By Shannon H. Pennington for freelance journal submission, Victoria B.C.
A unique group of Firefighter veterans of the Canadian Fire Service will be flying to the United Kingdom to attend church on September 16, 2003 at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. They will be joining members of the U.K. Fire Service in witnessing the addition of three names of The Corps of Canadian Overseas Firefighters killed in World War II to a memorial statue beside the church.
HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne), Patron of the Firefighters Memorial Trust of the United Kingdom will place a traditional poppy wreath at the base of a cenotaph honoring the three Canadians. The cenotaph depicts two firefighters manning a hose line with a third calling for more help. It is cast in bronze with the hose line pointing with the nozzle towards St. Paul's Cathedral. The names of J.S. Coull of Winnipeg, Manitoba, A. Lapierre of Montreal, Quebec and L.E. Woodhead of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan will be joined with those of the U.K. Fire Services who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the course of their occupational duties.
The existing bronze "Blitz" Memorial Statue, unveiled by Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, which stands proudly to the south of St. Paul's Cathedral, is being elevated and dedicated as "The United Kingdom Firefighters National Memorial". The names, cast in bronze, of over one thousand Firefighters killed in peacetime will be added to those 997 Firefighters killed during the last World War.
The Canadian Firefighters on the flyover are part of "Team Mitzi". Mitzi is the name of a dog brought home to Canada after the War. The Team members are: Jack Coulter, veteran of The Corps of Canadian Civilian Overseas Firefighters and former chief of the Winnipeg Fire Department. Lorne MacLean, Lt. Col. (ret) OMM, CD, of the Canadian Armed Forces. Lorne was the Canadian Forces Fire Marshal and is past president of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and The Canadian Association of Fire Marshals. He is accompanied by his wife Lois.
Peter K. Ryan retired District Chief of the Ottawa Fire Department. Peter is assisting in the effort to establish a Canadian Fallen Firefighters monument in Ottawa. He is part of an advisory committee with the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation recently formed to begin the long task of registering fallen firefighters in Canada. Alex Forrest of the International Association of Firefighters Local 867 out of Winnipeg. Alex is representing 260,000 professional firefighters in Canada and the United States and will be marching in the "Brigade of Colors" outside of St. Paul's.
Senior Chief North American Firefighter Veterans Network and 26-year career veteran of the Calgary Fire Department, Shannon Pennington. Shannon is "Team Leader" and organizer of the Canadian contingent. Lorne Bjarnason, a 27-year career veteran of the Calgary Fire Department and N.A.F.F.V.N. Chaplin.
The team is assisted by Diana Dakers, retired Registered Nurse from Ottawa Ontario. Diana will also be the team "Photographer and Archivist."
In the United Kingdom, the team is anchored by Mr. Neil Aikman, Information Officer, Canadian High Commission in London along with Firefighter Chris Blackaby of the U.K. Fire Service, Station 29, Woking, Surrey. Mr. Pierce Mercer who represents Canadian Veterans living in the United Kingdom has also been invited by the Fire Fighters Memorial Trust to attend the event.
Of special note: Mr. Roy Bailey, Canadian Alliance Party, Member of Parliament, Souris-Moose Mountain, has added his support and endorsement of the teams effort.
The Corps of Canadian Civilian Overseas Firefighters , much like the veterans of Canada's Merchant Navy , have had to suffer the delay in recognition by the Liberal Government until the passing of Bill C41 on October 20, 2000. On November 11th, 2003, in Ottawa, the Corps will lay a Poppy wreath at the National Cenotaph for the first time in it's history. The St. Paul's Cathedral event and the November 11th service in Canada marks a historical turn towards the coming home of the Corps of Canadian Firefighters some 58 years after the end of World War II.
Members of the Corps came from across Canada and joined in 1941/42. Thirty seven Members are from B.C., 285 Ontario, 12 Alberta, 20 Saskatchewan, 29 Manitoba, 6 Nova Scotia, 4 New Brunswick, 3 from Prince Edward Island, 27 members enrolled from Quebec and 3 used England as their enrolment address.
At the going down of the sun, we shall say, we have not forgotten them, we shall not forget.......