Civilian Service of
Remembrance and Thanksgiving - 2007

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Colonel Kevin Cotten, CD
The Canadian High Commission

KevinWhile conducting research in preparation for today's ceremony, I realised how woefully ignorant I was of the degree and the extent of the carnage suffered by the people of Dover during the Second World War. Turning to the modern-day version of the encyclopaedia, the trusty internet, I was overwhelmed by the accounts of terror and suffering endured by the Dovorian civilians. I was particularly struck by a section of the Dover War Memorial Project website. This section, dedicated to the civilian casualties who died in Dover provides an alphabetized list of those innocent civilians who succumbed to the ravages of an enemy they could not even see. From Alfred and Martha Abbott, aged 55 and 56, of Priory Gate Road, to Lena Amos, aged 20, who died sheltering her infant daughter, 5-month-old Jean. From Emma Odell, aged 86, of Adrian Street, to Arthur Young, aged 34, of Endeavour Place. Man, Woman, Father, Mother, Son, Daughter, Husband, Wife. The bombs and shells, for all their inherent evil, did not discriminate in the selection of their victims.

This ceremony is primarily about the many civilians who died in their homes, in their workplaces, on their roads, and in the casualty hospital. But it is also about the gallant efforts of other nations, whose civilians turned soldiers took up arms to fight against a common enemy. Among them were over 12.1 million Canadians who served in the army, navy, and air force; over 1000, 000 were either killed or wounded, but they accomplished numerous acts of heroism, and contributed to a victory over a fearsome and determined enemy.

From the perspective of the people of Dover, there was no more valiant a victory than the day in September 1944 that elements of the 1st Canadian Army silenced the dreaded guns surrounding Calais. I thought I would take a moment to describe this action in the words of a participant, who lived it first hand. 2nd Lieutenant James Wareing, a British armoured officer of the 141st RAC (also known as the Buffs) which belonged to 79th Armoured Division, which at the time was under command of the 1st Canadian Army. I will let "2nd Lieutenant Wareing's words speak for themselves.

(Colonel Cotten then read the story of 2nd Lieutenant James Wareing, from the BBC's World War II People's War series. It may be seen here )

As 2nd Lieutenant Wareing points out, the guns were finally silenced and if this provided cause for celebration amongst part of telegram from Toronto, courtesy Dover Museumthe troops of the 1st Canadian Army, I can only imagine the jubilance of the Dovorians. News of this victory flashed across the Atlantic and congratulatory messages came from far and wide, including this one from the Mayor of Toronto, Canada. "In the name of the citizens of Toronto, Canada, I extend congratulations to the people of Dover on the cessation of shelling from enemy held ports across the channel. It will be a great relief to your people to be no longer under the necessity of living in caves. The fortitude and courage of the citizens of Dover in the face of enemy attacks has won our admiration. our prayers and best wishes are yours."

I would like to think that the fortitude and courage of the citizens of Dover brought out these same attributes in the Canadian soldiers, sailors, and airmen who played such a large part in winning the war.

In closing I recount these verses from Rudyard Kipling's "Two Canadian Memorials."

From little towns, in a far land, we came,
To save our honour and a world aflame;
By little towns, in a far land, we sleep,
And trust those things we won to you to keep.

photo: Michael Munn
above, part of the telegram from Fred J Conboy, Mayor of Toronto

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Copyright 2008 Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved