22 November 2013

You can't say that about them

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database records 64,995 deaths in Canadian WW1 Forces. The Canadian Virtual War Memorial records a few more who died in the same period where they are referred to as "The Fallen". That suggests they died of wounds received in battle, and for most that is the case.

But I've come across some instances recently of people holding a military position, but far away from the fighting, who died of causes seemingly unrelated to the war, yet recorded in the databases above. One example, who I won't name, served as a paymaster and auditor in Ottawa and died in April 1918 of spinal meningitis. His Ontario death certificate makes no mention of military involvement giving occupation as C.S. The burial record from Beechwood Cemetery records his occupation simply as Civil Servant.

Should we honour those who died in time of war but away from military action doing basically the same job they did as a civilian? Should we not rather honour the men and women who survived the war only to live with physical and mental scars from their front-line service?


Anonymous said...

At the recent WW I conference day at Centerpointe in Ottawa a speaker pointed out that the men returning from the war were not given much if any support. It is time for us to delve into their life stories and to tell them in more detail. If a person died of war injuries at a later date, as did my grandfather in 1941, his family could have a military headstone erected. However, I doubt that my grandfather received much assistance for having been gassed three times. His parents helped him out, and he stumbled along managing to be a terrific Dad to three boys and to go out to a job even during the Depression.We need to reflect and tell as many of these stories as we can.
Anne in Ottawa

Jane MacNamara said...

I think in this case we should be generous and inclusive. We can't really know the circumstances that kept this fellow in Canada or that his service was any less important or honourable.

Ellen Thorne Morris said...

Some served in a civilian capacity, perhaps not meeting military standards. Behind every soldier were ten civilians in supportive roles. Give medals for bravery, but don't take away the support of civilian workers in a war effort.