Lest we forget… On November 11, ceremonies of remembrance provide a powerful pause to reflect on the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers. As red poppies canvas the Ottawa region, so will veterans –both aged and young, residents and visitors gather to commemorate Remembrance Day. Special ceremonies are being held at the following sites:
National War Memorial (10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.)
Every year, the Royal Canadian Legion organizes the National Ceremony of Remembrance at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa. Highlights include the veterans themselves on parade, the attendance of the Prime Minister, the Governor General of Canada, and the Silver Cross Mother – a woman whose child has died while serving in the military. There is also a wreath-laying ceremony and a rousing fly-past (weather permitting). Arrive early to secure a good vantage point. Elgin Street is closed to traffic during the ceremony.
Also, at the end of the National Ceremony and throughout the day, people remove poppies from their coats and place them on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In a moving act of remembrance, the tomb is covered in red poppies by the end of the day.
New this year: The Legion is presenting a virtual Poppy Drop on Parliament Hill. Each evening from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. from Oct. 28 to Nov. 11, 2016, 117,000 falling poppies will be projected onto the iconic Peace Tower and Centre Block. There is one poppy for each of Canada’s fallen.
Canadian War Museum (10:40 a.m.)
The Canadian War Museum, situated west of downtown, is a living memorial to Canada’s proud military history. On November 11, Memorial Hall, located inside the Museum’s main entrance, becomes the centerpiece. Here, at exactly 11:00 a.m. a beam of sunlight shines through a single window into Memorial Hall to perfectly frame the headstone from the grave of Canada’s Unknown Soldier. To observe the beam of light at 11:00 a.m. from within Memorial Hall, tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis as of 9:30 a.m. Other special activities include choir performances in the LeBreton Gallery throughout the day, practical activities throughout the museum and more. Museum admission is free on Remembrance Day.
There is also a program called Operation Veteran, which ensures that veterans eat for free at the Canadian War Museum every day the Museum is open. Every year, the program also invites students from across Canada to attend the Remembrance Day wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial and a special tour of the War Museum, where students have the opportunity to talk to veterans.
If you visit the Museum on or around Remembrance Day, consider also seeing its new special exhibit Deadly Skies – Air War, 1914-1918. Running until Jan. 29, 2017, this new exhibit looks at how the first air war was experienced. You can also share your special Remembrance Day moments at the museum with #RemembranceDay and #MyOttawa.
Beechwood Cemetery (10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.)
East of Ottawa, a ceremony of Remembrance takes place at the National Military Cemetery on the grounds of Beechwood Cemetery. The ceremony honours all those who have fallen in the service of Canada and all Canadian Forces members interred at the cemetery. There is also a marching contingent including veterans, a band and a children’s choir performance.
Statue of Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae
Located next to the National Artillery Memorial, just east of Parliament Hill, this new statue was unveiled last May and honours the man behind the famous WWI poem In Flanders Fields. The sculpture done by Ruth Abernethy portrays McCrae on a broken tree branch, looking up just after he signs his name on what would become a very famous poem. The statue marks the hundredth anniversary of McCrae’s verses.
McCrae wrote the timeless lines to comfort himself after the burial of his close friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, a member of the Hull-based (now Gatineau, Québec) Zion Presbyterian Church who died at the Second Battle of Ypres on May 2, 1915. He was just 22-years-old.