If you missed yesterday's blog. Please have a look at it before reading today's.
We left off yesterday with a few notes on the very moving comments of Jason Jones, Admiral Truelove, Ambassador Puijm, Father Jo Nnanna and Lt Commander Raeburn. Navigating us through these waters was our very capable MC, Darwin Robinson.
In my opening remarks I brought forth comments about the very first Victoria Cross investiture in 1857, notes about the 100th and 150 celebrations of that event and some history on the fact that the Bourke VC came with a blue ribbon, not the normal red (crimson) ribbon so well known today. I also noted that the marker that was about to be unveiled, was most historic. Not only for what it represents, but for the marker itself. There being only one in the entire province up until a few days back. Bourke's makes 2.
In order to have this marker placed on site, the committee had to do three things. First it had to get permission from the family. But that took finding them. For years, efforts were not successful. Then came along HMCS Malahat, and myself, and some great training from my good friends at the Victoria Genealogical Society.
One of our committee members... Naval Reservist Lieutenant Peggy Kulmala is tasked with Public Affairs functions at her home unit in the reserves and in her full time day job at CFB Esquimalt. In that capacity she put a notice up on face-book and within days, with incredible irony, Jason Jones was doing a search on his relative Rowland Bourke and came across the face-book posting. And rest is history.
But at the same time I had contacted the cemetery with regards to a new marker, had been told that family approval was a requirement, and was already in search mode. I had found hints that needed exploring in both Vancouver and the US but dropped my search with the news of the Kulmala discovery.
Once contact was made, the family very quickly gave approval, but for many reasons they insisted that the old marker also remain in place.
Step 2 required the Board at Royal Oak to revisit a policy in place since day one that upright markers in that area of the park were not allowed. Serious considerations were discussed and ultimately the very exciting development that came forth was that permission would be granted, but that this was a once in a lifetime waving of the rules, not one that would set any ground work for further similar claims. The decision was very much based on the uniqueness and historic importance and accomplishments of the man being honoured.
The third step was in getting approval from those that run the program...the folks at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at Ottawa. They considered the application, required supporting information from the family and gave the go ahead. Then the gracious folks at Veterans Affairs Canada, agree to fund the project.
That brings us up to the unveiling of a few days ago, after of course considerable efforts being made by the unveiling committee, and MANY MORE behind the scenes. The committee consisted of Peggy Kulmala and Jason Jones, above mentioned, Lorraine Fracy the Client Services Manager at Royal Oak and myself.
These combines efforts brought the public the ceremony of May 8th.
So now finally, we can remove the cover and unveil for you this wonderful new marker that informs the viewer that he or she is standing in the presence of a truly Canadian hero of days gone bye. It cries out again, and hopefully a thousand more times... Lest We Forget.
While not seen in this picture, the original marker remains in place and is at the feet of the CTV cameraman. When you stand there you can read one after the other without having to move about. Commander Bourke lies at rest between both.
At the top of this marker is the Navy crest with the word... Canada''' underneath.
The letters RCNVR stands for the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserves.
The crest below is of course an engraving of the Victoria Cross.
The grade of the landscape makes the marker actually look like it is not straight and when questioned about this one of the members of the park's great workers brought out a level and showed me how straight it actually was.
He had a rather unusual look on his face when I asked if it was possible to do some landscaping so as to show all looking straight.
Can you imagine!
The committee joins in sending kudo's and a warm BZ to profoundly thank them for setting aside regular duties to help us celebrate this historic occasion on the 8th.
Both of these letters were read aloud at the ceremony and later presented as keepsakes to Mrs. Judith McWilliams Bourke.
I should close with the note that we are not the only ones celebrating this event. While the committee's work was in obvious honour of Rowland Bourke, in Belgium another ceremony will be taking place on the 24th of this month. At the very harbour where the two battles took place the people of Ostend have cleaned up an older monument that commemorated the later of these two battles. With harbour improvements, this monument had been actually moved closer to the very place where the battles took place.
I had the idea that on the 95th anniversary, ie 10 May they would do their unveiling. However they had invited their very special guests... the King and Queen of Belgium, but Their Royal Highnesses could not attend on that date, and so another was affixed... the 24th. It is anticipated that a member of the British Royal family will also attend, as will the Canadian Ambassador to Belgium.
When first learning of these events I contacted the host city and proposed that their ceremony and ours be both performed on the same day... and same time and that through computer connections, we could both watch each others ceremonies, but that seemed to get too complicated and remained destined to be separate events.
But I am sure the Canadian embassy is well aware of the fact that there were many Canadians involved in that battle and that these will be recognized at the event.
My last note on this matter is to thank all those who have attended, and those who worked so hard in the background to play a role in having this ceremony be brought to a conclusion with so few hickups.
And a note of thanks to several photographers who have supplied me with photos. Micheal Bourque, Diane Clarke, Claudia Borman, Richard Buysschaert, and John Azar of the CF100 Commonwealth Society and the Pacific Coast branch of the Western Front Society but to name a few.
For more great photo's check out the HMCS Malahat website.
And finally to the press, those at CFAX, CTV, the Times Colonist, the Saanich News, CFB Lookout, and the Victoria Genealogical Society website for giving this ceremony such great coverage.
There were also many people who went to great lengths to spread the word about this ceremony.
Thank you all.