O'er The Top - Salvation Army Canada
  • Nov7Tue

    O'er The Top

    Retrospective #47 November 7, 2017 Randy C. Hicks
    Lest we forget.
    Lest we forget.

    No doubt you have heard or even used this expression: “When I was your age!” often followed by some form of “dressing-down”. It occurs to me that the person addressing me thus - was never my age! Chronologically, being older than me, of course they were once at this number on the cumulative calendar but, they were never “my age”. And with all due respect to the young person whom I might be addressing this way, again, I may have shared the number with them but I was never their age.

    Some of you may be thinking, “Poor Randy, he’s finally lost it!” but hang on – allow me to explain my perspective. In 1956 my dad was forty years old. Me on the other hand – I was forty in 1998. The world of 1956 hardly compares to the world of 1998. Do you see where I’m going with this? One more example – my son will be forty in 2021; if, on his birthday, I were to say to him for whatever reason “When I was your age!” how ridiculous would that be? I hardly expect that 2021 will much compare with 1998!

    We have here in our possession a number of memorial plaques listing the names of Salvation Army members, from various Corps back in the day (some of those corps still exist), who gave their lives in World War 1, World War 2, and the Korean Conflict. I have served in appointments where this kind of remembrance hung on a prominent wall at the “Barracks”. If the corps you are attending is sixty-four/plus years old, you may well have one related to families from your community. One of the questions that I often ask about such things is whether or not there are relatives of the souls listed still with us? Is there anyone who remembers them, or remembers being told about them, seeing pictures of them? Does that family name still exist in the town?

    “Lest we forget”

    I thought I had looked at and/or read all of the above markers in our keeping, that is, until yesterday. You see, yesterday, quite by accident, I saw one I hadn’t consciously recognized before – probably because it was lying flat on the top of a cabinet or maybe because it had only one name on it. Regrettably, the entry in our records simply contained the contents of the plaque with no additional information. Now, even though this individual died in action (Vimy Ridge) just over one hundred years ago, I respectfully acknowledge there may well be later generations of relatives still with us. Our comrade “John” was almost thirty-one at the time of his passing. Just think, that might have made him an ‘old’ guy among his peers as many who enlisted were quite young, some having lied about their age, with a few perhaps even half John’s age!

    M-5228 PLAQUE - "In loving memory of Comrade John Hodgson 75th BTN., C.E.F - Who fell while assisting the wounded at Vimy Ridge April 9, 1917. Age 30 years,11 months. Erected by his comrades of the St. Catharines 

    “Lest we forget”

    My home province saw almost a whole generation of young men wiped out just about a year before at Beaumont Hamel…when I was their age I got to finish high school, go to university, enter ministry...oh yeah, I almost forgot “I was never their age!” and many of them didn't get to become even a year older...

    "O'er the top!"
    {Reflecting on Beaumont Hamel / July 1, 1916}
    Randy C. Hicks
    June 3, 2016

    His heart and lungs exhausted gasped
    The fire storm had begun 
    While still the rains relentless poured
    Numb fingers clawed his gun!

    The seconds, minutes, hours dragged on
    Or did the time stand still?
    The days, the weeks, the months, unknown
    Of death he'd had his fill!

    The waiting was the hardest part
    Not knowing when 'twould come
    Who of his mates would not return
    What souls might not get home?

    Seven from his small town signed up
    Surprising for its size
    Though he had lied about his age
    Of this no one was wise!

    Four of seven already paid
    The highest price they could
    Comrades in arms they'd given all
    If asked to pay - he would!

    Philosophers, religious types
    Unlikely to agree
    The game of war - the only way,
    To make a people free?

    The time had come - he had no choice
    Somehow it was his place
    Obey the Captain's ev'ry word
    As mud rolled down his face!

    A boy? A man? A soldier now!
    Who'd make the madness stop?
    Perhaps tomorrow peace would come...
    For now, it's "O'er the top!"

    “Lest we forget…”

    Leave a Comment