Remembrance Day is a whirlwind of emotion for me. Frustration at the need for war. Sadness at the holes left behind with families & loved ones. Hope for a better tomorrow since those who sacrificed so much believed in the difference their lives would make. Gratitude for those who built my safe little world.
I am well aware that the date for Remembrance Day is the armistice of WW1 on Nov. 11, 1918 but the greater impact of war has been felt in our clan from WW2. My grandfather left behind a widow and 5 kids (my father was in his early teens). The situation for the family was grim. My grandmother remarried a wonderful man who raised those 5 and 2 more kids. I am eternally grateful to both men who did their part to create a safe little place for us.
I would be misleading if I implied that human costs are the only tragic losses in war. As anyone who has fled their homelands will tell you, priceless bits of history and identity get destroyed. It is true that trees and grass can get replanted but in some cases those treasures are thousands of years old and will never be recovered. Each of us has our weak points. I am sorry for the loss of ancient artifacts but that tragedy is not what grips me.
Animals suffer immensely in war. Habitat destruction is incredibly devastating for wild animals, with nowhere to hide and nothing to eat. Domestic pets disappear in the millions too, whether it is directly or due to starvation. A little known piece in British WW2 history is that a pamphlet was circulated among citizens about preparing for the impending food shortages and evacuations. “If you cannot place your pets in the care of a neighbour it really is kindest to have them destroyed”. This caused panic and a mass culling of family pets. Estimates are as high as 750,000 British family pets were euthanized in one week because of this campaign.
And then we come to the loss of animals who were directly used in the wars. Different counts vary, but WW1 lost an estimated 10 MILLION horses, mules, and donkeys, plus, 100,000 dogs and 200,000 pigeons. Estimates for WW2 are also spotty but we know for example the USA trained some 10,000 dogs for WW2. Unknown numbers of cats were used on ships to keep rats and mice under control. Draft animals such as horses, donkeys, mules, oxen and even elephants were used for building roads.
A big part of the trouble with remembering anything at all is the enormity of the numbers. WW1 estimates 9-11 Million military personnel and 6-13 Million civilian casualties. Accurate counts are not available since every country dealt with things like wounded, general disease and missing people in different ways. Estimates for WW2 include 50-56 Million deaths in combat with 50-55 Million civilian deaths including some 19-28 Million people from disease and famine. The total population of Canada stands at 38 Million people today. Those two wars removed the equivalent of nearly three whole Canada’s from the face of the earth. I can’t even ……..
We will remember them all.
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