But I choose to begin today with an announcement that has been long in the coming. Back on day one, I was convinced by folks on several fronts who knew of my research, who constantly noted that some of this information should be made public. By doing so, this would encourage others, historians and even family to come forth with tidbits of great importance...info that I would have never learned had I not done the blog in the first place. So now almost two years later and with much input from you and your friends, my filing cabinets are breaking at the seams.
But with this joy is a massive problem. My intent well over a decade ago was to WRITE A BOOK... not do a DAILY, then later a three day...then, finally two day blog each and every week. Most take massive amounts of time to research and articulate in a way that hopefully you would find it compelling enough to read. And that reading, would lead to more knowledge about these mostly unknown MOH heroes from Canada and those also with connections to Canada. In the later months the blog even expanded into the recipients of the Victoria Cross. Couple both of these with several side trips on related topics and one can readily see that all of this had become a major vacuum of the available time for research AND WRITING A BOOK.
So for obvious reasons, today's blog... on a Sunday... is announcing that the blogs will be reduced to one a week...on Sundays. Once in a while a special may be run when needed. But today is the first of these once a week blogs and it covers several issues.
While many were exchanged, one particular fellow was not released as he had not only been aware of British defences in the area but also of the plans to attack Baltimore in the weeks to come. This intelligence had to kept from the Americans and so the man, a lawyer there to help with release of others, became himself a prisoner and secured on the HMS Tonnant. That night Ross and others set many government buildings including the President's premises, now called the White House, aflame. The Brits also shelled Baltimore. The next morning the lawyer awoke and was surprised to see his flag still flying. He then wrote a poem about it. His name was Francis Scott Key and his creation would later become the American national anthem... the Star Spangled Banner.
General Ross would be twice wounded during the Baltimore battle and sent to the Tonnant for treatment. Unfortunately he died whilst being transported. Rather than getting a swig of rum rations for his troubles, he got dunked in 129 gallons of Jamaican Rum for preservation, transhipped to another British vessel and sent off to Halifax Nova Scotia for burial were he rests today. (Above are depictions of the HMS Tonnant, the White House on fire and Francis Scott Key.)
That began when Britain declared war on Germany on August 4 1914. Canada followed suite the next day. And as the weeks and months and years evolved tens of thousands of Americans came north and put on a Canadian uniform and went off to war. Many to return to the American service when their country later joined the war efforts.
Recruitment posters by the thousands were posted throughout Canada and abroad no doubt. Eventually over over 620,000 served for Canada. Britain awarded 628 Victoria Crosses for incredible bravery of the highest order in actions in the war. About 75, or one in 8 of these came home to Canada. The Americans awarded 124 Medals of Honor in this same war. One of these came to a fellow who joined the Canadians before the Americans entered the war, later in the war switched back to the US services and went on to earn his MOH.
If you want to lift your spirits on September 11th, (next Thursday) put the 2001 tragedy aside for a few minutes and give some thought to this man. On that day 94 years ago this hero stood at Buckingham Palace while the King of England pinned the Victoria Cross to his chest.
Initial plans called for the honouring of only those buried in the UK, but this was later extended to all WWl recipients wherever buried.
A contest was held for the design and plans made to have these markers, called paving stones, unveiled at a place of choosing by the public in each of these counties etc. Further, the unveiling was to be done sometime over the 4 year commemorative period of the war.... on exactly the 100th yr... and date... of the actual event that resulted in the service member's earning the Victoria Cross.
The upper plaque is in honour of Cpl Charles Garforth who's heroism at Harmignies France on 23 August 1914 saved many lives and resulted in his earning the VC. The Plaque is the result of a design competition noted in earlier blogs and is the very type to be used for about 400 individual plaques to be mounted over the next four years in the UK. (With some irony, the location of the Garforth deed was just about 180 KMs away and to the south east of where Rowland Bourke 4 years later would earn his VC.) It is mounted very close to where Garforth was born and is the first of these 400 or more plaques that will ultimately be unveiled. Many of these will be for Canadians buried in the UK, and as these are created I hope to bring some of their stories to this site.
After some public pressure re original plans to only honour those buried in the UK, the powers to be created a second plaque, one of which appears above. There are 11 of these going to 11 different countries. The above is the plaque coming at some point to Canada, and lists more recipients than any of the others.
For reasons unknown to me, Naval Lt. (Later Commander) Rowland Bourke's name is not listed on the above plaque though clearly it ought to be. Equally puzzling is the fact that Captain (Later Brig. General) John Sinton's name IS listed when it ought not be as he is buried in Ireland. Go figure!
The town has also created this memorial, show at right in further honour of Commander Rowland Bourke. This will be mounted for a time at the public library and then moved on to a more permanent location later. Relatives of the Commander were in attendance, as was I and we most briefly had an opportunity to visit with several dignitaries after the event.
Still with anniversaries as such, we must not forget that it was 75 years ago next Wednesday that Canada entered WW ll.
See you next Sunday.