To see World War I Memorials, click this link WW1 Memorials
To see World War II Memorials, click this link WW2 Memorial
Today is November 11. Today is Remembrance Day – the day that marks the end of the First World War almost exactly 100 years ago to the hour. As you look around, you have probably noticed at least a few of the 43 different memorials that we have set up throughout the sanctuary. They are memorials for individuals who absence we want to recognize.
Before we begin our service of Remembrance, let me talk a little bit about the memorials you see scattered around you.
Thisis an idea we borrowed from Letty Lawrence, a local fabric artist who has madesimilar memorials to this that are hanging throughout the city on lamp posts nearthe homes where the soldiers who served and died, lived. What we have done isput together memorials for each of the 43 young men from our congregation whoserved and died during both the First and Second World Wars. There arememorials for those who served when we were Broadway and First Baptist and for later when we were Broadway-FirstBaptist. Each memorial includes their name and date of birth and a brief descriptionthe person as we were able to piece it together from old personnel records andnewspaper clippings. I would say it was absolutely fascinating to do this, butthe word fascinating seems almost flippant considering what we are talkingabout.
It feels like I have spent this past week with many of these men … these boys really. After all this time, what can I tell you about them?
I can tell you a couple of things.
I can tell you that Broadway volunteered – we volunteered early and we volunteered often.
Everyone Volunteered. No one was conscripted, in large part I believe, because there was no one left to conscript by the time 1917 came and the Military Service Act was passed.
We volunteered early.
One of our members was among the first. Shaver Eadie, a recent widower and father of adult children, was on one of the first shiploads of troops that Canada sent in October of 1914. A handful of other people signed up for service in the days just before or just after their 18th birthday.
So we volunteered early.
And we volunteered often.
It is said that 61% of all draft eligible men in Manitoba enlisted in the War – a number that far exceeds the national average and even the next closest province, Alberta, which was just over 50%. Our congregation’s numbers certainly reflected this. If there were any draft eligible men left, they would have been few and far between.
And everyone volunteered.
They came from all over. British emigrants. A young kid from Iceland. An older man from New Zealand. The Winnipeg born son of what one paper called “an early pioneer family.” They were business owners, students, labourers, and even the son of a transplanted, wealthy, East Coast American family. They were idealistic young kids and students. They were young husbands and fathers and grieving widowers. They were green farm kids and hardened veterans of previous wars.
They were everyone.
And their service came with a terrible toll especially during WW1.
Of the at least 38 men we know served in WW1 at least 30 are confirmed to have died. There are four who died on the same day – April 9, 1917, a day of some infamy in Canada as it was the day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. And it is not just Vimy. Three others died on September 15, 1916 in the Battle of Courcelette which is part of the much bigger and more terrible Battle of the Somme where eight of our kids were killed. As you look across the room you will find familiar names like Vimy, Ypres, the Somme, and the Final Hundred Days (though with so many volunteering so early, that weren’t many left for the advance on those last 100 days).
Butthe toll was terrible – WW1 must have felt more like a reaping of everyone and everything than a selective sort of choosing.
And the Wars were indiscriminate.
A kid like Lloyd Glover signs up 11 days before his 18th birthday and is gone just 24 days after his 19th and an old veteran of the Boer War like Alfred Matthews is killed just before his 40th. The kid is killed in the big and terrible Battle of the Somme. And the old veteran? He is killed in skirmish so small that it doesn’t even rank a footnote in the history books. Or there is someone like Arthur Claydon who would earn a Distinguished Flying Cross for an act of skill and bravery on one day, only to be shot down and killed a few days later before the paperwork for his medal could begin to be processed. Or James Stout who signs on to play trumpet for the band and still doesn’t get to come home.
You Could survive for years through the horrors of Ypres, or the Somme or Vimy orAmiens only to die in the final few weeks of the war. The war didn’t care. I’m Sure it must have felt like a gaping mouth that was ready to consume any and everyone who fell into it.
So there is all this and yet one more thing I can tell you which is how deeply our congregation was touched.
With The memorials in place, you can get an idea of how many empty seats there might have been on any given Sunday. It touched the oldest and most established families here – the last names of those lost being the same as those who first met here and committed to building this place just a few years earlier. And it touched people who were new to this community as well – people who from all I can tell, barely, if ever warmed a pew before they were off and gone.
And even our building itself cannot escape being touched by the events of those days.
You may be familiar with the story of our building. In the spring of 1914 the decision was made to tear down the small wood structure we had been meeting in and to replace it with this much larger and impressive one. You may know the story of how the original building was torn down in May and the new building began to take shape that summer only to be put on hold at some point in August or September when the war broke out and workers and resources and money disappeared. Remarkably the work was completed shortly enough after for the first service to be held here on the second Sunday in November – or exactly 104 years ago today as well.
I came across an additional connection I didn’t know. One of the founding members of the church was a man named Ebenezer Claydon. Ebenezer was a deacon and also a builder who ran the company Claydon Bros General Contracting with his partner and brother, Arthur.
It became Ebenezer and Arthur’s job to build this building.
Shortly after completing this building, Arthur enlisted along with many of the workers who laid the beams and the bricks all around us. Arthur, like so many others, would not return. I doubt he was here long enough for one of the pews to become “his.”
This building is built for the glory of God. And it also reflects the context it was built in.
So it was … we have been … deeply touched.
So we remember these people and events and sacrifices this morning.