~ Always remember ~

WE OWE SO MUCH TO SO MANY. TODAY IS REMEMBRANCE DAY IN CANADA.

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In 2010, my husband and I went on a journey to locate the grave of my Uncle Harry whose Lancaster bomber had been shot down on June 13, 1944, near Cambrai, France. All six crew members had perished.

They are buried in a small Allied cemetery in the middle of farmland rather than in one of the major cemeteries in France. It was quite an experience just finding it, but that’s a story for another day. When I enquired as to why they were in that location, the Office of Military Affairs explained that they had been buried there by the nearby villagers at the time and so would remain close to where they had died. It was immaculately tended … and watched over by curious cows.

France-PSandsPhotos
France-PSandsPhotos

As a child, I had always been intrigued by stories about my Uncle Harry, the youngest of 5 boys, and only 20 years old when he died. There were framed photos of him in his uniform with a dazzling smile in my parents’ and grandparents’ homes. You could feel his pride.

When we went on our mission to ‘find Uncle Harry’, we also spent a few days in Normandy and did the tours of the WW2 landing beaches, something I recommend to everyone who has the opportunity. It’s an emotional experience as the history of the war becomes vividly presented by guides who must take courses in this information and pass exams before receiving a license to guide. The French take the preservation of this history very seriously and are to be commended for doing so.

As we toured the museums and memorial centres, it struck me that in so many of the photographs of men and women in service for their country, pride was stirringly evident in their expressions. It seems to go with the wearing of the uniform and the understanding of what that represents.

Thank you to every one of the members of our armed services – past and present – for putting yourself in danger for your country and taking on that onerous task with such pride. We are proud of you and very grateful.

Thank you, Uncle Harry.

France-PSandsPhotos
France-PSandsPhotos

Wear your poppy proudly. Please make certain to preserve and keep alive the stories of the members of your families who have served in the armed forces. Always remember. After reading one of the comments below, I wanted to look up the number of these overseas graves and discovered this excellent video. It only pertains to the American cemeteries but could be talking about all of the Allied burial grounds.

Published by patriciasands

Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada when she isn't somewhere else, particularly the south of France. With a happily blended family of seven adult children and, at last count, six grandchildren, life is full and time is short. Beginning with her first Kodak Brownie camera at the age of six, she has told stories all of her life through photography. Much to her surprise a few years ago, she began to write and has now published three novels, including two that are part of a six-book series set in the south of France. Love France? Love her work! Check out her website www.patriciasandsauthor.com She is particularly drawn to the rewarding friendships of women and the challenges many embrace once their families are grown. "It's never too late to begin something new," she enthuses. "As the saying goes, just do it!"

19 thoughts on “~ Always remember ~

  1. I think few places are more moving than the war cemeteries of northern France. Doubly so, I imagine, if you have a family member lying there. Thank you for reminding me it’s time to pay another visit.

    1. You are so right, Margaret. I was deeply moved with each one we visited and struck by the powerful impact of this history that one feels. In spite of the fact that we all study it at school, being there is another story. I’m so thankful we had the experience. Finding Uncle Harry’s grave was very emotional and meaningful. An amazing coincidence was that someone from England had visited the grave of one of the other crew members just the week before (!) and left information in the Visitors Book that gave us some very personal information about that group of men. Some day I want to write about that.

  2. We all must never forget. The Normandy beach area (the American Memorial and Omaha Beach) is amazing to see. As an expat American I was so touched by how beautifully all was preserved and the memorial itself was so wonderful to see. Throughout France there are various resting spots for so many who lost their lives during the wars. They tend and care for each and every spot so elegantly.

    1. So true. Even the small cemetery where my uncle’s grave lies, in the middle of vast farmlands and known probably only to locals, was lovingly cared for. You are so right, the whole Normandy area is amazing. It was interesting to see how each town had a different approach to how they memorialized the events that occurred in that particular place. I also found it incredibly touching that the residents of the area, young and old, continue to feel respect and gratitude to the countries that liberated their towns. We, who have had the privilege of living in freedom all of our lives, learn powerful lessons by visiting that part of the world. There were 3 other people with us in the 8-hour (that flew by!) tour we took. One was an 85-year-old retired doctor from Chicago who had fought on those beaches. This was the first time he had been back. He said he had tried several times but always had to go home without doing it because he was overcome with emotion. This time he made it. And forgot his camera. (You can appreciate this!) I took photos of him all day and sent them to him. I’m so glad he was with us.

  3. That’s so admirable that you found your uncle’s grave. Wow, only 20 when he died. It’s heartwarming to know that his and the service of his fellow fighter pilots is still remembered. Meanwhile, it’s just another ordinary day at The Grind for me and my fellow draft dodgers.

  4. What a wonderful heartfelt post on this Veterans Day. One day I will have a chance to visit there. We all must never forget the past and what happned. Thank you to all those who have served and are currently serving.

  5. Beautiful post, Patricia, so appropriate for the day. We sought out a tiny village cemetery in Normandy, looking for the graves of a Lancaster crew, one of whom was a friend of my older brother. Sadly, when I got home with my photographs, I found my brother had died, so he never knew we had found it. The average age of the crew was 21. (In WWII, fewer than 50% of Bomber Command crews came back alive).

  6. I like how you Canadians call it Remembrance Day. It’s a heartbreak of a holiday, a job we have, to take stock, pause for breath in what always seems like a headlong rush toward the next conflict. Nice post.

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