Observing Remembrance Day in Dominica

Many wreaths of flowers are placed at the base of Dominica's cenotaph every Remembrance Day.

Many wreaths of flowers are placed at the base of Dominica’s cenotaph every Remembrance Day. Photo taken in 2012.

For the past several years, I have made a point of getting up early on the Sunday morning closest to November 11th, which is DSCF1289when 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.

His Excellency the President and Mrs. Savarin regard the March Pat with their Aide-de-campe.

His Excellency the President and Mrs. Savarin and other dignitaries regard the March Past.

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.

Religious leaders officiated at the Remembrance Day Ceremony.  In the foreground, with the purplle sash is His Lordship Bishop Gabriel Malzaire.

Religious leaders officiated at the Remembrance Day Ceremony. In the foreground, with the purple sash is His Lordship Bishop Gabriel Malzaire.

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

Names of the fallen during WWI are contained on this scroll on the Cenotaph.

Names of the fallen during WWI are contained on this scroll on the Cenotaph.

Names of the Fallen during WWII are contained on this scroll on the Cenotaph.

Names of the Fallen during WWII are found on this scroll on the Cenotaph.

ultimate sacrifice in the name of peace.

I understand that Dominica is the only country to have two war memorials.  This one honours those of the French Resistance.  During the Vichy Regime in WWII, about 5,000 French people sought safety in Dominica.

I understand that Dominica is the only country to have two war memorials. This one honours those of the French Resistance. During the Vichy Regime in WWII, about 5,000 French people from the neighbouring islands sought safety in Dominica.

H.E. President Savarin lays a wreath at the Monument that honours the efforts of the French Resistance.

H.E. President Savarin lays a wreath at the Monument that honours the efforts of the French Resistance. Police Officers in ceremonial dress are in the foreground.

Dr. Lennox Honychurch provides timely commentary as he broadcasts the ceremony live on DBS Radio to the world. He has to face into the rising sun to observe it, which I imagine could be a bit of a challenge!

Dr. Lennox Honychurch provides timely commentary as he broadcasts the ceremony live on DBS Radio to the world. He has to face into the rising sun to observe it, which I imagine could be a bit of a challenge!

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:

Members of the Dominica Police Force march past President Williams in 2012.

Members of the Dominica Police Force march past President Williams in 2012.

It was wonderful to see the Cadet Corps participate in the Remembrance Day ceremony. (2013)

It was wonderful to see the Cadet Corps take part in the Remembrance Day ceremony. (2013)

The Girl Guides were a wonderful sight to see on parade too!

The Red Cross and Girl Guides were a wonderful sight to see on parade too!

Government Band Mistress  Valena Letang salutes then-President Eluid Williams in 2012. She recently was bestowed the Sisserou Award of Honour by President Savarin  during Independence 2013.

Government Band Mistress Valena Letang salutes then-President Eluid Williams in 2012. She recently was bestowed the Sisserou Award of Honour by President Savarin during Independence 2013.

These accomplished singes in the St. Alphonsus Folk Choir make an invaluable contribution to the Remembrance Day Service every year.

These accomplished singers in the St. Alphonsus Folk Choir make an invaluable contribution to the Remembrance Day Service every year.

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.

Gwendominica poses by the Cenotaph with teary eyes and gratitude for those who have stood up and sacrificed for peace.

Gwendominica poses by the Cenotaph with teary eyes and gratitude for those who have stood up and sacrificed for peace.

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)).

References:

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.

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3 comments on “Observing Remembrance Day in Dominica

  1. We are very grateful for your comprehensive report on Remembrance Day 2013. I was able to see what went on today; even saw our cousin Pearl Christian who is with the choir. Our Father Wendell M. Christian served in the British Army (1943-1947) during the war. His service inspired us to do King & Country alongside Judge Andre – who is a judge in Brampton, Ontario. We launched the e-book version of “For King & Country: The Service & Sacrifice of the British West Indian Military” this weekend in tribute to those who served. Let us confer sometime. God bless you for your report. The love shows.

    Gabe

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    • gwendominica says:

      Dear Mr. Christian (Gabe),

      Thanks so much for your kind remarks. You are the first person to comment on the (no longer) secret ingredient that I use in all my posts on Ti Domnik Tales: LOVE! Otherwise, I would not be able to write passionately about the subjects in Dominica that mean the most to me (and there are many!). I will include a link to the notice that I just read on DNO about your “For King and Country” e-book. I just borrowed the hard copy from the Roseau Public Library last week and am fascinated with all the details therein. I will be in touch with you soon. I really appreciate your interest and support.

      Kind regards,

      Gwendominica

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  2. Tina says:

    Gwen DAVibes have great pics of this years events. I would just like to mention the valour of the cadets chosen to sweat it out on each corner of the Cenotaph. One year I was standing with the other hon consuls and was nearly squashed by a fainting cadet. This year I found myself staring down the barrel of a gun as he pointed it straight at me. A first time for everything

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