortunately there are no pictures of Norman in uniform – possibility due to the fact he was a prisoner of war.

The 2nd oldest son, Willis David was also recruited by the 101st Edmonton Fusiliers in August, 1914. He was sent to Valcartier, Quebec where he was transferred to the 9th Battalion. He sailed on the S.S. Zealand and arrived in Plymouth, England in October 1914. Following which he was transferred to 1st Field Butchery CASC, arrived in France and began front-line service. He was appointed to the rank of Corporal in May 1915. In 1918-1919, a flu pandemic known as the “Spanish Flu” crossed Europe. The close, troop-quarters increased the soldiers’ susceptibility to the disease. Willis was listed as “dangerously ill” in his service records and passed away on January 3, 1919 at the age of 27. He is buried in the Kortrijk (St. Jan) Communal Cemetery in Belgium – an area that was under German control at one time during the war. The family of Cpl. Willis Johnston subsequently received a scroll and note of gratitude from King George of England. Willis’ name is listed in the “Book of Remembrance” which has a record of all the Canadian and other forces of the British Empire that gave their lives in the Great War. Willis received the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal and a sports medal that must have been issued by his unit. In November 2007, the Canadian Fallen Heroes Foundation, whose mandate was to memorialize the lives of those who were lost in WWI, presented a framed picture of Willis complete with a biography to his great grand-niece, Wanda Zenner. The picture is proudly displayed at the Bezanson Legion.

The 4th oldest son, William Earl, enlisted on March 13, 1916 in Edmonton with the 194th Battalion. He arrived in England aboard the S.S. Olympic in November 1916. In February 1917 he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion Canadian Machine Gunners Corps and served in France. Upon demobilization, Earl was discharged in Toronto in May 1919. He received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Earl died on June 9, 1942 at the age of 47 from heart failure in Los Angeles, California. His body was cremated with the ashes being interned in his mother’s plot (Jane Anne Johnston) in the Maitland Cemetery, Goderich, Ontario.

My grandfather, Charles Bell, the 3rd oldest son enlisted with the 48th Highlanders in May 1917. He was transferred to the 5th Res. Battallion Central Ontario Division. He arrived in England aboard the S.S. Scotian in December and subsequently sent to France. He was discharged on demobilization in Toronto in June 1920. Charles received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He passed away on April 8, 1966 at the age of 72 and is buried in the Goodwin Cemetery.

The youngest son, Elmer attempted to enlist in March 1918, stating it was his 19th birthday however that would only have been his 17th birthday. Unfortunately the medical board had to reject his application as he had a defect in one of his eyes. He passed away at the age of 80 and is buried in the Whittier Cemetery, Los Angeles, California.

The April 2nd, 1918 issue of the Grande Prairie Herald reported: 

“One point of patriotism that should not be overlooked is that shown by a young man from Glen Leslie who came in on March 30th his 19th birthday and offered his services to the country. After signing up it was learned that he had one brother a prisoner of war in Germany and three others fighting in the trenches at the present time. On going before the medical board it was discovered he had a slight defect in one of his eyes. The boy left the medical board broken hearted. This shows the true patriotic spirit of some farmers’ sons in comparison with others who are using any old subterfuge in evading their duty”.

Another article of interest was published in the July 13, 1915 issue of the Grande Prairie Herald: 

 

By Wanda (Johnston) Zenner – written in 2014

If Ye Break Faith

Do you wear a poppy or do you just wonder why anybody would wear one? What’s the reason? Do you even wonder why any sensible person would take 45 minutes out of their day to go to a Remembrance Day Ceremony? You might think it’s only a ceremony. However the truth is that people will take years and years out of their life and offer themselves to go and protect Canada even though there is a chance that they will die. I think we can take two minutes out of our day to stand in silence to respect those who fought.

The first world war took place in 1914 and stretched into 1918. Many people died in the first weeks of the war. It took the lives of more than 60 000 Canadians. It was considered the bloodiest was of all time. Nobody could tell the amount of suffering these people and their families went through. Many young Canadians went to flight schools to learn how to fly planes in the military. The economy dropped and unemployment effected Canada very much. Women had to wear badges that said “knit or fight”. So basically they either would make provisions or go fight. At last the enemies backed down and the First world war had ended.

The second world war stretched from 1939 to 1945. Nearly 50 000 Canadians died and at least 50 000 Canadian soldiers were injured. With new technologies this war went on even longer with a military, a navy and a flight force. With new guns and bombs people became more strategic but the costs were very high. Not many people  survived an injury without doctors. The medic’s lives were in danger at all times even though they weren’t serving on the front lines. It was a hazardous job to keep the soldiers healthy. Hitler and his Nazi party killed many people and many were put into concentration camps. Surviving was a hard thing to do and then finally Hitler backed down and killed himself. The war was finally over.

The brave soldiers fought in even the worst conditions. They didn’t hesitate when it came to protecting Canada. I think we can give up time to go to a ceremony to honour those men and women who generously gave their lives. They gave more than two minutes of a day. This year on Remembrance Day, wear a poppy, and give two minutes of silence. Remember “If ye break faith in us, who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields.” (John McCrae)

Poppy

Elena Ewert, Bezanson Alberta
1st place winner, Intermediate Level Essay 2016
Alberta-NWT Command, Royal Canadian Legion

Military Service Recognition Book, Volume IX 2017 page 107

History of the Poppy

Each November, Poppies bloom on the lapels and collars of millions of Canadians. The significance of the Poppy can be traced back to the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, over 110 years before being adopted in Canada. Records from that time indicate how thick Poppies grew over the graves of soldiers in the area of Flanders, France. Fields that had been barren before battle exploded with the blood-red flowers after the fighting ended. During the tremendous bombardments of the war, the chalk soils became rich in lime from rubble, allowing the “popaver rhoeas” to thrive. When the war ended, the lime was quickly absorbed and the Poppy began to disappear again.

The person who first introduced the Poppy to Canada and the Commonwealth was Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae of Guelph, Ontario, a Canadian Medical Officer during the First World War. John McCrae penned the Poem “In Flanders Fields” on a scrap of paper in May, 1915 on the day following the death of a fellow soldier. Little did he know then that those 13 lines would become enshrined in the hearts and minds of all who would wear them. McCrae’s poem was published in Punch Magazine in December of that same year, and the poem later served as inspiration three years later for Moina Michael, an American teacher. Moina Michael made a pledge to always wear a Poppy as a sign of Remembrance.

During a visit to the United States in 1920, a French woman named Madame Guerin learned of the custom. Madame Guerin decided to make and sell poppies to raise money for children in war-torn areas of France. The Great War Veteran’s Association in Canada (our predecessor) officially adopted the poppy as its Flower of Remembrance on July 5, 1921.

Today, the Poppy is worn each year during the Remembrance period to honour Canada’s Fallen. The Legion also encourages the wearing of a Poppy for the funeral of a Veteran and for any commemorative event honouring Fallen Veterans. It is not inappropriate to wear a Poppy during other times to commemorate Fallen Veterans and it is an individual choice to do so, as long as it’s worn appropriately.

Thanks to the millions of Canadians who wear the Legion’s lapel Poppy each November, the little red flower has never died, and the memories of those who fell in battle remain strong.

In Flanders Fields

legion-history-of-the-poppy-wbg-resized

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
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.

Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae
~ May 3, 1915

(As published in Punch Magazine, December 8, 1915)

 

Article from The Royal Canadian Legion

2016 Golden Leaf Dine & Dance Thank you

The Bezanson Ag Society and the West Smoky Legion #244 would like to extend their thanks to everyone that came out to support the 2016 Golden Leaf Dine and Dance this past Saturday.  The event was sold out again this year, we are so honoured to host an event that everyone can enjoy year after year.

We would like to say thank you to all of those people that volunteered their time organizing the event, running games during the night and making sure that we all got fed. The effort that these members put into this event is nothing short of amazing!

Special thanks to;

Our caterer, Chef Ray from Lefty’s Cafe, and his team for providing a wonderful meal.

Night Ryders for their great music during the evening.

Eugene Auclair for sharing his auctioneering talents to sell our live auction items.

Our bartenders, janitor and security guards for making sure that everything ran smoothly.

And last but not least – our sponsors. Every business and community member that donated or purchased auction items, or sponsored our event — thank you for your generosity!

GoldenLeaf - Gold&Silver Sponsors 2016 GoldenLeaf - Gold&Silver Sponsors 2016

 

It’s Poppy Season

PoppyFrom the last Friday in October until November 11 we wear poppies as a symbol of respect to those Canadians who have served to protect the freedom we enjoy in our country.  Approximately 110,000 military personnel died during World War 1 and World War 2 and it is estimated that at least three times that many were wounded or bear the scars and mental anguish associated with war.

While it has been suggested the proper place to wear a poppy is on the left side close to the heart, however all in all no matter how a poppy is worn or for how long  is a personal choice and still shows the respect it was designed to show.

Funds raised through the West Smoky Legion #244’s poppy campaign are used to assist armed forces personnel in need and fund such endeavours as the essay and poster contests which will once again be held at the Bezanson School this year (2016).

The school will be hosting this years Remembrance Day Ceremony on November 10, 2016.

Annual Legion Golf Tournament Registration

West Smoky Legion #244The West Smoky Legion’s 4th annual Golf Tournament is fast approaching. September 17th the organization is hosting a 4 Ball, Best Ball tournament for Legion members and friends.

The annual tournament encourages members to have fun together. “We work hard over the year raising money and planning events for the community, this is one way we give back to our volunteers”, says organizer Eleanor Ford. Of course the event is not limited to current members, the Legion encourages other people to join the society as well and put in a team.

This years tournament is at the Gunby Ranch Golf Course in DeBolt where they prepare a fabulous steak supper for players.  A five dollar 50/50 raffle for a  Gunby Ranch golf membership will be part of the entertainment this year as well as prizes at each hole including; longest drive for both men and ladies, ball in the sand, and closest to the pin.

Once the Golf Tournament wraps up, members of the Legion will turn their focus back to the community. A joint initiative with the Bezanson Ag Society, the Golden Leaf Dine and Dance is a night full of fun laughter and dancing that you won’t want to miss! Planning begins in September of each year.

The West Smoky Legion #244 is also known for Remembrance Day events at the Bezanson School. October and November members prepare for the annual poppy drive, organizing Remembrance Day activities and also judge the wonderful posters, stories and poems that the school children submit.

If you are interested in playing in this years golf tournament and membership interests you this year, please call Eleanor Ford 780-512-0990 or Jim Robertson 780-814-0010 to register.