Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
An unknown Canadian soldier, buried in a grave near Vimy, France for more than 80 years, has been brought to Canada. His remains have been entombed near the National War Memorial as a symbol of thousands of Canadians lost in wars of the 20th century.
The memorial service, with full military honours, was one of the most symbolically important state ceremonies in Canada since the end of the Second World War, 55 years ago. Hundreds of veterans, along with Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson, Prime Minister Jean Chretien and a host of military and civil dignitaries attended the ceremony which was televised nationally.
"The unknown soldier will symbolize the sacrifices of all Canadians in the restoration of peace: past, present and future," said Dr. Serge Bernier, Director of History and Heritage. "He could symbolize soldiers who died in the First World War, women working in arms factories during the Second World War, soldiers on peace support operations today, or the future actions of any Canadian who helps restore peace in the world."
The Unknown Soldier will represent the 27,500 Canadian service people who have no known grave. During the 20th century, more than two million Canadians served in uniform. Over 116,000 Canadian lost their lives during four wars and dozens of peacekeeping missions. During the Second World War alone, some 17,000 airmen were lost - about one in six among flying personnel.
The idea of using an unidentified body as a symbol of all war dead was the brainchild of a British chaplain in the First World War. On Remembrance Day 1920, an unknown soldier was buried in Westminster Abbey beneath a plaque that included the poignant line: "They buried him among the kings because he had done good before God and toward his house."
Other countries have followed suit. Unknown Americans lie in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington. A nameless French soldier is buried beneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The Royal Canadian Legion was the driving force behind bringing the Unknown Soldier to Canada.
On May 25th, the Unknown Soldier arrived at CFB Uplands. A hearse transported the remains to the downtown Cartier Square Drill Hall, where they were transferred to a motorized gun carriage for the trip to Parliament Hill. After the body was placed in the Centre Block's Hall of Honour, the Canadian Force's Chaplain General, Brig.-Gen. Farwell said a short prayer, then invited Madame Clarkson to pay tribute to the Unknown Soldier on behalf of the people of Canada.
A vigil lasting three days was held over the soldier's remains with sentries from the RCMP and the Canadian Forces standing with their heads bowed over their reversed rifles.
On Sunday, May 28th, BGen Farwell led the procession of the Unknown Soldier from the Hall of Honour through the Peace Tower before the remains were placed on a 19th- century gun carriage provided by the RCMP. To the sound of a 21-gun salute - a single round being fired every 60 seconds - the funeral procession left Parliament Hill to the National War Memorial. As the remains of the Unknown Soldier were lowered into the sacrophagus, representatives from the army fired three rifle volleys which symbolized the army's farewell to a fallen comrade. As the sacrophagus was being covered, four CF-18s from 3 Wing Bagotville conducted a fly-past in the "missing man" formation - the traditional air force farewell.
Crew members from 437 Squadron at 8 Wing Trenton recently had the honour of bringing home Canada's Unknown Soldier aboard one of Trenton's CC-150 Polaris (Airbus A-310).
The squadron had the distinct responsibility of airlifting the Unknown Soldier from Lille, France to Ottawa along with accompanying Canadian dignitaries, veterans and other members of the Canadian Forces.
This special return flight was especially noteworthy for 8 Wing and Canada's air force as the flight represented the distinct role the air component had in bringing the Unknown Soldier home.
Capt. Micheal Cole, the first officer aboard the flight, noted that although the crewmembers had their specific duties similar to any other flight, there was a feeling that they had a special responsibility.
"Even though I can't speak for the rest of the crew about how they felt, it was obvious that everyone was working that much harder to ensure a smooth flight," Cole said. "When we finished the trip, we knew that we did our job well and everyone on board seemed happy."
One of the crew's loadmasters, Sgt John Goselin, expressed his own impressions of the flight and acknowledged those who fought for Canada. "During the trip I had the chance to meet some of the Canadian veterans, including one who fought in World War I," he recalled. "I have an interest in our past wars and to hear the stories from those who were there is always a thrill."
After 437 Squadron arrived in Ottawa with the Unknown Soldier, the remains were brought first to the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill to lie in state before being ceremoniously laid to rest at the National War Memorial on May 28.
There were also 50 personnel from 8 Wing representing Canada's air force at the May 28 funeral ceremony.
Imagine if precision was paramount for measuring success in all that you do. For most of us, it is reasonable to agree precision is indeed required based on the complexity of our jobs. For Sgt. Tony Isaacs, it is not only required, it is a way of life.
At the young age of 13, when his diverse career serving in the two military forces began, Isaacs learned precision is a reflection of ones dedication and ones personality. He also learned the best way to project that personality is through drill.
Then Lance Corporal Tony Isaacs with members of Korea and United States armies visit the Imjin Battle Memorial in Korea. Members of the British Grenadier Guards lined the route for the 25th Anniversary in 1976.
Photo credit: Sgt Isaacs
Isaacs became indoctrinated in drill when he joined the Army Cadets in Britain and later went on to excel at after joining the British Army at age 16. He credits his perfection in drill to the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards, who are world renowned as the "elitist at drill," says Isaacs.
It is no wonder Isaacs' application for Bearer Party Commander for the Unknown Soldier stood out.
Isaacs six-year experience with the Guards include Trooping of the Colour for the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977, two years with the Governor General's Guard in Hong Kong and a three-month tour with the 8th U.S Army Honour Guard at the UN headquarters in Seoul Korea.
Isaacs left his home in England for Canada in effort to keep his Canadian citizenship and to serve in the CF just as his father had. Today, drill is not a component in his job since becoming a Search and Rescue technician in 1983. Nevertheless, the same principals once taught to him by his Guard drill sergeant major still apply.
"Whenever you do something, do it 100 percent," says Isaacs. "On your own you must be perfect every time."
CWO Palmer, who works with Dress, Insignia and Ceremonial for the CF, could not agree more about Isaacs' performance leading the Unknown Soldier Bearer Party.
"He did an outstanding job," said Palmer. "[You] couldn't ask for a better candidate."
The Vimy and Ottawa ceremonies for the Unknown Soldier were indeed an honour for Isaacs.
"My great granddad was killed during the First World War. Both my granddads fought in WWII," Isaacs reflects. "I was inspired to do well and serve my family with pride."
Photos are of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. The Memorial does more than mark the site of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It is a monument to all Canadians who died or risked their lives for freedom and peace in the First World War.
Click on the images to view full size photos.