Remembrance Day is an important day for all Canadians. It is a day to solemnly reflect on the sacrifices of our veterans, educate ourselves further on our history, and share experiences that enrich our understanding of this history. In July 2017, the Calgary Stampede Showband and youth Indigenous performers went on tour to Europe and had the opportunity to enrich their understanding of Canadian war history by visiting and performing at three major war memorials while they were there.
The Showband first visited Essex Farm Cemetery, near Ypres, Belgium, where 1,500 Canadians are buried. This is where the Canadian poet, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, wrote the iconic World War I poem, In Flanders Fields. Here, Showband members had the somber realization that many of the soldiers were the same age as them when they fought and died for their country.
The Showband and the Indigenous students then participated in the last post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres. This ceremony is a daily tribute to those who lost their lives to defend the town. After one of the Indigenous youth performed a prayer song, the Showband performed and the students laid down a wreath during this moving ceremony. The ceremony has become a hallmark for the Showband as they also participated in the ceremony in 2009.
The students also made a return visit to Vimy Ridge, in France. The Showband had first visited the memorial in 2001. Vimy Ridge is an integral historical site to Canadians as this was where Canada earned respect as a nation during World War I. This site marks one of the greatest battles in Canadian history, because this was where the four Canadian divisions fought together for the first time.
These experiences truly moved the Showband members and Indigenous youth to understand the legacy of Canadian soldiers. They have gained deeper knowledge and respect for Canadian history that will allow them to connect with the wider community as all Canadians come together to remember the sacrifices soldiers have made for their country.
“The Last Post Ceremony, Ieper — Ypres, Menin Gate,” The Great War 1914-1918. http://www.greatwar.co.uk/events/menin-gate-last-post-ceremony.htm
“Vimy Ridge,” Historica Canada, 2005. https://www.historicacanada.ca/content/heritage-minutes/vimy-ridge