Remembrance Day Ceremony

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Memories Past – Lest We Forget
Nous nous souviendrons d’eux

A 2020 Remembrance Day Special Edition
Une édition spéciale du jour du Souvenir 2020

GVHS Remembrance Day History

Memories Past

The Gatineau Valley Historical Society has hosted an annual Remembrance Day service at the Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery and Cenotaph since 1986, honouring the memories of Private Richard Rowland Thompson, RCR, who is buried there, and all those who have fallen in defence of our country and liberties.

This year, COVID-19 has imposed numerous restrictions limiting public events and gatherings to ensure the safety of everyone and to halt the spread of the virus. Our traditional Remembrance Day ceremony is one of many similar events not taking place across Canada. Through this special issue of ‘Memories Past’, we seek to remember, honour, and pay our respects to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice. This year we also call to mind the thousands who died by the end of WWI in 1918, not from combat, but from contracting the deadly Spanish Flu virus while in military camps and crowded trenches. Their stories, indelibly written in our hearts and minds, connect us all. Together we remember them – lest we ever forget.

Historique du jour du souvenir de la SHVG

Memories Past

La Société historique de la vallée de la Gatineau organise un service annuel le jour du Souvenir au cimetière des Pionniers et cénotaphe de Chelsea depuis 1986, pour honorer la mémoire du soldat Richard Rowland Thompson, RCR, qui y est enterré, et de tous ceux qui sont tombés à la défense de notre pays et nos libertés.

Cette année, le COVID-19 a imposé de nombreuses restrictions limitant les événements publics et les rassemblements pour assurer la sécurité de tous et arrêter la propagation du virus. Notre cérémonie traditionnelle du jour du Souvenir a été annulée, comme l’ont été des nombreux événements similaires un peu partout au Canada. À travers ce numéro spécial de « Memories Past », nous cherchons à nous souvenir, à honorer et à rendre hommage à tous ceux qui ont fait le sacrifice ultime. Cette année, nous rappelons également les milliers de morts à la fin de la Première Guerre mondiale en 1918, non pas par le combat, mais après avoir contracté le virus mortel de la grippe espagnole dans des camps militaires et des tranchées bondées. Leurs histoires, inscrites de manière indélébile dans nos cœurs et nos esprits, nous relient tous. Ensemble, nous nous souvenons d'eux. Puissions-nous ne jamais les oublier.

Memories Past

Message from the Mayor—de la mairesse

This year, on November 11th, while we are not able to gather as a community, shoulder to shoulder under the white pines of the Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery and Cenotaph, we are together, within our own homes as we reflect and we remember….

Memories Past

Nous nous souvenons des résidents de Chelsea, de jeunes hommes dont les noms sont gravés sur notre cénotaphe – des soldats qui ont combattu dans de nombreuses batailles et qui ne sont pas rentrés chez eux auprès de leurs proches. Nous honorons leur vie et leur engagement pour assurer un monde de paix et de justice.

Nous nous souvenons de Richard Rowland Thompson, membre du Royal Canadian Régiment et des services de santé des Forces canadiennes, et récipiendaire du l’Écharpe de la Reine pour son héroïsme lors de la guerre sud-africaine en 1899. Nous honorons l'engagement du soldat Thompson, et de tous les membres des services de santé, envers ceux qui sont dans le besoin.

We turn to our Canadian Flag, and in the words of Douglas Cowden, member of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society and descendent of Bertha Alexander-Thompson:

“Just a piece of cloth – that’s all it is… until you put your soul into it, and all that your soul stands for, and what it aspires to be.

For all of us, it is a symbol of liberty, decency and justice.

Yes, our flag is just a piece of cloth – until we breathe life into it, until we make it stand for everything we believe in.”

We will remember them.

Nous nous souviendrons d’eux

Caryl Green, Mayor of Chelsea/Mairesse de Chelsea
Au nom du conseil de Chelsea / on behalf of Chelsea council

From failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.
À vous jeunes désabusés; à vous de porter l'oriflamme

J. McCrae

Chelsea’S Pioneer Cemetery — A place of history, heritage, and honour

Memories Past
Unveiling of cairn ceremony at Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery 1968

The Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery, formerly named Church’s Cemetery, is a family cemetery dating back to the late 1800s. In 1965 the GVHS (then known as The Historical Society of The Gatineau) acquired the Pioneer Cemetery property from Mr. Cecil Meredith, a descendant of the original Church family who had established a private burial ground on this land.

The GVHS’s objective in acquiring the site was to preserve it as a historic site and make known its local historical value to the community. The cemetery is notable for being the final resting place of Private Richard Rowland Thompson, the only Canadian to receive the prestigious “Queen's Scarf” from Queen Victoria for heroism in the South African Boer War (1899-1902).

Memories Past
Cemetery lane entrance signage at 587 Route 105, Chelsea QC

In 1968, the cenotaph and matching entrance pillars were constructed with assistance from the municipality, and in 2010 the late Allan Richens collaborated with the municipality to install a set of brass plaques on the Cenotaph to commemorate Chelsea's war dead.

Every year since 1986, the GVHS has hosted a public Remembrance Day ceremony, and welcomed military personnel, including members of Private Thompson’s regiment, 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment from Petawawa, as well as personnel from the Royal Canadian Medical Services since Pvt. Thompson had been a medical orderly.

In 2010 Chelsea Council approved a resolution to officially designate the Pioneer Cemetery as a historical site. It was added to the Quebec “Répertoire du patrimoine culturel du Québec” in 2012 and is now officially known as the “Site patrimonial du Cimetière-desPionniers-de-Chelsea.”

Read more: Chelsea Cenotaph plaques and dedications.

The stories that connect us…

Private Richard Rowland Thompson was the only Canadian to be awarded the Queen’s Scarf for bravery and is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Chelsea where Remembrance Day ceremonies take place each year.

Memories Past
GVHS Photo of Cenotaph Plaque in the Pioneer Cemetery

Richard Rowland Thompson 1877-1908

“As a soldier, Thompson served as a medical assistant with the 2nd Special Service Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment. On the battlefield, Private Thompson repeatedly ignored enemy fire and personal danger in order to offer medical assistance to wounded comrades. At the bloody battle of Paardeberg (18 February 1900), where Canadian troops helped to win a spectacular victory, he remained seven hours in an exposed position so that he might maintain pressure upon the jugular vein of an injured man, James L. Bradshaw. Then on 27 February 1900 he again helped wounded soldiers at Paardeberg in defiance of enemy fire.”

Read more: Up the Gatineau! Articles Volume 16, page 15 by Graeme S. Mount

“In 1956 ceremonies were held in London to mark the centenary of the inauguration of the Victoria Cross. During these ceremonies an article appeared in the Illustrated London News entitled "The World's Rarest Award for Valour. "This, according to the article, was a scarf that had been "...worked by the fingers of Queen Victoria when she was in her 82nd year ... Only four were made by the Queen as a special recognition of bravery in the field," and it was "maintained by some even to supersede the Victoria Cross."1 The article indicated that the scarves were intended to be presented to Colonial private soldiers serving in the South African War, and that one of the recipients was a Canadian, Private R.R. Thompson of the Royal Canadian Regiment.“

Read more: Richard Rowland Thompson, RCR and his Queen’s Scarf by Cameron Pulsifer

Memories Past

Pioneer Cemetery
Cenotaph Plaque

Flight Sgt. Erle Milks, RCAF, was one of nine men from Chelsea who lost their lives in WW I & II and are memorialized on the Cenotaph plaques dedicated November 11, 2001

Memories Past

The Chelsea Cenotaph Story by Allan Richens

“A few days later, I was down at Harky's Garage and shared this story with Harky Milks, who was surprised as well. Then Harky said that he also had a brother who was killed during the Second World War. This was the first I'd heard of Harky's brother, although I'd known Harky also for 40 years. These people, it seemed, were forgotten in the community, and I began to wonder how many others from Chelsea had lost their lives in the wars?”

Read more: Up the Gatineau! Articles Volume 28


Memories Past
Photos from ceremonies / photos des cérémonies 2007-2016

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae 1915

Au champ d’honneur

Au champ d'honneur, les coquelicots
Sont parsemés de lot en lot
Auprès des croix; et dans l'espace
Les alouettes devenues lasses
Mêlent leurs chants au sifflement
Des obusiers.
Nous sommes morts
Nous qui songions la veille encor'
À nos parents, à nos amis,
C'est nous qui reposons ici
Au champ d'honneur.
À vous jeunes désabusés
À vous de porter l'oriflamme
Et de garder au fond de l'âme
Le goût de vivre en liberté.
Acceptez le défi, sinon
Les coquelicots se faneront
Au champ d'honneur.

Traduction : J. Pariseau


Memories Past


Military Presence at the Ceremony

Memories Past
A young solder stands silently throughout the ceremony as part of the honour guard.

Each year, the GVHS invites the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) from CFB Petawawa. A bus load of troops arrives each year in bright military dress, complete with earned medals and wearing the maroon beret – an international symbol of airborne forces. Affixed to each battalion member’s beret is the 8-pointed star with the letters VRI - Victoria Regina Imperatrix as granted to the regiment by Queen Victoria in 1893. The ceremony begins after the RCR 3rd Battalion march in formation and take up vigil including an honour guard of about 50 officers around Pvt. Thompson’s grave.

As Thompson served as a medic assistant during his time, soldiers from the Canadian Forces Health Services Centre in Ottawa are proud to take part in the ceremony including a padre to give a homily. Their front-line work is invaluable and in particular this past year with the pandemic. Together each year, along with municipal, provincial and federal officials, community groups, youth, and residents we remember and honour Pvt. Thompson, his courage and selfless deeds, as well as all of our military past and present.

Memories Past
Members of The RCR Association including Ottawa District Branch President, Robert Near (far right) and Executive board member Rick Reid behind the stone of Pvt. Thompson holding the flag.

The Royal Canadian Regiment Association participates in the ceremony each year. The Association was established to preserve the bonds of comradeship among all Royal Canadians and is composed of serving and former serving members who serve or have served with The RCR at home and abroad, providing opportunities for them to promote a unified regimental spirit and contribute to the perpetuation of regimental history, heritage, traditions and values. The RCR flag is one of three flags flown prominently in front of the Cenotaph along with the Canadian flag and that of the Canadian Forces Health Services.

Le cimetière pionnier de Chelsea — Un lieu d’histoire, de Patrimoine et d’honneur

Memories Past
Dévoilement de la cérémonie du cairn aux cimetière Pionnier de Chelsea 1967

Le cimetière Pionnier de Chelsea, anciennement connu comme le cimetière Church, est un cimetière familial datant de la fin des années 1800. En 1965, le SHVG (alors appelée Société historique de la Gatineau) a acquis la propriété du cimetière des pionniers de M. Cecil Meredith, un descendant de la famille d'origine Church qui avait établi un cimetière privé sur ce terrain. L’objectif de la SHVG en acquérant le site était de le préserver comme site historique et de faire connaître sa valeur historique locale à la communauté. Le cimetière est reconnu pour être le dernier lieu de repos du soldat Richard Rowland Thompson, le seul Canadien à recevoir la prestigieux « écharpe de la reine » de la reine Victoria pour leur héroïsme au cours de la guerre sud-africaine des Boers (1899-1902).

Memories Past
Panneau d’entrée de la voie du cimetière au 587, route 105, Chelsea QC

Le cénotaphe et les piliers d'entrée correspondants ont été construits en 1968 avec l'aide de la municipalité et, en 2010, feu Allan Richens a collaboré avec la municipalité pour installer un ensemble de plaques en laiton sur le cénotaphe pour commémorer les morts de guerre de Chelsea.

Chaque année depuis 1986, la SHVG a organisé une cérémonie publique du jour du Souvenir et accueilli des militaires, notamment des membres du régiment du soldat Thompson, le Royal Canadian Regiment de Petawawa, ainsi que du personnel des Services médicaux royaux du Canada avec qui Pvt. Thompson était un infirmier pendant la guerre sud-africaine des « Boers » (1899-1901). En 2010, le conseil de Chelsea a approuvé une résolution pour désigner officiellement le cimetière des pionniers comme site historique. Il a par la suite été ajouté au « Répertoire du patrimoine culturel du Québec» en 2012 et est maintenant officiellement connu sous le nom de « Site patrimonial du Cimetière-des-Pionniers-de-Chelsea ».

Two minutes of silence: 11th hour – 11th day – 11th month

Memories Past
Bugler Andrew Baker of Wakefield, and piper, Andrew Moore, who both have participated in Chelsea’s Remembrance Day Ceremonies for a number of years. Andrew Moore, has been with the RCAF Pipes and Drums for 30 years and for 15 of those years was the Pipe Sergeant of the band.

Probably the most profound moment of the Remembrance Day Ceremony is the two minutes of silence after the bugler sounds out the final note of ‘The Last Post’. The cemetery is silent and only the rustling of leaves is heard as all present take time to reflect and remember. The Last Post is a regulation call played in the evening signalling the completion of the inspection and setting of night sentry posts. After the respected two minutes of silence, the bagpiper breathes out ‘The Lament’ often choosing Flowers of the Forest as it is the Royal Canadian Air Force Lament. It is also a traditional Scottish song of mourning and remembrance. The bugler then sounds out the “Reveille”, which signals the sunrise and the call to muster for the day’s activities or the soldiers’ call to duty.

Deux minutes de silence – 11e heure – 11e jour – 11e mois

Les deux minutes de silence après la note finale de « Dernier appel » émise par le clairon sont probablement le moment le plus profond de la cérémonie du jour du Souvenir. Le cimetière est silencieux et seul le bruissement des feuilles se fait entendre car toutes les personnes présentes prennent le temps de penser et de se souvenir. Le Dernier appel est un appel réglementaire diffusé le soir signalant la fin de l'inspection et la mise en place des postes de nuit. Après les deux minutes de silence, le joueur de cornemuse joue la mélodie de « Flowers of the Forest » aussi connue comme « The Lament » car c'est celle utilisée par l'Aviation royale canadienne. C'est aussi une chanson écossaise traditionnelle de deuil et de souvenir. Le clairon sonne alors le « Réveil », qui signale le lever du soleil et l’appel à se rassembler pour les activités de la journée ou l’appel au devoir des soldats.

Memories Past
Certificate for the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd on Riverside Drive in Wakefield, QC

Remembering our Fallen Heroes

The Lowdown November 1, 2017

“Less known is another form of war memorial - one still found in some local churches and community halls. These are beautifully designed certificates of recognition, hand-inscribed with the names of members who volunteered for active service in World War II, and in some cases noting those who lost their lives in service. The GVHS is documenting the location of these certificates in the valley, and has discovered them in Chelsea, Wakefield, Cantley, Rupert, and Alcove. The churches involved include Anglican and United Church denominations; none have yet been found in any Roman Catholic churches.”

Read more: Low Down Articles - 150 Years of History in the Hills

Memories Past - Remembrance Day Videos / Vidéos du jour du souvenir

Click on the photo on the left to watch one of a few videos from past Remembrance Day ceremonies posted on our GVHS website.

Videos by Wayne Anderson and Pierre Bélisle

Cliquez sur la photo à gauche pour regarder l'une des quelques vidéos des cérémonies passées du jour du Souvenir publiées sur notre site Web du SHVG.

Memories Past

“Up the Valley of Remembrance on Yellow Wings”

by Vintage Wings of Canada

“One group of three yellow training aircraft, called the Yellow Wings Gatineau Valley Remembrance Day Flight, would fly a formation 50 miles northwest up the Gatineau Valley of Western Québec and then turn to work its way back down the valley and execute a series of sweeping turns overhead small valley villages and towns with names like Danford Lake, Kazabazua, Low, Venosta, Wakefield and Chelsea. Driving over and under the almost prerequisite cold and wet weather of Remembrance Day, the flight would drag behind them a trail of history and emotion that could be felt in the hearts of the many hundreds of Canadians who watched from below.” Read more... External Link

Memories Past
Poem written by Douglas Cowden in memory of his uncle, Pvt. Richard Rowland Thompson
Memories Past

A new way to support this year’s Poppy Campaign and our Veterans: visit the Poppy Store for a catalogue of many products and gifts to order online.

The Royal Canadian Legion is committed to making a difference in the lives of Veterans and their families, providing essential services in our communities, and remembering the men and women who sacrificed for our country.


This special issue coordinated and designed including many photos by Suzanne Gibeault, V-P GVHS with content from the GVHS website.