In silence

For two minutes, we stand in silence. For some, this is harder than for others. It only takes two minutes to acknowledge bravery and sacrifice. To show respect for those who made a choice that launched them into unknown chaos.

It would have been powerful to stand in silence for two minutes along with the 15,000 troops who participated on that first Remembrance Day. Everything stopped. People, buses, everything. To be a part of the moment when the attention of a nation focussed on acknowledgement,  gratitude and grief. To handle all that energy flowing through each person and onto the next. To feel that connection to something lighter and more profound than the next thing to be done. To pause amidst the day-to-day to say, albeit silently, "Thank You".

As a child, I remember stopping on Frederick Street in Edinburgh at 11 AM on November 11th. I was with my Mum. I remember my hand in hers. I remember looking around and seeing other men and women just stopping on the street and standing still. I can even remember when I got on a bus and was told by the bus conductor that we would be stopping for those two minutes.

What stands out the most, though, is that in the silence of people, I could still hear the roar of nature.

Fifty-plus years on, I still stop, even if I am not attending a formal ceremony. The chance to reconnect my soul and self to the deeper threads of humanity is important. This, too, we must not forget. Nor forget that silence is never empty, even though it isn't always heard.

November 11th is the one day in the year where I don't need a smart-watch reminding me to take a 'mindfulness' break. Those two minutes of silence are a part of the day and will probably be so for the rest of my life.

This year though, I think it is time not just to feel the energetic flow of gratitude; I can also consider what I have done with the freedoms so dearly bought by our Veterans. Have I done those freedoms harm or extended them as best I can to those around me? Do I take them for granted or hoard them like an entitlement?

This year, I shall search in the silence about the nature of my gratitude, and it may just be a little bit uncomfortable.

Joss Rowlands

Joss Rowlands

My grandfather died in World War I when my mother was only 6-months old.  They never met. His service records were lost in a fire, although he was mentioned in Dispatches. I am the only relative in our family line who can stand for his memory.
I am the CEO of an international group that supports leaders on foreign (and domestic) soil. The rest of the time, I'm a writer, coach, gardener, reader, knitter, grandmother, cat-mother, and the spouse of a Veteran.

Wreath-Laying

Of course, we're all familiar with the wreath-laying ceremony, which is one of the deep traditions of the Remembrance Day celebration. The first Remembrance Day was on Tuesday, November 11th, 1919, at 11 am. So the tradition of Remembrance is only slightly older than the symbolic use of the Remembrance Poppy, which is 100 years old this year.

Poppies

The lovely flower captured in Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae's poem 'In Flander's Fields' has so much more behind it than the poem's poignant words.

In some cultures, like the Persians, the poppy represents deep and passionate love, while in others, it symbolises evil. The early Egyptians revered them as an emblem of blood and new life. On the other hand, the Celts associated poppies with sleep and mixed them with food to make children sleepy.

The poppy also represents Ceres, the Roman goddess of crop fertility and Aphrodite, the goddess of love and vegetation; and Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams.

And finally, they are also associated with pleasure and extravagance.

The symbolism of poppies is both ancient and extensive. It includes the relevance of colour that incorporates the black poppy (for black, African and Caribbean servicemen, servicewomen and civilians) and the controversial white poppy, commemorating lives lost while emphasising peace and including enemy fallen and civilian victims.

The Remembrance Poppy shows respect, and solemnity especially since World War I and symbolises the sorrow, loss and eternal sleep of the fallen.

In Canada, we wear the red Remembrance Poppy on the left lapel above the heart to commemorate the sacrifice of our Veterans. Some exceptions to this are wearing the poppy on a hat or beret, often done by First Responders and military units.

Circles

One of the most potent symbols in human culture and history, the circle is found in all civilisations, transcending local, national and cultural boundaries. The symbol is divine, sacred and universal. It denotes inclusivity, wholeness and protection, and spiritual energy.

The Ancient Celts saw it as both the symbol of the cosmos and the protective boundary that no enemy or evil could cross.

For Northern First Nations, the circle embodies spiritual energy, which includes the energy of the symbol itself and all it represents in nature and the universe and the healing of our spirits.

In alchemical terms, it is the centre point of focus. It is the space of companionship and safety as depicted by fire in the centre.

In Chinese culture, it represents the shape of heaven.

In nature and art, there are no straight lines, only circles and curves. We see it in Leonardo Da Vinci's work and Dr Carl Jung's view that the circle is the geometric archetype of the psyche. We see the relationship between the circle and the square in these works, representing our bodily form.

Wreaths

It is no surprise then that the poppy wreath is a meaningful symbol on Remembrance Day. It captures our thoughts and memories. It places the focus firmly on the names of all who have given their lives in wars past. It represents our respect for those who continue to risk their lives for the sake of peace.

Community

While the official ceremony at The Cenotaph in Victoria Park includes laying wreaths, there is no limit to the number of wreaths that can be laid. As a community member, you are both entitled and welcome to lay a wreath after the ceremony.

Joss Rowlands

Joss Rowlands

My grandfather died in World War I, when my mother was only 6-months old.  They never met. His service records were lost in a fire, although he was mentioned in Dispatches. I am the only relative in our family line who can stand for his memory.
The rest of the time, I'm a writer, coach, gardener, reader, knitter, grandmother, cat-mother, spouse and dabbler in all sorts of neuroscience.

Stories

The telling of stories and the power of the storyteller is part of most human cultures and civilizations.  Daring-do and humour, romance, drama, and tragedy make up most of these, whether they occur in space or centuries past.

Remembrance Day evokes stories. Some stories are not told, and some are heard too often. Those of us who have either lived through war, had loved ones serve during times of war, or conflict has stories too.

The stories that soldiers and civilians can't tell have led to a variety of diagnoses.  Shell-shock and sometimes labels of cowardice or collaboration have been applied. Our understanding of post-traumatic stress syndrome creates an appreciation of the unseen costs of doing one's duty.

In preparation for this year’s Remembrance Day Ceremony, I’ve been looking at photographs of veterans. It makes me wonder what thoughts they have during the ceremony, during those moments of silence in which “We Remember Them”. My traumatic stories present themselves both as singular points in time and short sharp clips. Laughing or sad, the faces appear randomly but in a stream connected by memory and the impact of those moments on me.

I have asked my husband, a veteran of a NATO mission in Afghanistan, about some of the things he remembers. While he was away, we could speak regularly, so I was familiar with his day to day activities. I know about the day his camp came under direct fire, and I know about the monotony too.  Still, I’m also aware that there are other stories, and he has a right to keep them to himself for all the reasons that make him the man he is. Others I know of fared poorly in their missions, exposed as they were to the incredible suffering of children during and in the aftermath of war.

Some stories I have inherited, like the one where I imagine my grandfather, a young man in his 20’s who was resting behind his lines between skirmishes of battle in France in World War I.  I wonder what he was thinking about or imagining when he was shot by an enemy sniper who had snuck into the surrounding landscape.  When the army sent his belongings were home, my Grandmother was told that inside his uniform breast pocket was a small pair of knitted baby booties.  They belonged to my mother, who was 6-months old and whom he would never meet.

On Remembrance Day, I think of both the man I never met and the mother that I loved thoroughly. Their stories are woven with mine; their story and history influence me. Where these memories are more poignant than disturbing, I remind myself that while we remember those who have paid the “ultimate price” during the conflict, there are many who live on in darkness and torment with the memories of things of which they cannot speak. To mind comes a young man who left his family in service of a greater mission, only to have his soul torn apart in sorrow and horror.

Domestic and international conflicts produce as much pain and sacrifice as they ever did. That will not change in my lifetime, I’m sure.  For a few minutes, though, I can bear to hold the enormity of it all and pay my respects.

Joss Rowlands

Joss Rowlands

My grandfather died in World War I, when my mother was only 6-months old.  They never met. His service records were lost in a fire, although he was mentioned in Dispatches. I am the only relative in our family line who can stand for his memory.
The rest of the time, I'm a writer, coach, gardener, reader, knitter, grandmother, cat-mother, spouse and dabbler in all sorts of neuroscience.

Getting Ready

cenotaph image

As the new 'kid on the block', as it were, I'm finding the process needed to set up the Remembrance Day ceremonies very interesting. Despite having done event planning at various times in my life, I hadn't truly appreciated the number of restrictions there are in putting on the North Vancouver Remembrance Day Ceremonies.

What I thought

Perhaps naively, I had imagined it would be pretty much the same standard process every year. Of course, last year was the first time we engaged with live-streaming on YouTube. Finding audio and video specialists who would work with a not-for-profit organisation was something we hadn't done before. And we'd had to apply to the Ministry of Health for permission to hold a gathering. I'd also taken for granted that every group of participants, be they a band, choir, or marching unit, would know 'what to do'. And before 2020, I was pretty much spot on in my thinking.

What I've learned

Things are seldom what they seem. Veteran's Affairs, Canada, prescribe the format of every Remembrance Ceremony. The sequence repeated year after year, giving the ceremonies their dignity.

From both historical and modern-day conflicts, the Veterans choose to come - they need no invitation. They are always the backbone.

Then there are the various other participants, Pipe Band, Choir, Ceremonial marching band or unit, the members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Police Officers who stand 'on guard', to name just a few.

There is the Chaplain whose words echo our collective thanks. The Parade Commander who runs the order of ceremony and maintains the precision.

The 39th Field Engineering Brigade, 6th Field Squadron, typically provide the Honour Guard at the Cenotaph. They also offer the JP Fell armouries for the after-parade luncheon venue. There is no luncheon this year quite simply because the gathering rules changed too late.

Let's not forget the members of BC Ambulance Service and the firefighters who stand by in case of need; some of them are veterans.

The Cenotaph

What about the Cenotaph?  Who looks after it? Who cleans the plaque that acknowledges purpose? Who takes care of the marble slabs that bear the names of our fallen citizens? Who cleans the site of leaves and other debris?

Since 2020 many of the answers to these questions have changed. Not every supporter is still willing to help due to constantly shifting health concerns due to Covid-19, other illnesses, ageing and retirement. Still, there is hope that those veterans of modern conflicts will someday step forward and take up the reins of stewardship for this event.

In the meantime

At a site survey on a rainy Thursday afternoon, I finally met several people from the City of North Vancouver.  I learned that they are the ones who make sure that the site is cleared and cleaned. They are also the people who make sure that there are stanchions, chairs, ropes, tents, porta-potties, extra policing, and barricades for the years when we march up Lonsdale Avenue. We sometimes even have risers, although not this year.

I had many questions and discovered that some of the answers would have to be re-discovered. It's not that they are lost to time, it's just that the who and how and when has been mislaid.

November 11th 2021, is a Thursday barely four weeks from today. I'm learning that things can and probably will change between now and then. On the day, we will have the best event possible for this year.

And next year will be the same, and yet different, again.

Joss Rowlands

Joss Rowlands

My grandfather died in World War I, when my mother was only 6-months old.  They never met. His service records were lost in a fire, although he was mentioned in Dispatches. I am the only relative in our family line who can stand for his memory.
The rest of the time, I'm a writer, coach, gardener, reader, knitter, grandmother, cat-mother, spouse and dabbler in all sorts of neuroscience.

Veterans Welcome

Remembrance Day is about Service, Sacrifice and Acknowledgement. It has always been a day where Veterans of any conflict are foremost in the community mind. Despite Covid restrictions, any Veteran who wishes to attend this year’s ceremony is welcome. There is always a place for you.

If you are a Veteran with a medical exemption who plans to attend, we ask that you contact us using this form with your name and contact information and the nature of the exemption.  This will allow us to set aside appropriate, inclusive space for you.

Live-Streaming

As a result of the current surge in Covid-19 and with an abundance of caution, the NSVCC has determined the most prudent course of action is to repeat the format from last year’s ceremony.

We will once again have a limited attendance for veterans and dignitaries at the Cenotaph. The event will be live-streamed for the general public and a link to the stream will be posted on this site.

Safe & Healthy

Our goal is to keep our veterans safe, healthy, and included in these ceremonies. There is an attendance ceiling of 100 participants within the confines of the Cenotaph. This number will easily accommodate those veterans who wish to attend and for our official wreath layers.

Of course, we hope and trust that we will again, next year be able to return to a fully engaged community event. In the meantime, we’re holding the health and safety of our Veterans at the forefront of our planning.

Restrictions

Just as in wartime, many things can no longer be taken for granted. To ensure the health of everyone who attends the ceremony, we have some requests.

In keeping with the Provincial Health Officer’s advice of being fully vaccinated, we will be:

  • Adhering to 100% mask mandate policy within the venue.
  • No one will be allowed onto the venue without wearing a mask that fully covers the nose and mouth.
  • We realise that some Veterans may be unvaccinated due to specific allergies or other restrictions. We ask that you be willing to provide proof of your exemption, if requested.

Exemptions

If you are unvaccinated (or partially vaccinated and outside of the 14-day restrictions) and would like to attend the Veteran's Day Ceremonies, please fill out the information below. We'll be in touch to outline arrangements.

Joss Rowlands

Joss Rowlands

My grandfather died in World War I, when my mother was only 6-months old.  They never met. His service records were lost in a fire, although he was mentioned in Dispatches. I am the only relative in our family line who can stand for his memory.
The rest of the time, I'm a writer, coach, gardener, reader, knitter, grandmother, cat-mother, spouse and dabbler in all sorts of neuroscience.

Remembrance 2020

Remembrance Day 2020

Please enjoy this recording of our 2020 Remembrance Ceremony.

COVID-19 RESPONSE

Our aim is to honour and respect our veterans while keeping their families safe.

Thank you

Our warmest thanks to all those who chose to watch our ceremony live-streamed on YouTube. We also thank the many participants who attended the ceremony, maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. Our thanks too to those of you who could not attend due to illness, or legal prohibition, your presence was still felt, and appreciated.

Our deep thanks also to the crew of audio and video experts who put together the live-stream video and audio in such a professional manner.

THE BC MINISTRY OF HEALTH APPROVED OUR PLAN FOR THIS YEAR'S CEREMONY

When it became clear that Covid-19 was going to create a problem for our Ceremonies in 2020, we devised a plan which we submitted to the BC Ministry of Health. Our proposal was ambitious. We covered everything we could think of. We hung on every word and decision made by Dr. Bonnie Henry and adjusted everything we could.  We asked if 100 people could attend - it was daring since almost every other event was capped at 50 people, or cancelled.

The BC Ministry said 'YES'.

We're proud of this accomplishment as it means that there has not been a break in the North Shore ceremonies since we took over the planning in 1947!

North Shore Veterans’ Council Canada