Thank you to Ron Roe for all he did. The Hall of Valour is now being taken care of in Perth.
A few times a year I write about my Grandfather Fred Knight and his friend Bernie who fought in WW1 with the British Army. There were tons of stories that were repeated during my teens, and as I looked at Bernie’s picture today it reminded me of my Grandfather,
I think I can tell all his stories backwards. They always ended with his proudest achievement; starting branch number 99 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Cowansville, Quebec. For years after the war he was asked by the British government if he was gassed. He told me the soldiers had no idea if they were, as they didn’t know what it was.
There were over 188,000 British gas casualties n the first world war, but they did not take into account the number of men who survived like my Grandfather. He along with others suffered for years with headaches and respiratory problems. He was the lucky one he said; Bernie tried to keep up, but ended up dying beside him. My Grandfather said Bernie asked him in the trenches frequently,
“Fred, who is going to remember us?”
So who is going to remember all these valiant soldiers who fought for our freedom? There are the Legions and the War Memorials but is there anywhere that provides memorabilia that honour former Veterans who gave their lives in defense of their Country? On Edmund Street in the small town of Carleton Place, Ontario there once was such a place called the Canada Veterans Hall of Valour. Carleton Place was chosen specifically because it had a great record of involvement in both of the major wars of the past century.
When I visited the Hall of Valour years ago, I was surprised to see an old friend named Ron Roe as the curator. I had initially come to do research on local town heroe Roy Brown who shot down the Red Baron Manfred Richthofen. But, in a short matter of time Ron had me quickly immersed in the history of the Hall of Valour.
The concept of the Hall of Valour was “framed” by the Hon. Judge Matheson, of Kingston – the same man who created the design concept of Canada’s current flag. Mr. Bob Campbell, was the Chairman of the Board, and Commander Jacques Levesque became the Vice-Chairman.
The Hall of Valour created and maintained a record of all those who served in Canada’s Armed Forces. The books of Honour contain mini-biographies of those who won medals of valour in combat. In addition, those who earned the Victoria Cross are recognized by having plaques with their citations in both English and French, created and displayed in view on the walls of the Hall.
Few people are aware that Alexander Dunn, the first Canadian to earn a Victoria Cross did so during the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean war. He was among the first group of 60 soldiers ever to receive the Victoria Cross. At the end of the first year the Museum started a database of mini-biographies of the Veterans, and realized they had some 3,000 in hand. The number had grown over the years and they ended up with over 7,500 individual biographies.
As Plato once said “Only the dead have seen the war” and hopefully today’s generations that have never experienced freedom taken away from them will realize war is not the answer.
My personal dream is a world where no war exists because as my Grandfathers friend Bernie used to say to him while they fought:
“If we don’t end this war Fred, war will end us.”
When I was interviewing Marian MacFarlane last week, she and a lot of other seniors had no idea The Hall of Valour had closed. She was concerned as her husband had a memory plaque in there. It is now carefully and lovingly being taken care of in Perth. It was offered to the Carleton Place Legion, but they had no room for it.
I would like to personally thank Ron Roe for all the work he did there over the years. To succeed in your mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goal. And that Ron Roe did with the help of others in spectacular form. We salute you!