Manitoulin Islanders arose 75 years ago to the joyous sound of church bells pealing in response to the news that the war in Europe had finally ended—although it would be some months before the end of the war in the Pacific could also be declared—and the end of the Second World War and its accompanying global agony was finally in sight.
In those days before television and the internet, it was through newspapers, radio, telegrams and the post that most Islanders received their news. For much of those five long years that news brought with it immense heartache and sadness. A million Canadians served full-time during the Second World War, with 40,000 paying the ultimate sacrifice in defence of our still so very young nation and a further 55,000 returning home with wounded bodies; this contribution coming from a nation of barely 11 million souls.
There is an oft-repeated phrase from the Remembrance Prayer, “we will remember them.” But as the years go by and nearly all of those who stormed the fascist bastions of Europe, the Islands of the Pacific and the jungles of Asia have passed from this world there is an imminent danger that they will take with them the reality of the pain and suffering inflicted by global conflict on Canadian families—as well as the immense relief that the first VE Day engendered on the home front.
Today, as we face a new and invisible foe in the form of COVID-19 and we look forward to the day when our nation can take to the streets to once again celebrate victory, let us remember the hope and prayers of our grandparents and great grandparents. Take a brief moment to look back those earlier generations and the sacrifices they made in order to ensure the freedoms we enjoy today. Let us fulfill that solemn pledge.
Lest we forget.