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The end of a generation of soldiers

Veteran John Babcock died last Thursday at the age of 109


 

The end of a generation of soldiers Canada’s last surviving First World War veteran, John Babcock, died last Thursday at the age of 109. There had been persistent calls for this nation’s last soldier of the Great War to be given a state funeral: in 2006 the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion calling for one, in response to 90,000 Canadians signing a petition requesting for the honour.

But Babcock, who lived most of his life in the United States, never liked the idea, especially since he did not see action during the war. “I feel guilty because I’m not a war hero,” he said last year. Last week the Historica-Dominion Institute, which promotes knowledge of Canadian history, stepped in to urge the federal government to offer the Babcock family a state funeral. His family decided to respect his wishes and turned down Ottawa’s offer of a state funeral. Instead, a memorial service will be held on Feb. 27 in Spokane, Wash. Still, Andrew Cohen, president of the historical institute, believes it was right to make one final request. “Sometimes families feel differently after a death,” he explained.

Now focus is shifting to a government-led celebration of the 620,000 Canadians who served between 1914 and 1918, more than 66,000 of whom perished. The Historica-Dominion Institute has asked Ottawa for a national day of commemoration “to mark the passing of a generation of brave men and women.” Certainly that’s more along the lines of what Babcock suggested: “I think they should commemorate all of them, instead of just one,” he told Maclean’s in 2007. Cohen says a national day of commemoration would be “a teachable moment when we reflect on that generation and those that followed who did what [Babcock] did and served their country.”

If Britain’s experience is any guide, the events could encompass the entire country. After Britain’s last Great War veteran, Harry Patch, 111, died last July, remembrance services marking his generation’s passing were held throughout that nation, culminating with a national service at a packed Westminster Abbey.


 

The end of a generation of soldiers

  1. Continued
    Although these old service ensigns were set aside by our government in Ottawa, they will always have a place of honour in our history. They should never be forgotten. Without them, all perspective is lost. They are important symbols of our heritage, representing our wartime sacrifices and the evolution of Canadian culture.
    For years many Canadians requested that the Red Ensign be flown at Vimy Ridge with the Maple Leaf, beside the French 'Tricolor' in memory of and out of respect for all those for whom it was created, the same flag that was flown on the day it was opened.
    All the flags that fly at Victory Square should be proudly flying at the newly created tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa and the war museum. Every day, all year round. Anything less is a misrepresentation of our past.
    These requests are not too much to expect, if the Canadian Red Ensign is good enough to fly at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France why is it not flying at the National War Memorial in Ottawa? . Lest we forget,
    Bill Bishop

  2. Stand up for "Our" Canadian History and Heritage and fly the Canadian Red Ensign forever at the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa right along side the Maple Leaf Flag. The last First World War Veteran has now passed on and although our Historical National War Memorial now represents all those service men and women that died for Canada in all wars it was built after WW1 in thier memory by people of that generation and like the Memorial at Vimy Rige it was "Proudly" dedicated by that same generation under the Pre 1957 Canadian Red Ensign with Green Maple Leaves the same flag our WW2 Veterans Fought and died under. Out of respect, it would be the most fitting tribute possible to keep our forbearers memory in true perspective for future generations.

    • Hello Bill Bishop, I support your request one hundred percent. Will you have a petition out for us all to sign? I am a Canadian Citizen that is now living in the US, but my father just passed away and his dream come true would have been to bring back the Canadian Red Ensign. How can I get involved and support your mission?
      We must honor those that gave their lives for Canada, without this history we may not have this glorious successful country that stands today.

  3. On March 22nd 2007 Both Mr Babcock and Mr P.Dwight Wilson ( The last two living Canadian First World War Veterans at that time) sent Mr Harper the following letter "Dear Mr Prime Minister; We believe that the Canadian Red Ensign flag should be flown on the site of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, not just at a single ceremony this April but every day. We ask nothing for ourselves, but wish to honour the men we went to war with. The 3598 Canadians who fought and died at Vimy will be there forever. And thier flag should fly to provide a permanent visible reminder, forever. Please honour their memories by making this possible." The letter was hand delivered and there are notarized copies. What an appropriate and fitting tribute to an entire generation of Canadians. The Canadian Red Ensign should be flying forever at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Bill Bishop

  4. "The Canadian Red Ensign"
    2,000,000 Served 111,000 Died
    We are at the end of an era. Canadian World War Veterans are becoming very few in number. The last one from the from the First World War is now gone.
    The Canadian Red Ensign is the flag they volunteered and served under. It symbolized the Canada they were fighting for.
    A lot has changed since then.
    Soon all we will have left is their memory. The one thing above all that will always represent them and their efforts, is our first national flag. The last flag of all those that died for us untill 1965.
    At Victory Square, the main war memorial in downtown Vancouver, Canada's old battle standards fly proudly from the face of the monument–every day, all year round. The Union Jack and the Canadian Red Ensign on the left, the Royal Canadian Navy White Ensign and the Royal Canadian Air Force Blue Ensign on the right, with the new Maple Leaf flag in the centre.

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