‘I’ve cried many times’: WW II ‘miracle’ baby saved by Canadian soldiers makes long-lost connections

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Mary Crabb was sitting at her living room table in suburban Hertfordshire, England, staring into a laptop.

« Hello, » she exclaimed with a smile and a hint of nerves as she greeted the man who was staring back at her.

« Hello, how are you? » the man replied from 5,000 kilometres away.

And so began a conversation 77 years in the making, the culmination an emotional roller-coaster for Crabb that took off again in recent weeks.

« I’ve cried many times, » Crabb told Harry Curtis, the son of a Canadian soldier who helped save her life within hours of her birth in 1941.

« If you’re like me right now, you’ve had lots of thoughts running through your head, » Curtis told her from his home in Stittsville in southwest Ottawa.

Crabb has known for much of her life that she was adopted as a baby. It was only after her adoptive parents died, however, that her family dug into her past.

Crabb was adopted at the age of five months in 1942. (Submitted by Mary Crabb)

The family’s research revealed that on Sept. 23, 1941, Crabb’s birth mother had abandoned her as a newborn. The baby was left hidden in blackberry bushes in Horsell Common, a 355-hectare park on the outskirts of London. She was blue and clinging to life.

Then three Canadian soldiers came along and saved the day.

« I owe my life to them, » Crabb, 77, told CBC News.

The soldiers’ story

Stationed in England during the Second World War, the three Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA) members happened to be nearby at the time. Their regiment was out on manoeuvres, part of preparations in the event of a German invasion.

The men heard a noise from the bushes and went to investigate, according to media reports at the time.

They « thought it was a chicken, » Crabb said.

To their surprise, the soldiers found the baby, cut the remaining umbilical cord with a knife and wrapped the girl in a white shirt.

Crabb’s nephew Graeme Elliott recently discovered this photo of three Canadian soldiers, including Sgt. Ernie Curtis, centre, with his aunt after they found her abandoned as a baby in 1941. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

An entry in the 8th Army Field Regiment’s war diary from that day says Q Battery « during their scheme found a newborn baby in the gun area. »

On Dec. 31, 2018, Crabb’s nephew told her he had found a new clue about her past — a photograph showing her as a baby in a British hospital, surrounded by the three Canadian soldiers she never got to thank.

« Tears were running down my face to think that was me, » she said.

Searching for relatives

Crabb’s nephew, Graeme Elliot, took to social media, posting the picture — first published in London’s Daily Mirror in 1941 — in search of family members of the Canadian soldiers.

It wasn’t long before Harry Curtis was shown the post and both families started organizing a reunion of sorts.

« My wife saw the picture on Facebook and said ‘Oh my God, I recognize that picture … there’s your dad, » Curtis said.

His late father, Sgt. Ernie Curtis, is seen in the middle of the photo wearing his RCA uniform.

Harry Curtis had kept the same photo in a book at his home. His father « just said that he and two of his buddies had found a baby in a field or a meadow, » Harry Curtis recalled hearing as a child. « He just wished that she was well. »

Harry Curtis, son of Sgt. Ernie Curtis, lives in Stittsville, Ont. (Harry Curtis/Facebook)

This week, the long-lost connection was rekindled when Harry Curtis reached Crabb using FaceTime on a laptop supplied by CBC News.

Both fought back tears.

« It’s a miracle, really, isn’t it? » Crabb said.

They chatted about their respective families. Crabb has one grandchild, Curtis has six. They promised to keep in touch.

Curtis even plans to send Crabb the epaulettes from his father’s RCA uniform.

« I had Dad, » Curtis told CBC News. « She never had a physical connection to him, so this will give her one. »

‘Daughter of the regiment’

The extraordinary encounter made headlines in both Britain and Canada in 1941.

The Daily Mirror reported the soldiers intended to adopt the baby as a « daughter of the regiment, » naming her Virginia Regina Brandon after their hometowns.

« The child was rushed to an army truck » and then taken to hospital, according to a piece in Regina’s Leader-Post on Nov. 5, 1941.

Within months, the girl was adopted by an English couple and given the name Mary. She grew up in Hertfordshire, 65 kilometres from where she had been dumped as a newborn.

The soldiers found the baby on Sept. 23, 1941, in Horsell Common, a large open space southwest of London. (Rob Lowrey/CBC)

Crabb only learned much later in life that her birth mother had pleaded guilty to abandonment and was reportedly sentenced to two months’ probation.

At the time, the Mirror identified the three soldiers as Gunner Brackett, Sgt. Curtis and Gunner Griffin.

Susan Griffin, who lives in Massachusetts, told CBC News her father, Bob Griffin, is the man on the left of the 1941 photo.

Crabb acknowledges she’s still learning about the first days of her life, all these years later.

« There’s a load I don’t know. »

CBC News has not been able to formally name the third soldier, identified in various media reports as A.J. Brackett or E.J. Brackett. Anyone with information can email thomas.daigle@cbc.ca.

With files from Stephanie Jenzer

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‘A very special Remembrance Day’: Canadian events mark 100 years since end of WW I

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Remembrance Day ceremonies on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and at city halls, places of worship and military bases across Canada Sunday commemorated the end of the First World War a century ago.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan headed the ceremony, which began in sub-zero temperatures, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Paris for events with other world leaders.

Sajjan arrived at the National War Memorial along with Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, who recently returned from Belgium, where she attended additional commemorative events.

Among those Payette greeted as the ceremony got underway was Winnipeg resident Anita Cenerini, who was named as the 2018 National Silver Cross mother, representing all military mothers who have lost a child to war. Cenerini fought for her son, Pte. Thomas Welch, to receive full military honours after his suicide.

This is the first time the legion has chosen a mother who lost a child to suicide for the year-long designation. After serving in Afghanistan in 2003, the 22-year-old ended his life on May 8, 2004, at the army base in Petawawa, Ont.

At 11 a.m. Sunday, a sombre silence was broken by the beginning of a 21-gun salute and the deep tolling of a bell marking the solemn occasion. Five CF-18 Hornet aircraft from Cold Lake, Alta., also soared over the crowd at the National War Memorial in a « missing man » formation. The crowd paused at 11 a.m. to reflect on the sacrifices of Canadians who gave their lives in conflict around the world.

During the First World War, more than 66,000 Canadians died on the battlefields of Europe and more than 45,000 lost their lives during the Second World War. The Remembrance Day ceremonies acknowledged the contributions of all Canadians who have served and are still serving today.

Thousands gather for Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa:

Remembrance Day ceremony on Parliament Hill commemorates the end of the First World War a century ago. 3:28

Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gré​goire Trudeau, accompanied Sajjan at the ceremony, and was joined by Senator Peter Harder, Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, Liberal MP Karen McCrimmon representing Veterans Affairs Canada and Thomas Irvine, national president of Royal Canadian Legion.

‘Very special Remembrance Day’

As the Ottawa Children’s Choice sang In Flanders Field, wreaths were laid at the foot of the war memorial to remember the fallen. Payette put down the first wreath, followed by Cenerini on behalf of « The Mothers of Canada, » then Sajjan on behalf of the government, as well as others representing various federal departments, and even one representing the young people of Canada and another on behalf of Indigenous people.

In an interview before the ceremony began, Sajjan told CBC’s Hannah Thibedeau that this is a « very special Remembrance Day » because of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice, ending the so-called Great War.

« We as a nation have been defined by it in many different ways, » said Canada’s defence minister, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran.

Poppies are pinned to a cross at Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Grand Parade in Halifax on Sunday, one of the many events across Canada. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

« Even today our men and women in Armed Forces are deployed all over the world. And let’s not forget the families as well who serve alongside them. »

Sajjan also stressed the important role of peacekeepers.

« World War I was a consequence where peace was not found … when we look at the work they do, we’re proud of the resilience in not only reducing conflict, but also preventing it. »

Honouring the fallen

In a statement Sunday from the Prime Minister’s Office, Trudeau emphasized the role Canadians played in the First World War.

« One hundred years ago today, the Armistice between Germany and the Allies ended the First World War. As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice, we also mark Canada’s Hundred Days, » his statement says, in part.

« During the ‘100 Days Offensive,’ Canadians spearheaded attacks that overcame the last lines of German defences and paved the way to final victory. These soldiers were the face and strength of a young country that sacrificed beyond measure and never faltered in its duty. »

Trudeau also encouraged people in Canada to take time out for two minutes of silence, to « remember every Canadian who has sacrificed their future for generations beyond their own. We stand today, free and at peace, because of them.

Mayor John Tory, centre, participates in a wreath ceremony during the sunrise Remembrance Day service at Prospect Ceremony in Toronto on Sunday. (Canadian Press)

« Lest we forget. »

In Toronto, among the events across the city, there was a military parade through the downtown streets, with the primary ceremony happening at Old City Hall, with Mayor John Tory in attendance.

Premier Doug Ford hosted Ontario’s official Queen’s Park Remembrance Day ceremony in Toronto, where he encouraged Canadians to remember soldiers past and present as they reflect on the centennial anniversary.

After a ceremony that saw as many as 500 troops march towards the Ontario Legislature while John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields was read aloud, Ford told the crowd that « Canadian heroes span every conflict and every generation. »

On the East Coast, ceremonies included ones in Nova Scotia, where crowds of people filled the square at Halifax’s Grand Parade. As the clock struck 11 a.m., the gun on nearby Citadel Hill fired the first of 22 shots.

And in Prince Edward Island, hundreds gathered in Charlottetown to honour the fallen. The sombre crowd stood in near silence as it reflected on the battles that ended a century ago, and those that have come since.

Montreal’s main ceremony began at the Quebec Provincial Command, at Place du Canada. Quebec City’s event took place on the Plains of Abraham with Premier Franç​ois Legault in attendance.

Meanwhile, a church in Fernie, B.C., commemorated the 100th anniversary of the armistice by ringing its bell 100 times. Thousands of people also turned out for commemorations at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.

With files from The Canadian Press

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A silence in Mons: How Canadians saw the final moments of WW I

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In the days leading up to the Armistice that ended the Great War, Lance Cpl.Frank Teskey was almost killed twice by the relentless shelling of the retreating Germans.

You’d have never known it from the letter he wrote (in pencil) to his mother on Nov. 11, 1918. He made no mention of the close calls. It’s not the kind of stuff soldiers tell their families — even today.

Instead, he focused on the Canadian Army’s advance into Belgium and the outburst of joy among the people of Mons that followed the arrival of the 11 a.m. armistice.

« They decorate us with colours and flowers, but the best of all, the young maidens are right there with beaucoup kisses, » he wrote.

Lance-Cpl. Frank Teskey’s letters and diaries provide a vivid account of the final days before the Armistice and the Canadian battle to recapture Mons. (Canadian War Museum)

The terror of those final moments in what would come to be called the First World War — and the capricious quality of the violence he experienced as the war churned to what appeared at the time to be a precarious conclusion — he confined to his weathered, leather-bound diary.

The archive of the Canadian War Museum contains many compelling eyewitness accounts of that final day, when battle-hardened and nearly exhausted Canadian troops ended the war in the ancient Belgian coal-mining city that had been the scene of the very first clash between the British and the Germans four years earlier.

Recapturing Mons was a point of pride for the Commonwealth armies — and the Canadians, who had shown their mettle at Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele and Amiens, led the way.

Newly awarded the Victoria Cross for action the previous summer, Sgt. Herman Good reflected on the moment as the Canadians confronted a German rearguard action in the war’s final hours late on Nov. 10.

Sgt. Herman Good, winner of the Victoria Cross. (Canadian War Museum)

The war will finish where it started « but it will take a little time to settle it, » he wrote in a letter to his family.

Lt.-Col. Warring Gerald Cosbie scribbled his thoughts on the back of the postcards he sent home, voicing the hope that he’d be in either London or Paris when the shooting finally stopped — and bursting with pride at the thought that the Canadians « had the honour taking this place. »

Days before the Canadians arrived, German combat engineers wired all of the bridges in the area for demolition. The Allies feared the Germans would stand and fight for Mons, reducing it — like so many French communities to the west — to mud and rubble.

But on the morning of Nov. 6, the people of Mons woke to find that most of their erstwhile occupiers were gone. The Germans had staged a major evacuation overnight, leaving behind piles of paper and trash outside their offices on the Grande Place.

The book Mons 1914-1918: The Beginning and the End by British author Don Farr, recounts how the town’s German commandant, in a letter, thanked the city’s mayor, Jean Lecarts, « for the intelligent and conscientious way » he had carried out his duties, and praised ordinary citizens for their « dignified and calm demeanour. »

A bloody retreat

The Germans fought a delaying action using a series of tough rearguard formations as 15 divisions leapfrogged over one another in retreat. They also laid on the artillery, which fired viciously and indiscriminately in the final days and hours.

Billeted in a civilian house just before the ceasefire with a father, mother and teenage daughter, Teskey watched in horror as a gas shell fell into the family’s backyard.

« The young girl there was overcome, » he wrote. « She screamed during an artillery barrage. It took us a while to calm her down. »

Teskey’s first major close call came on the Friday night, three days before the ceasefire, when another house in which he was billeted was flattened moments after he’d left to deliver rations to fellow Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry soldiers in forward positions.

The next day, when the regiment liberated a village west of Mons, jubilant Belgians swarmed the Canadians. They lined the streets and showered soldiers with kisses and food — until the German artillery woke up.

« A shell fell in the street behind us and got 17 people. Other kills around us, » Teskey wrote.

When dusk arrived on Nov. 9, the Patricias had fought their way into Jemappes on the outskirts of Mons.

The war was nearly over and the troops could sense it.

« It is too bad that chaps should have been killed within the last few days, » Teskey wrote to his mother — without mentioning his own narrow escapes. « I would hate to have been wounded and miss the rest of the fun. »

‘I wondered when it was all going to end’

To Teskey, it also seemed as if the suffering of the civilians had reached a climax.

« Last night I saw wounded soldiers and civvies being carried to the dressing station and I wondered when it was all going to end, » Teskey wrote on Nov. 11.

« One old man was hit in the arm and managed to walk as far as our billet and collapsed so we got a stretcher and I carried him the rest of the way. Even little children are among the casualties. »

From his vantage point a few villages away, Good was also struck by the extraordinary suffering and destruction of innocent lives that filled the war’s final hours.

« The people had some pretty hard times while the Germans were there, » he wrote in a letter on the day of the Armistice.

The 42nd Battalion — the Royal Highlanders of Canada — began scouting northern entrances into Mons on the afternoon of Nov. 10 and moved forward in the face of enemy machine guns trained on each of the crossroads.

Troops ducked behind buildings, jumped over walls and cut through gardens in a painstaking street-by-street advance.

By 11 that night, 12 hours before the ceasefire, the Highlanders had crossed the city’s railway yard. At the same time, a battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) trotted across a hastily erected plank bridge into the northwest suburb of Mons, according to the Canadian Army’s official history.

Canadian troops approaching from the south were held up by demolished bridges and machine guns in the thickly tangled forest known as Bois la Haut.

The guns fired all night, according to an account written by the Sisters of Sacré​-Coeur and reprinted in the book Mons 1918-1918: The Beginning and the End.

« Sunday finished with a racket of cannons, » the sisters’ diarist wrote. « We were convinced staying on the ground floor was dangerous as the noise doubled in intensity … We hurried through supper and spent a few moments recreation in the common room without any notion of the peril.

« Then after prayers we went down into the cellar where, despite the noise of the shelling, we fell asleep immediately after our previous sleepless nights. »

‘An extraordinary calm’

The bombardment went on long after midnight. When it finally ceased, one of the sisters tiptoed up the stairs and into the courtyard.

« There was an extraordinary calm, » wrote the diarist. « One could believe that the war had never existed here, or at least that it was well and truly finished. »

L’Eglise Sainte Waudru in Mons, Belgium before the First World War. Sisters belonging to the Sisters of Sacré-Coeur recorded in their diary the efforts of Canadian troops to retake the city in the early hours of Nov. 11, 1918. (Canadian War Museum)

Fighting had carried on all night and « German dead still lay in the streets and were kicked by the inhabitants as they lay, » according to an account in the book Canada’s 100 Days by Canadian journalist J.F.B. Livesay, published in 1919.

The Canadian Army’s official history recorded how a disagreement broke out after the war about whether it was the 42 Battalion or the RCR which was the first to reach the centre of Mons in the predawn darkness of Nov. 11.

In the city’s Golden Book, the signature of an RCR officer appears above those of three Highlanders.

Just after daybreak, the Canadian Corps Headquarters was notified that the Armistice would take effect at 11 a.m.

The date is circled in black ink in Teskey’s diary.

« It was rather a surprise to us to hear this morning that the whole show was over, » he wrote to his mother. « We can scarcely believe that the Germans have gone. We haven’t been shelled this morning so it must be true. »

There were still pockets of resistance as Canadian guns — including an 18-pounder belonging to the 19th Battery — rolled over the cobblestones in the centre of the city.

The last shot

« In the early hours of Nov. 11, they passed through the Grand Place of Mons and went into action on the ‘Champ de Mars,' » reads a transfer certificate for the gun, which was later donated to the Belgians. « This was the first battery through Mons before the ceasefire was given and the above gun fired the last round. »

That round « shot off the arm of a German staff officer in a headquarter chateau by Hill 85, east of Mons, » said the book Canada’s 100 Days.

That gun is now on display at the Canadian War Museum.

Just before the clock ran down on the war, Good was in the town of Frameries, south of Mons, as civilians started celebrating before the shooting stopped.

« They came out in the streets to meet us as we came along and kissed us and put their arms around our necks and did not want to let go, » Good wrote to his family.

The knowledge that he had won the Victoria Cross, which would be presented by King George V the following April, had only started to sink in. Good ended the war on Nov. 11 emotionally numb and homesick.

« I’ve had four years of a pretty hard life and wish I was back [home] again, » he wrote.

The bells in the Mons cathedral started ringing just before 11 that morning. They played La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, and La Brabançonne, the Belgian anthem. The sound caused Cosbie to stop in his tracks.

« It is hard to realize that it is all over and when one wakes up it seems strange to think that we will never again listen to the ominous whine of a shell or going to bed not be be awakened by the whining crash of the odd bomb, » he wrote.

A photo of war-damaged Mons following its recapture by Canadian troops on Nov. 11, 1918. This photo is contained in the archives of the Canadian War Museum. (Canadian War Museum)

On the outskirts of Mons, Pte. George Price, a conscript from Saskatchewan originally from Nova Scotia, slipped out of the cover of a house where his patrol had taken cover. They had been ambushed by a German machine gun.

He was hit by a sniper’s bullet in the chest.

Price was pulled off the street and treated by a young Belgian nurse, but died a minute later at 10:58 a.m. — two minutes before the end of the war.

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Montreal’s Black Watch regiment treasures WW I Victoria Cross

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Standing inside the Royal Bank’s vault on the second floor of Place Ville Marie, Col. Daniel O’Connor, honorary colonel of the Black Watch of Canada, holds a dark blue safe deposit box.

Compared to the other treasures locked away in this vault, the contents of O’Connor’s box are relatively scant.

All that’s inside is a bit of slightly oxidized bronze and a few papers.

But when O’Connor opens the box, the man next to him, Black Watch honorary Lt.-Col. Bruce Bolton, lets out a gasp.

« There it is, » he says. « It makes your heart palpitate. »

Col. Daniel O’Connor, left, and Lt.-Col. Bruce Bolton set eyes on Fisher’s Victoria Cross for the first time in more than a decade.

The regiment agreed to show the original to CBC Montreal as it prepared to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War on Nov. 11.

Around 100 Black Watch members will take part in a ceremony next Sunday in Mons, Belgium, a town the regiment helped liberate just hours before the Armistice.

For Bolton and O’Connor, it’s the first time they’ve set eyes on the medal in more than a decade.

It is the first Victoria Cross ever awarded to a Canadian-born soldier serving in a Canadian unit, Lance-Cpl. Fred Fisher.

« He never got to wear it, » Bolton and O’Connor say, in turn.

They don white cotton gloves before lifting the medal from its case.

One side is embossed with the words, « for valour. » A date — April 23, 1915 — is engraved on the other.

Fred Fisher graduated from Westmount Academy in 1912. (Westmount High School archives)

Fisher was just 19 — a quiet, slightly uptight kid from Westmount, Que. — in the middle of the killing fields of the First World War.

The son of a banker originally from St. Catharines, Ont., Fisher had been an avid athlete at Westmount High School (then known as Westmount Academy).

He was a decent hockey player and swimmer. As captain of the high school football team, he had a reputation for being « hard as nails, » according to the school newspaper.

Fred Fisher, 2nd row, 2nd from right, was on the Westmount Academy championship-winning Football Club in 1910. (Westmount High School archives)

The war started the day after Fisher’s 18th birthday.

Two weeks later, and just before he was supposed to return to his applied science studies at McGill University, Fisher enlisted with the 5th Regiment, Royal Highlanders of Canada, better known as the Black Watch.

This painting of Lance-Cpl. Fred Fisher hangs in his alma mater, Westmount High School, which was called Westmount Academy when he attended. (CBC)

It was the preferred unit of Montreal’s Anglo elite.

Most of its officers were millionaires.

As his battalion trained in southern England, Fisher stood out from his fellow soldiers.

One officer described him as « a quiet chap, who never drank, nor swore, nor played cards, and some of the fellows may have thought he was a prig. »

He was given the chance to learn how to use a relatively new weapon of war, the machine gun.

By the time the First Canadian Division was posted to Ypres in April 1915, Fisher headed a small detachment that operated a Colt-Browning .303.

The machine gunner at Ypres

On April 22, 1915, the Germans pumped 160 tonnes of chlorine gas into the air at Ypres, a light breeze carrying the greenish-yellow cloud toward the Allied lines.

It was the first recorded use of the gas in the war, and troops panicked as they began to be asphyxiated.

An Algerian contingent protecting the Canadians’ left flank was hit particularly hard and fled their position, leaving the Canadians exposed to the advancing Germans.

Fisher signed up shortly after his 18th birthday, putting his studies at McGill on hold. (Veterans Affairs Canada)

A battery of 18-pound field guns, essential for keeping the Germans at bay, was at risk of falling into enemy hands.

When the battery commander issued a desperate plea for help, Fisher volunteered and headed for the front lines in the early hours of April 23.

Fisher and his team set up their machine gun in an abandoned building and opened fire on the Germans closest to the battery, forcing them back.

But he also attracted enemy fire, and four of his crew were killed. Fisher hustled back to the Canadian lines to find reinforcements, took up a new position and resumed firing at the Germans.

Fisher’s covering fire allowed other Canadian soldiers to dismantle the field guns and retreat to safety. That’s what earned him the Victoria Cross.

As fighting continued along the Canadians’ exposed flank, Fisher’s detachment was redeployed to a trench.

As he crawled out to set up the machine gun, Fisher was struck by a bullet.

He died instantly.

His fellow soldiers buried him in a makeshift grave, but his body was never recovered. He is one of roughly 27,000 Canadian soldiers, from all wars, for whom there is no known grave.

Fisher’s Victoria Cross was sent to his parents. Later that year, they received a handwritten letter from King George V.

German prisoners shown with gas masks in April 1915 at Ypres. Allied soldiers had no such protections against the gas attack. (Canadian Press)

« It is a matter of sincere regret to me that the death of Lance Corporal Frederick Fisher deprived me of the pride of personally conferring upon him the Victoria Cross, the greatest of all Military Distinctions, » the letter read.

Fisher’s mother was fond of wearing her son’s medal, the Toronto Star noted in 1916.

After she died in 1946, Fisher’s family gave the medal, as well as the king’s letter, to the Black Watch.

‘The heart and soul of a regiment’

The storied regiment has kept Fisher’s Victoria Cross in a bank vault for the past several years, taking it out only on special occasions — an increasingly rare occurrence because the medal is considered a valuable collector’s item and there are always security concerns.

Fred Fisher won the Victoria Cross for his valour when he and his machine gun unit helped Canadian soldiers retreat to safety at a battle at Ypres. He died later in that battle, on April 23, 1915. His body was never recovered. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

A replica is housed in the regiment’s headquarters on Bleury Street.

Fisher’s Victoria Cross continues to have a hold on Black Watch members, past and present.

« Seeing this and touching it is probably one of the most important experiences of my life, » said Bolton, who has been involved with the regiment for more than 50 years.

« Memorabilia such as this become the heart and soul of a regiment, » O’Connor said.

Fisher’s Victoria Cross helps younger Black Watch members identify with the regiment’s long history, which reaches back to 1862.

As a reservists, active Black Watch soldiers hold down day jobs and serve part-time at night or on weekends.

But many have seen combat in recent years in places like Bosnia and Afghanistan, providing reinforcements to regular forces.

« They do so with pride, in part because of memorabilia such as this and the history of the regiment, » O’Connor said.

Fred Fisher’s McGill University student record indicates details of his death in action on April 23, 1915, and mentions that he was awarded the Victoria Cross. (McGill University archives)

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