If Ye Break Faith

This blog is dedicated to the promotion of educating about the Canadian experience of World War One. To discover who we are as a nation in the 21st Century, we must understand our past.


Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Intent

The line "If ye break faith" as expressed by John McCrae in his seminal poem "In Flanders Fields" is a compact between the dead of the First World War and the living, in perpetuity.  It states rather plainly that if the ideals for which they gave their lives are not upheld by those who remain, their sacrifice is negated.

Each November, the loss of life in the Great War, and all wars is remembered.  People stand for moments of silence, solemn ceremonies take place at monuments to the fallen, Lt. Col McCrae's poem is recited and sung in verse.  I have often asked myself if those few days during which poppies are worn and the cost of war pondered is enough to say we are meeting our end of obligation with that compact.  At no detraction to the effort we make on Remembrance Day, I believe there is more to be done to fulfill that commitment.  My concern is not that these acts will perish in time, it is that those individuals from whom that line is spoken will not be remembered as individuals but be relegated as a number counted as a statistic.

Canada lost 64 944 killed in action during World War I.  Each one who died had their own story.  There is the life they led before the war, the capacity in which they served their country's effort during its time of need and each sacrifice that they made, eventually with their lives for what they thought would be and everlasting peace.  The goal of this project, "If Ye Break Faith" is to uphold that compact, to remember our fallen as individuals; to tell their stories and so perpetuate their remembrance for those that follow in subsequent generations.  It is a monumental effort; one that I alone can not hope to complete and will eventually have to leave to my successors.

Each volume in this series will take the names of the war dead which are inscribed on the monument of a single town or city and tell as much as possible about their lives and their sacrifice.  What this will do, besides preserving individual memory, will also give us pause to think on the human cost of war and thereby justify the great amount of loss that was made to the purpose of a long preserved and equitable peace.

It is the intention of this letter to inform my countrymen to my purpose and to ask their moral support in its undertaking.

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