I have just finished reading the novel To End All Wars, a story about the First World War from 1914-1918.
It told about the incredible sacrifice by so many on both sides. The number of dead and wounded is impossible to imagine along with the horror that parents experienced when they received the black-bordered War Office Telegram advising them of the death of their loved ones.
My grandfather after his recent immigration from Britain was one who jumped at the chance to fight for his new country in the First World War. After the war he spent most of the next 50 years in a veterans hospital in London, Ont.
My family would go and visit him and as a young boy I remember well the white sterile room and his crippled body lying in front of me. The diagnosis was depression.
My father also jumped at the chance after high school to follow his buddies in the new War to End All Wars — the Second World War. He spent his last years also institutionalized in his beloved Toronto at Sunnybrook Veteran Hospital, also suffering from severe depression.
My dad met mom in London after the war and convinced her to come back with him and start a new life together. My mother was a teen growing up in London during the war. She told us stories about collecting pieces of the fallen bombs the morning after and taking them to school to trade with her friends.
“The best ones had numbers or writing in German, which we traded like hockey cards.” Both her parents died during the war and as a young teen was placed in an orphanage.
Her only sibling, left London as a young soldier to fight Hitlers army in Africa and they had no contact for almost 40 more years. She still claims growing up during the war were the best years of her life, and although she doesn’t remember current events, her recollections of the war years are still very clear. She is currently living at a Royal Canadian Legion Seniors Home in Toronto and still enjoys a good cup of tea.
My wife and I have two sons like my father and grandfather before me, and I only hope that they will never see the day when they are conscripted to fight in another country or possibly even our own in that terrible sacrifice we call war.
We hope you take a moment Nov. 11 to remember those who paid so dearly and continue to do so. In closing, let me quote from To End All Wars, “But when the war was finally over Nov. 11, 1918, it was quoted that Londoners poured out of shops and offices onto the street to cheer. The public jubilation was similar in mood when war was declared more than four years earlier. The crowd was frivolous still and had learned nothing during that period of horror.”
Lets only hope we do!
Rob (Norton) McBride,