Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest we forget

Today .... We Remembered

It's our first Remembrance Day/Veteran's Day living in this new geographical area since our move here last December.

Having come from a previous area where people flocked and gathered proudly while wearing red poppies on their lapels, attending events on November 11th strictly for the sole purpose of rendering honor towards our war veterans, and those still fighting for our freedoms today, we will always remember - lest we forget!

Our memories of this day from living in the Pacific Northwest serve us well, recalling not long ago a time when throngs of crowds filled designated event areas, where emotions were high and deepest respect left a large variety of generations in awe with complete thanksgiving to those who have served our country.
Gun salutes and/or cannons were blasted just after 11am. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. And then we moved across Canada where everything is different and foreign for us on this day.

We are deeply disappointed today, Remembrance Day, to find all businesses and schools in our local areas rolling along as normal. Very few stat holidays were had with few exceptions of a handful of corporate sectors.

Apparently as in our last home (for two years), small communities opted to gather to give honor in their towns last weekend, but rather than have one main larger group in the city who still choose this exact day to remember, for TODAY'S Remembrance - nothing at all was happening. Perhaps this Province doesn't wish to honor by choosing to shut things down, but what better way to do so than to offer a day "set apart", lest we forget?

Let us sincere thanks to all of our Veterans and those fighting for our country still today!

Tonight then, please allow me to honor someone from my own family's heritage, the youngest brother of my paternal Grandmother;

Wilfrid Joseph Alexander Duplin

Wilfrid, otherwise known as "Bidou" (family nickname), attended "Royal Canadian Air Force Station" one of three training schools in the province of Alberta under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, where he earned the title of "Flight Sargeant" , graduating in November, 1943.

No. 23 Operational Training Unit

Flight Sargeant Wilfred Duplin
(third from right in the third row)
trained with the No. 4 Initial Training School in Edmonton, Alberta

  • In 1941, RAF base Pershore was built just to the north of the line near to the village of Throckmorton in United Kingdom. The base was used to train Canadian bomber crews of No. 23 Operational Training Unit during World War Two.
  • On January 15, 1943, the Wellington X3964 of 23 OTU overshot following engine failure and crashed at Pershore in United Kingdom. Sgt. J.A. Hawkwood, Sgt. W.E. Barr RCAF, Sgt. J.H. Robson and F/Sgt. W.J. Duplin RCAF were all killed.

Wilfrid Joseph Alexander Duplin

.... died serving his country at the age of 19 years old

The flight crew from a Wellington bomber of No. 23 O.T.U. that crashed in 1943 is buried in the nearby Pershore Cemetery. After the way the base had various military uses, including a site for "V" bombers equipped with nuclear weapons. The base continued and was in use until 1978.

Duplin Grave Marker

Pershore Cemetery Worcestershire, United Kingdom

Grave Reference : Plot Q. Grave 422

In 2008, No. 233 (Pershore) Air Cadet Squadron arranged a

parade to lay wreaths at the service graves in Pershore cemetery.

Just imagine one of these young men honoring

my Grandmother's youngest brother this day!

If young Wilfred had lived after fulfilling his mission, he would have been an extremely decorated young man with the following medals;
  • 1939-45 Star
  • Atlantic Star
  • Aircrew Europe Star
  • Defence Medal
  • Canadian Volunteer Service Medal
  • War Medal (1939-45)
Some twenty years ago, our children and I assembled together a bi-monthly family newsletter, reaching out to all of our uncles, aunts, cousins, relatives and grandparents on our father's side of the family, for photos, articles and all types of submissions. These newsletters were circulated for three years, treasured still to this day by all.

One of my paternal grandparent's greatest loves was to show and tell their family photo albums with all their lovingly photos detailed and secured within. Anyone interested in waltzing down down memory lane with them, offered a hearty story telling which in turn left all smashingly - spellbound.

I decided to begin tapping into the genealogy of our family history by visiting them more often, asking many questions and taking notes.

For one of the articles in our family's newsletter, my grandmother and I came upon her young brother's photo. Anytime his name came up before, she always became emotional and announced her deep affections towards this brother. Since the photo of him was before us, she used these words and I quote her exactly...

" I was 14 years old when he was born and he slept in my bedroom with me. I was like a second mother to him. He sure loved mother. He was always kissing and hugging her.

He went to war, he was a pilot. I remember him saying he would just die if something happened to our parents while he was gone. We used to watch him fly over Boundary Bay while he was on duty.

'Bidou' hated the thought of flying a "Wellington"plane even calling them - "Coffin Planes".

Then news came that he had died in action. I felt like I had lost a limb, like he had been my own child.

Later we learned his mission was to fly those "Coffin Planes" he disliked and dreaded so much."

Wellington Bomber belonging to the RCAF

The Wellington was popular with its five man crews particularly because of its ability to absorb considerable damage and continue flying, thanks to an unusual 'honey-comb' metal construction which was immensely strong but lightweight.

A largely successful twin-engine bomber, it flew early daylight raids at the beginning of the war but proved easy prey for German fighters. The RAF learnt the hard way that no bomber could defend itself in daylight against modern fighters and the Wellington was transferred to night bombing.

Currently I have a cousin who has researched this relative's career for the past eight years. He holds his original flight record book which had been preserved and saved by other RCMP pilots in the family and will be soon publishing a historical biography, complete with details of the flight by way of a precise replication of the exact type of "coffin" plane.

Our family is abuzz over this eight year project nearing its completion and can hardly wait to obtain our very own copies.

Lest we forget

We must make the point of "Remembering"

Our 12yo son decided we needed a cake for tonight's dessert, not that we dessert mind you all the time around here other than some fruit. :)

He and his sister crafted a few small poppies together to place around the house, and then he remembered his toy soldier stored in a brown shoebox on his closet shelf. Down it came and a few individuals ones were chosen for his kitchen baking project.

Boy oh boy, he sure had concentrated efforts in my kitchen, all the while producing friendly banter with the rest of us about
St. Martin of Tours whom we also celebrated his feast day, the Patron Saint of Soldiers.

Eager to surprise his family, his baking creation extravaganza was hidden under a fresh clean dishtowel until after dinner. And then he served all of us, assuring each piece had something on top of it to keep the theme rolling here.

Psst, there's nothing like noticing the soldier washing duty wasn't as great as I had hoped for. Note the soldier with dried up sand still crusted into the crevices. A+ though for a fabulous effort and a hearty clean up requiring mother's assistance.

Fabulous memories were made this day to
"REMEMBER"..... This type of history is right where it's at, remembering those who walked before us and made their mark for all to render clear accounts for future generations to come so they never forget either.

In Flander's Fields

He was so proud of his creation today and I'm so proud of HIM!