Saturday morning, downtown Brantford and the streets were blocked: traffic was snarled, the sky was grey and drizzly. Accordingly patience was thin.
But for a moment, there was a glimpse of a bygone era transforming the city core to 100 year old images of armed Canadian soldiers, most from this area, parading through town led by the 56 Field Artillery Regimental Pipe Band and followed by a horse drawn carriage with two Clydesdales towing a howitzer, military trucks with more cannons rumbling behind and members of our community stiff-backed with heads high in pride.
The key word is VALOUR: ‘great courage in the face of danger, especially in battle’. As civic leaders, religious leaders and military leaders spoke, it was clear this was not a celebration of war but a celebration of the personal attribute of valour, a character trait.
The occasion was the ‘Field Howitzer Cannon Dedication’ returning as a refurbished treasure from WWI to its proper place in front of the Brantford Armouries of the 56th Field Artillery Regiment. The weapon was captured at the battle of Amiens by the 116th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force on August 8 1918. The date of the event is significant to the Regiment’s 153rd anniversary. As well, the Brantford Armouries are named in honour of Sgt. William Merrifield, from Brant, who earned the Victoria Cross for his actions during the battle of Canal Du Nord just two months later Oct. 1, 1918.
Over a hundred years ago Canadian soldiers, traveled to and fought the devastation of Europe by the Central European Powers, (including Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire) and more particularly it was significant that Brantford soldiers left the farms and factories to serve our country in times of need. They were especially honoured today as that howitzer was originally dedicated to Brantford because of the noted dedication, service and sacrifice by Brantford citizens in securing one of the pieces of France that ultimately led to the defeat of the German invasion and the end of the war.
One such soldier, Private Alfred Riches from Eagle Place, was integral in the success of that particular battle that captured the German weapon. He died 12 days later as many others before him because of their courage and commitment protecting world freedom.
His Great-Granddaughter, Marguerite Young, from Brantford was present to witness the dedication and met with our community leaders to tell her prideful story. The officer tasked with managing the horse drawn carriage towing the gun to its resting place was wearing the uniform her relative wore during that fateful event long before her own birth.
The highest-ranking officer present, Brigadier-General Mark Campbell, the Royal Canadian Regiment, brought historical reference and national pride for our community military service.
“The 56 Field Artillery Regiment is YOUR local Army Reserve Regiment. Its members are the citizens of your communities. The Regiment can trace its service back as far back as the war of 1812 and soldiers have participated honourably in every major engagement since then, both overseas in the two world wars, on United nations missions and more recently in Afghanistan and on domestic operations such as providing ice storm and flood relief to Canadians in distress. Thank you for honouring their Valor.”
Mayor Davis inspected the regiment and regimental band with General Campbell and spoke from his heart about his pride in community, in their commitment to military service and the sacrifices of the citizens and veterans, men and women, over the generations even before Brantford became a city. He acknowledged the craftsmanship of Gill Bibby, Stoney Creek, for his exceptional restoration skills of the howitzer. And he recognized Honourary Colonel, Paul Williamson
and Colonel Hatfield, 56 Field Artillery Regiment Commander
for continuing to take new generations of local men and women under his wing to develop our future generations of leaders keeping peace and serving our country’s needs globally.
Valour is in the DNA of our Brantford community. We have the history of this incredible trait coursing through the veins of our community to thank for the safety and growth of our city, our province and indeed our country.
Thank you for your sacrifice.