Throughout most of my 52-Roll projects, I made a point that at Week 45 or thereabout, to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country, here in Canada that is called Remembrance Day and falls on the 11th of November to mark the armistice that ended the fighting on the western front. While I had initially planned to photograph the Milton Remembrance Day Parade the Sunday before the 11th, I quickly shifted to feature cenotaphs and war graves in Oakville, Milton, and Guelph due to other plans.
This week there are a few items to unpack historically, but let’s start with the first one, Remembrance Day. If you’re tapped into history, you’ll realise that Remembrance Day is the second day in Canada that would serve as a solemn day to remember Canada’s War Dead. On the 2nd of June 1866, a force of Canadian Militia consisting of the XIIIth Batallion Volunteer Militia of Canada, 2nd Battalion Queen’s Rifles, and various other small militia formations arrived at the Grand Trunk Station in Ridgeway and marched north. What they did not expect to encounter was a force of Fenians, Irish-Americans bent on holding the Province of Canada Hostage to force the British Parliament to grant independence to Ireland. The engagement, known as the Battle of Limestone Ridge or Ridgeway saw the Canadians soundly defeated through mismanagement, miscommunications, and faced with a larger, better armed and trained fighting force. The Fenians would eventually retreat from Canadian shores but many saw this as the first engagement of the Canadian Army (at least in prototypical form). Canadian Militia troops would fight in a series of other conflicts, our wars of colonisation, but in many cases, especially Ridgeway, these were quietly swept under the rug. In 1890 the veterans from those conflicts visited the small memorials and graves of those fallen, decorating them in remembrance. This was a form of protest, and the following year nearly 30,000 showed up on the 2nd of June 1891 decorating the Lime Ridge Monument in Toronto and lobbying the Provincial and Federal Government for some form of recognition. Decoration Day became Canada’s first day of remembrance for our war dead. Eventually, a Canadian General Service Medal was authorised in 1899 and veterans from the 2nd Boer War, and the Great War were added to Decoration Day. The day is usually marked with Canadians cleaning up the graves of the fallen, decorating them with flowers and any war memorials. While Decoration Day continued to be celebrated in Canada, in England on the 11th of November 1919, the first anniversary of the Armistice, King George V marked the day with a solemn ceremony of remembrance of the dead from the Great War. One of the biggest symbols of this day of remembrance was the Poppy. A blood-red flower that occupied the battlefields of Europe as far back as the Napoleonic Wars. The heavy artillery bombardment of modern war churned up the chalk rich soil turning it into lime, a nutrient that the popaver rhoeas flourished quickly as soon as the fighting died down. This flower was noticed by a Canadian Medical Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrea, who, in his grief of having lost his close friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, the day prior in 1915, wrote the poem “In Flanders Feilds”, a poem that stuck into the Canadian mythos of the war. The poppies were also noticed by a French woman, Madame Anna Guérin. They made fabric poppies and sold them with the money used towards reconstruction efforts in France during the post-war period. The symbol was adopted by the Royal Canadian Legion in July 1921. The Canadian Government also adopted Armistice Day that same year, with the day being marked on the Monday of the same week of the 11th of November. For about a decade, both Armistice Day and Decoration Day were marked by many Canadians. It wasn’t until 1931 that the name of Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day and set directly on the 11th of November. After 1931 Decoration Day fell out of the public eye, and those who fought in the conflicts remembered by Decoration Day are not publicly recognised by Remembrance Day (Boer War, Fenian Raids, Red River Rebellion, and North-West Rebellion). Recently, however, those who died during the Anglo-American War of 1812 have received some recognition. Remembrance Day has also expanded to Canadian War Dead from World War Two, Korea, Peacekeeping Missions, Gulf War and the War on Terror. Decoration Day is still celebrated but is a regional event and is focused mainly on. HisNiagara Region.
My travels took me through Guelph, Milton, and Oakville to explore the memorials to the fallen, so I made a point to include a little something from each of those places. For the featured image. The monument to Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrea, the author of the poem “In Flanders Fields,” has become synonymous with Remembrance Day within the Commonwealth sphere, especially here in Canada. Also, from Guelph, the main cenotaph is set outside the downtown and a smaller one standing near the Central Train Station near the city’s Armoury. This second cenotaph features “Our Glorious Dead” and “God, We Praise You” in Latin, a common phrase found on many memorials. From Milton, there are two memorials; the first is our main cenotaph. Located in Victoria Park near Town Hall standing atop, that is a typical image that many monuments across Canada and the US feature a soldier standing next to a cross. The second is located in Evergreen Cemetery, the memorial for our local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and the Remembrance Day ceremony. The final two are from Oakville, the Cenotaph in George Square, a simple affair surrounded by the names and locations of the veterans of Oakville. And a second memorial to the service of the local reserve regiment, the Lorne Scots that traces itself back to 1866 and continues the tradition of earlier Militia units.
And we’re back into the final nine rolls of film for the year, so we’re back working with Fomapan 400. But this week, instead of using the branded Fomapan 400, we’re working with a rebrand film, New Classic EZ400. A rebrand brought to market by a YouTube film photographer, Ribsy. Having a bottle of Kodak D-23 around and liking the results from that film/developer combination, I went with that as my developer and shot the film at ASA-250 to get the best results. I also used the AuRA Rotary Assist Film Developing Machine to run the processing, as I’m working on a review on the accessory for next year. It made sense to capture these memorials using a combination that produced classic results and looks in the final images. The easy choice in capturing these memorials would be a normal or wide-angle lens. And I did consider my 28mm, 35mm, or 50mm; in the end, I settled on my classic 105mm f/2.5. The reason was that I wanted to capture details, names, services and dates. Also, the spectacular cenotaphs in the towns I visited were varied.
Next week we’re exploring the churches in and around Milton & Oakville.