Caught up in my own little reality, I forgot that November 11 was Remembrance Day in Canada. The day commemorates the end of The Great War, and is used to remember Canada’s men and women that died serving their country in times of war or as part of peacekeeping operations. At 11 am, two minutes of silence are observed to commemorate those that made the ultimate sacrifice.
When I was a reporter I spent time with veterans, at the cenotaphs as they remembered their fallen comrades. Listening to The Last Post played on the bagpipes while standing under overcast skies on a cold November morning has the power to gut you. It’s haunting and visceral: Melodic sorrow that cuts right to the bone.
I was perusing the images of Randall J. van der Woning, who has has photographically documented many of the Hong Kong battlefields of World War II. On seeing his work, I realized I had forgotten Remembrance Day, something I once told myself I would never do.
Two hundred and ninety Canadians, ill-equipped and trained, their ranks marred with illness, died in December 1942, attempting to defend Hong Kong from the Japanese (a further 254 died while PoWs). The Battle of Hong Kong saw the first Canadians to fight and die in World War II. Most are buried the Sai Wan War Cemetery in Chai Wan, on Hong Kong Island.
The quote on the monument is from Ecclesiasticus: Their name liveth for evermore. Their names still live – the Sai Wan War Cemetery isn’t a place many people visit, but the visitors book lists a name or two for each day. Visitors have to be determined, the cemetery is up a twisted mountain road, accessible by minibus or foot (if you are a semi-crazy former journalist.)
As long as there are visitors, as long as someone remembers, Their name liveth for evermore.