For the past several years, I have made a point of getting up early on the Sunday morning closest to November 11th, which is when people in Dominica observe Remembrance Day. I always make my way to the War Memorial (Cenotaph) which is located on Victoria Street, just north of the round-about by the Fort Young Hotel. I take a place, along with other members of the public under a shady tree in Peebles Park, directly opposite the site of the ceremony. Before me, government officials, consular dignitaries, religious leaders and various military and youth bands assemble near the Cenotaph to honour Dominica’s servicemen and women of the First and Second World Wars.
When H.E. the President and Mrs. Savarin and a representative of the Dominica Legion arrived at 8 a.m., this special service began with observance of two minutes of silence, as noted by the firing of a rifle by a member of the Special Services Unit at the start and end of that time period.
When the ‘Last Post’ was touchingly played by a trumpeter in the Government Band, I could not hold back my tears. While I did not have a poppy at that time (a legion official came around with some later), I did have a Canadian flag pin on the collar of my blouse. My thoughts always turn to my paternal grandfather, who was a veteran of WWI and WWII and my father, who was a veteran of WWII. I know how much serving their countries (my grandfather – Britain in WWI and then Canada in WWII after he emigrated from Wales) meant to them in that era. I am actually delighted to honour my family members and all servicemen and women in Dominica who served their country, some of whom made the
ultimate sacrifice in the name of peace.
Plentiful wreaths are laid by government officials, followed by representatives of various embassies and consular offices on-island, and finally various organizations and individuals. This year, I carried a small radio with earphones so that I could follow the proceedings more easily thanks to commentary provided by notable Dominican historian Dr. Lennox Honychurch. His remarks were being broadcast on DBS radio and I found they aided me tremendously. I only wish I could have written it all down, as he did provide some fascinating details about Dominicans and their roles in these two World Wars. Fortunately, I can always refer to his book, The Dominica Story and other references. (See below).
Then the Service commenced with readings from various church leaders, which were interspersed with two of my favourite hymns: The Lord is my Shepherd and O God, Our Help in Ages Past. Once the wonderful trumpet rendition of Reveille resounded all around, President Savarin inspected the ex-servicemen who were present: Mr. Simbert Angol and Mr. Cuthbert Julien. I could only feel tremendous respect and admiration for these two gentlemen, as they attended the service despite health challenges and their remarkably advanced ages.
I did not cross the street this year so I could not see the band leaders saluting President Savarin. However, I have included some photos from 2012, when I was in close proximity to then-President, H.E. Eluid Williams. I really enjoy watching the March Past- with members of Legion, Police Service, Fire and Ambulance Service in their finest regalia. It is also reassuring to see various youth groups participating in this event year after year, including: The Dominica Cadet Corps; Youth Corps; Scouts; Girl Guides; Girls’ Brigade and the Red Cross. It makes for a very colourful parade!
Here are some photos from the 2012 and 2013 Marches Past:
After the service (which is never more than an hour), I tend to linger near the cenotaph and greet people that I know, such as members of the St. Alphonsus Folk Choir, who always accompany the crowd with their strong voices during the hymns. Then I take photos of the memorials and do so for others who pose there and invariably someone takes mine so that I have a personal souvenir.
It is my fervent wish that for always, “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them, we will remember them.” (taken from: For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon (1914)).
The Dominica Story: A History of the Island by Lennox Honychurch (1995).
For King & Country: The Service and Sacrifice of the Dominican Soldier by Irving W. André & Gabriel J. Christian (2008). Information about the e-book version (November 2013) can be found here.
*A detailed report with photos is found on the news website Da Vibes here.