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Beechwood’s days and nights of remembrance — commemorating the Great War of 1914-1918

October 8, 2018
Brian McCullough, Ottawa Citizen

Less than a quarter of an hour before the guns along the battlefronts of Europe fell silent at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 – the moment agreed upon under the terms of the armistice between the Allies and Germany – 25-year-old Private George Lawrence Price of the 28th “Northwest” Battalion, 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade had the awful misfortune to be shot by a German sniper.

When he died at 10:58 a.m., just two minutes before the cessation of hostilities, Pvt. Price became the last soldier of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to be killed in what was then called the Great War.

It must have been a crushing blow to his family. For Pvt. Price and the tens of thousands of other Canadian and Newfoundland soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for king and country in the muddy trenches of the Western Front, there would be no homecoming. Their bodies would be laid to rest in cemeteries close to where they died, far from their homes and families on this side of the Atlantic.

As the 100th anniversary of the armistice approaches, Ottawa’s Beechwood Cemetery – site of the National Cemetery of Canada – has put together a moving, three-part program of remembrance to help raise awareness of the effort and sacrifice of the more than 66,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders who gave their lives to restore peace and freedom for us all.

“The program is symbolic of who we are as a cemetery and who we are as a nation,” says Nick McCarthy, Beechwood’s director of marketing, communications and community outreach. “It’s important that we take time to reflect, especially on the centenary of the 1918 armistice.”

Beechwood Cemetery, which has been in existence since 1873, has partnered with two other not-for-profit organizations and a local woodcarver to create some truly wonderful opportunities for visitors looking to experience this historic anniversary from now through Remembrance Day on Nov. 11.

All summer, a number of wire-frame soldier figures from the British-based “There But Not There Program” have been placed about the cemetery grounds near family memorials to Canadian and Allied war dead who are buried overseas. Beechwood staff move the figures to new locations each day at 11 a.m. so that visitors can search for them and discover new aspects of Canada’s military history. The haunting figures are not easy to spot, and almost seem to be moving among the headstones.

In September, Beechwood began projecting the names of the 1918 war dead from all nations onto a screen set up in a peaceful area in front of the Beechwood Mausoleum. The projections, supplied by the Toronto-based The World Remembers organization, run from 8 p.m. until midnight, and will conclude in the early minutes of Nov. 11 with the name of Pvt. Price. For all its simplicity, this is a powerful act of remembrance and reconciliation. Among the more than one million names of the servicemen and women who died in that terrible last year of the war alone, visitors will see the names of 23,731 Canadians and Newfoundlanders, including those of the other official war dead who succumbed to their wounds in the years after the war.

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