"Greater love hath no man than this,
That a man lay down his life for his friends." John 12:13 (KJV)
Jim Scanland, my good friend and "one of the angels" of Christ Church Anglican here in Cranbrook. B.C., announced that on May 8 Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day or VE Day) will mark the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
On May 8, 1945, the World War II Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.
Jim, who served in the Royal Canadian Army in World War II, and was at D-Day in June 1944, has been active in Christ Church for many years serving for a time as lay minister. His wife Mary has also been a staunch member of the parish. They were among the first to welcome me to Cranbrook over 20 years ago.
At 87, Jim is still active in the Royal Canadian Legion, and plans to attend a service at the local cenotaph on May 8.
Rev. Yme Woensdregt, incumbent of Christ Church, said that on a recent visit to the parish, the Bishop referred to Jim as "one of the angels of Christ Church." He really is!
As regular readers will know, my father Flying Officer James E. Morris was killed along with four members of his flight crew while on active service in the RCAF on July 16, 1943.
My cousin Judith (Hunt) Botham recently sent me a most appreciated email telling me about a visit she made to the graves of my father and his flight crew. They are buried in Ripon Cemetery, Yorkshire, England.
Judith wrote that she and her husband Alan had just spent "a fabulous (warm, sunny!) weekend bird watching in Cumbria and the south of Scotland and decided to take a route home which brought us pretty close to Ripon so we took a detour to see if we could find your father’s grave.
"The tourist information chap was very helpful so after a visit to the incredibly beautiful cathedral, crypt 672 AD, main building about 1220 AD. (I’m sure your father would have visited during his time here) we set off to find the cemetery.
"It is good to be able to tell you that the cemetery, which is the city cemetery with a special small section for service men, is incredibly well kept and cared for.
"We found your father’s memorial stone straight away as it is the first in the war memorial section alongside 19 other Royal Canadian Air Force crew, plus service men from other forces.
"We think that the first row of grave stones is most probably his full flight crew as all 5 air men died on 16th July 1943.
"So very sad to see how young they all were.
Judith provided information from the gravestones and I have added some further details. My father was 28 years old while J W. Campbell from Yorkton, Saskatchewan was 25; G.B. Nesbitt from Shoal Lake, Manitoba, a graduate of the University of Manitoba was 26; V. F. Rector from Pickardville, Alberta was 23; and no further information on T. M. Kearns.
Judith added: "We found it an incredibly moving experience, how brave they all were to give up their lives fighting so very away from home. It brought it home to us just how hard it must have been for your mother left with a little one to care for and not even able to say goodbye properly."
My mother, Muriel E. (Hunt) Morris, died in 1989.
Thank you so much Judith and Alan for taking the time to visit Ripon Cemetery. Thank you so much Jim Scanland for your service to your community, your country and your church.
As I wrote this piece, it struck me as Judith mentioned how young those who served in World War II were, and of course it continues to this day. And remember they came from all over this great country to serve -- members of my father's crew alone came from Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Jim Scanland is from British Columbia but was a member of the Fort Garry Armoured Horse Regiment, based in Manitoba.
Judith noted that the inscription on my father's tombstone is:
"Greater love hath no man than this,
That a man lay down his life for his friends."
And when we pause to reflect on VE Day on May 8, let us remember that "They shall grow not old...."
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