LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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The Reflection Project at HMCS Prevost

Sunday 28 October 2012 marked the third annual poppy placement at the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial at HMCS Prevost Naval Memorial Park in London, Ontario.

It all began in 2010 as a project for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) centennial celebrations. The first installation in the park was the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial. It is a series of 24 granite stones, each engraved with the name, the hull number, and the date of loss of an RCN ship during the Battle of the Atlantic. The stones are placed along a steep, 300-metre hillside in chronological order of their date of loss. Information panels along the base of the hill provide visitors the story of each ship and her brave crew. The memorial was dedicated in May, 2010.

As Remembrance Day 2010 approached, there was a desire to honour specifically those represented in this memorial without detracting from the official ceremony at the city cenotaph. The result was a poppy placement ceremony about a week before Remembrance Day. Each stone commemorates a ship and the crewmembers that perished with her. To honour these men, a single poppy for each life lost is placed alongside that ship’s stone. Some stones have a few poppies, while others have well over a hundred of them, reflecting losses. The view of the memorial hillside as it turns red with poppies is overpowering, as one realizes that each poppy signifies an individual ultimate sacrifice.

As the 2012 ceremony approached, the thoughts of HMCS Prevost’s company turned to those members of ship’s company who had perished during this battle. It was decided to acknowledge them by placing their small framed photos at the appropriate stones. Thus, a few photos were placed upon the hill. As it materialized, these young faces reflecting back from the hillside produced a very emotional impact. It was then decided that every poppy on the memorial should be accompanied by a photo of the brave young Canadian it represents.

This is an aggressive undertaking by HMCS Prevost, “said Lieutenant-Commander Iain Findlater, the Commanding Officer, “…but the end-state of almost 1500 young faces reflecting from the hillside will be incredibly moving. We owe it to them. This will help us remember that these were young men with families, with friends, with hopes and plans and dreams which were all ended too soon. Incredible individual sacrifices.”

To locate, copy, and frame an individual photo of each hand lost is a monumental task. This year’s poppy placement featured the first 50 photos. It is hoped that by next year, the majority of representative photos will be located and put in place. To do so, HMCS Prevost needs everyone’s help.  They are calling upon every Royal Canadian Legion branch, every Naval Reserve Division, local Books of Remembrance, Navy Leagues, newspaper archives, surviving family members, and so on. If you have a photo of a Royal Canadian Navy sailor who perished during the Battle of the Atlantic, please contact HMCS Prevost.

The Reflection Project at HMCS Prevost is truly a reflection upon all of us.

Contact:
The Reflection Project at HMCS Prevost
The Royal Canadian Navy in London, Ontario
hmcsprevost@gmail.com
Sub-Lieutenant David Lewis
Public Affairs Officer
HMCS Prevost

 

CPO2 Jeff Gourlay and his wife Debbie place poppies at the HMCS Alberni stone. Chief Gourlay’s great uncle, Leading Seaman James Walker, was lost with HMCS Alberni. His photo was provided by the Gourlay family, and it is placed at the ship’s stone.

Sub-Lieutenant David Lewis

CPO2 Jeff Gourlay and his wife Debbie place poppies at the HMCS Alberni stone. Chief Gourlay’s great uncle, Leading Seaman James Walker, was lost with HMCS Alberni. His photo was provided by the Gourlay family, and it is placed at the ship’s stone.