Taking Time to Remember

Remembrance Day provides all of us as Canadians with an opportunity to set aside time to recognize and honour the contributions of our veterans and the sacrifices they made so that we can today live in freedom and peace. It’s a day that stirs up feelings of pride, gratitude, and also great sorrow.

Photo: FreeImages.com/Michal Koralewski

A few years ago, Remembrance Day fell during the last week of what was for me a grueling campaign day as I ran for City Council. Most of my days at that time began at 4:30 am and ended at 10:00 pm. On November 11th that year, however, I had carefully planned time in my morning to attend MEI’s Remembrance Day ceremony, where my 10-year-old grandson was part of the choir. And I was so very glad I did.

It’s not often that I am moved to tears, but that particular morning was one of those times. One of the teachers delivered an amazing address about a Canadian soldier who died in October, 1916 during the battle of Ancre Heights at Regina Trench in Somme, France, during the First World War. For his sacrifice that day, James (Jimmy) Cleland Richardson received the highest and most prestigious award for British and Commonwealth forces, the Victoria Cross.

James was 20 years old, born in Scotland and a resident of Vancouver and later, Chilliwack. He was a Piper in the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. During the Battle of Ancre Heights, the company was held up by very strong wire and came under intense fire. Piper James Richardson left the trench to play his pipes along the fence line. This act so inspired the troops that they rushed the enemy’s position and captured them. Sometime later, James was detailed to help with the wounded and only then realized that he had left his pipes behind. He insisted on going back to retrieve his pipes…and he was never seen again.

James Richardson’s pipes were thought to be lost in the mud of the Somme for almost 90 years until 2002, when a Pipe Major responded to an internet posting and discovered that Richardson’s pipes were, in fact, not lost. A British Army Chaplain, Major Edward Yeld Bate, had found the pipes in 1917 and brought them home after the war to a school in Scotland where he was a teacher. Through a series of events, the pipes were identified as belonging to James Richardson. An anonymous donor facilitated the purchase of the pipes on behalf of the citizens of Canada. In November of 2006, the pipes were repatriated to Canada and placed on display at the British Columbia Legislature as a reminder of an entire generation’s valor.

This Remembrance Day, take some time to pay tribute and honour those who, like James Richardson, gave their lives in order that we might live in freedom and peace. Take time to tell a veteran how much you appreciate his or her service, and remember to cherish this wonderful country of Canada where we can all live in freedom and inclusivity thanks to the sacrifices of people like James Richardson.

On Wednesday, November 11, 2015, Abbotsford recognizes Remembrance Day with a parade and service at Thuderbird Square. Please join Velma and me there, if you can.

Much of the content of this post was first printed a couple of years ago, but all of it is as truely felt today as ever.