“We will remember them”

News Article / November 17, 2017

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From Major-General Blaise Frawley

On November 11, 2017, the Royal Canadian Air Force held its annual Remembrance Day ceremony in front of the Mausoleum in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, where Lieutenant-Colonel William Barker, VC, is interred. Major-General Blaise Frawley, deputy commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force presided over the ceremony. Here are his remarks from the solemn commemoration of our war dead.

On this day, at this hour, 99 years ago, the guns in Europe fell silent.

The First World War, “the war to end all wars”, was over.

But, of course, wars did not end on November 11th, 1918.

Since then, Canadians have served and fallen in the Second World War and the Korean War, the Cold War, peacekeeping missions, the war in Afghanistan, and, more recently, during operations against Daesh in Iraq, as well as on daily operations and training.

Today, we gather to remember their sacrifices – in the cause of freedom, on behalf of Canada and Canadians. Thank you for being here today to share in this solemn commemoration.

I offer a warm and special welcome to our veterans. You honour us by your presence. Thank you for your service.

And I am pleased to see that so many young people have joined us. You are one of the most important reasons we gather on days like this, so the torch of remembrance can be passed from our hands to yours.

As we honour the thousands of Canadians who gave their lives in the service of their country and the thousands more who came home – wounded in mind and body, we are here at Mount Pleasant because of Lieutenant-Colonel William Barker a Canadian who served in the Royal Air Force during the First World War.

In October 1918, he found himself in a battle against a formation of sixty German aircraft.

He destroyed several of the enemy planes, although he was shot down and terribly wounded.

For this action, Lieutenant-Colonel Barker was awarded the Victoria Cross, our highest military award for bravery.

He received eight other gallantry decorations and is the mostly highly decorated military member ever in Canada and the entire British Commonwealth.

After the war, he had distinguished career in the peacetime Royal Canadian Air Force and in civilian aviation.

When he died, in 1930, his funeral was the largest in Toronto’s history.

He was buried here, in this mausoleum and, a few years ago, this memorial was unveiled in his memory. Since then, the RCAF has held a Remembrance Day ceremony here to honour him and – through his memory – all those who have served in the RCAF.

As well as being Lieutenant-Colonel Barker’s final resting place, Toronto and the Air Force have many strong connections, beginning 100 years ago – in January 1917 – when a program to recruit and train Canadian aircrew for service in the First World War set up its headquarters here.

It was the birth of military aviation on Canadian soil.

In recognition of these many connections, we received our new Colours – unique, consecrated military flags, from the hands of the Governor General at Nathan Phillips Square in September. And soon we will place our retired Colours on permanent display in this tremendous city.

Our Colours are another symbol of all those who have served in the RCAF and those men and women who continue to serve, at this very moment, at home and around the world, protecting our freedom and values.

They are also in our thoughts today.

In a few moments we will observe two minutes of silence, in honour of those who fell during the wars.

But remembrance should not be limited to this hour of this day.

We should remember every day that we owe so much to those who were willing to sacrifice everything for our country. And we must learn from the lessons of history so that someday, perhaps, we can all live in peace.

Lest we forget.

Nous nous souviendrons d’eux. We will remember them.

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