One hundred years ago, on November 11th at 11:00 a.m. 1918, the Armistice was signed to mark the end of World War I, the Great War and, in Southampton (Saugeen Shores), Royal Canadian Legion Branch 155 celebrated the signing event over two days.
On November 10th, at the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre, the Legion sponsored an afternoon of wartime poetry and music in addition to a lecture by speaker Mat Johnson.
“We often don’t think of the impact on families left behind,” said Legion President John Willetts, “and the soldiers who came home wounded and with youth lost. General Currie who oversaw the battle of Ypes, said anyone who saw war never wanted to see it again.”
Poetry by Robert Service was read by Dave Wenn, Cadet Sgts. Allison Clarke and Jared Kerr. Wenn read the touching ‘The Fool’, a father’s lament to his son killed in war while Clarke read the ‘Bell Bomber’ with its difficult dialect and Kerr read the now famous, ‘In Flanders Fields’ by Lt.Col. John McCrae.
Mat Johnson presented a brief summary about the Great War and the reasons it started. “”There were several reasons why the war began. Among them was a lapse of power in the Balkans, Russia began to mobilize and Britain wanted to protect its economic interests and monitor the power balance on the continent of Europe.
Johnson also talked about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that many, who serve in battle, experience. “It was difficult after World War I as the men had experienced the horrors of war and then had to return to day-to-day living at home and many could not integrate. In fact, alcoholism became a major problem for many and suicide was common.”
He also explained the value that the Royal Canadian Legion formation played. At the urging of Field Marshal Earl Haig in 1925, the Canadian Legion was founded in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League and, in 1960, Queen Elizabeth gave the organization royal patronage and it became the Royal Canadian Legion.
“While most who returned could not talk about their experiences to their families, the formation of the Legion gave veterans a place to socialize with others who had experienced the same things,” said Johnson, “a place where they had a camaraderie with others who understood what they had been through and it was a place that encouraged talking.”
Following Johnson’s lecture, the Charlie Bell Trio took over for a musical program of sing-along wartime music from the 1930s and 40s.