OTTAWA – The National War Memorial in Ottawa is always a focal point for Canadians in early November – but today’s Remembrance Day proceedings are sure to carry extra poignancy in the wake of last month’s attack on Parliament Hill.
The towering granite and bronze memorial is always a centrepiece for remembrance, but the recent deaths of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent will give the ceremony an extra layer of meaning.
The ceremony is expected to draw a huge crowd. The Royal Canadian Legion says attendance could hit 80,000, or twice the normal turnout. It says poppy sales have jumped this year to more than 19 million compared with 18 million last year.
What’s more, 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, as well as the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War.
All the while, Canadian fighter pilots are flying in harm’s way over Iraq.
Princess Anne, only daughter of the Queen, will attend today’s ceremony with her husband, Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence.
Gov. Gen. David Johnston will be there, along with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who flew halfway around the world from Beijing for the ceremony, after which he’ll resume his travels almost immediately, bound for New Zealand.
Senior officers and politicians will also be there, along with Gisele Michaud, the Silver Cross Mother, whose youngest son, Master Cpl. Charles-Philippe Michaud, died of injuries suffered in Afghanistan in 2009.
The diplomatic corps will be out in force, along with various veterans groups and young people’s organizations.
The commemoration will include the familiar rituals of the piper’s lament, the Last Post, the artillery salute and the recitation of the Act of Remembrance taken from Laurence Binyon’s poem, “For the Fallen.”
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old …”
But there were also be a formal rededication of the memorial itself, to add the dates of the Afghanistan mission and the South African War.
It’s the second time the memorial has been rededicated. In May 1982, the dates of the Second World War and the Korean War were added.
Princess Anne paid tribute to Cirillo and Vincent shortly after her arrival in Ottawa on Monday. She also spoke of the rededication
“As we stand on the verge of the monument’s rededication, I am mindful of this continuum of history and the privilege given us as members of the Canadian Royal Family to share such important moments with you all,” she said.
Her grandfather first dedicated the monument just before the Second World War began.
Since Cirillo’s death, people have thronged to the war memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at its foot. They have carpeted the steps with bouquets, poppies, photos, poems, written tributes, stuffed animals, a can or two of beer, even a battered hockey stick.
The formal ceremony, including dwindling numbers of Second World War veterans and ranks of serving soldiers, sailors and air personnel, will likely only increase interest, especially since temperatures are forecast to be warmer than usual for Nov. 11.