I have often said that remembering our heroes should not be limited to just one day of the year. In fact I go out of my way to constantly bring you updates about the Medal of Honor men this blog is dedicated to, and also bring you stories about our Victoria Cross recipients, a list much longer than anything you will find on the web or in military/government data banks. I am always on the look-out for news about any of these heroes so that I can keep you up to date on the latest news about who and where the men are being remembered... and how.
A few weeks back I wanted to bring you some more news from the west coast about Commander Rowland Bourke, a Victoria Cross recipient and also about Captain of the Hold Joseph Noil, from Nova Scotia. He earned the Medal of Honor just after the US Civil War of 1861-5.
A family member and I also shared a few words about the importance of remembering this hero. A man blind in one, and refused entry into both the Canadian and American services and so he went off to England... at his own cost, joined the naval reserves, and then went off to war and in the process saved almost 50 men from drowning.
Members of HMS Malahat then had to head up the road a few miles to Sidney where they have also attended Remembrance Day services for many more than 7 years. I followed and attended a most impressive service that included not one but two flyovers by war planes and also a chopper flying very low overhead. Of course there were the marching bands and troops and vets and many a presentation including a considerable amount of wreaths being laid at the town cenotaph.
The image above shows the original grave marker for Commander Bourke VC, DSO. Like most on site, it lay flat in the ground and was most difficult to see. Efforts by many groups and individuals, including myself pitched in to arrange for the ordering, mounting and hosting a very formal and dignified unveiling ceremony for the Canadian Commonwealth Graves marker also shown above, in May of 2013.
While the Royal Oak Memorial Grounds service for the Commander took place at 9 a.m. Victoria BC time, four hours earlier DC time, it was 8 O'clock, and at that hour, the very officer that helped to unveil the Bourke Marker in 2013, was now attending a Remembrance Day ceremony for Nova Scotia born Joseph Noil at St Elizabeth's Cemetery just a few miles away from the Canadian Embassy at Washington DC.
I am of course talking about Rear Admiral William Truelove, the Commander of all maritime forces along Canada's west coast back in 2013, but today is the Commanding officer of the Military attache at our embassy in Washington.
I attended some of the public functions during their annual convention, did research there and even met with a relative of the famous General Chamberlain who's defense at Little Round Top, saved the day for the Union at a cost of many a life... including some Canadians. I visited many of the Canadian graves at Gettysburg and then went to Washington to do further research and visit the grave of Joseph Noil.
This sailor died penniless. His wife and two small children were trying to etch out a destitute life at New York and could not even come to see Joseph at his death bed or even attend his funeral. He ended up being buried under the WRONG NAME and with no notice whatsoever that he was a true hero and recipient of the Medal of Honor. He rested that way for OVER 134 YEARS. Above you see me visiting the grave.
Several months ago that marker was replaced, and the story told in this space. (Search for numerous mentions of the event with the search engine at upper right.)
And to help with the ceremony was Canada's own Rear Admiral Truelove and many of his associates at the Canadian Embassy, sharing... and preserving... history. A history that back in 2005 was so obscure that I was told by the Canadian Ambassador to the US, that... "none of us was aware of." This of course referring to the number of Canadians who earned the MOH.
But now to Remembrance Day a few weeks back.
Most would never know this, but the Admiral's shoulders were very heavy that day. He was indeed carrying more weight than even the day before. For this was day one of his wearing around his neck the Order of Military Merit, at the highest of three levels, that of Commander. He had just been promoted from within the Order's ranks from Officer to Commander the day before by our Governor General at Ottawa. At the remembrance ceremony, it would be his first full day wearing it.
Note all the American flags in the background. This year about 500 of these flags were placed by hospital/cemetery staff at graves of veterans. Note the lone Canadian flag at the Noil marker as well.
Ar 11, all attended a formal remembrance Ceremony at the Embassy and spent several hours after lunch at Arlington where they payed their respects at the grave of PEI MOH recipient Charles MacGillivary (often mentioned in this space) and 6 other graves of Canadian veterans.
See you next week.