PORT HAWKESBURY: One little known local tradition at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 43 Port Hawkesbury is the placement of miniature Canadian Maple Leaf Flags (or on a family’s request a Union Jack) next to the gravestones of local veterans who have passed away.
This is done each year on the anniversary date of the D-Day landings on Normandy beaches which occurred on June 6, 1944. The Normandy landings have been called the beginning of the end of war in Europe and resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control.
The Royal Canadian Legion’s motto “Memoriam eorum retinebimus” (“We Will Remember Them”) so the placement of the flags on June 6 is not to suggest that each local veteran was involved in D-Day, but rather to use the D-Day anniversary as another point in time to remember all the veterans and the sacrifice all veterans commit to when they choose to serve, regardless of when or where they served.
Locally, Branch 43 refers to this as Flag Day, which should not be confused with Canada’s National Flag Day which is celebrated on February 15, the anniversary of the first time Canada’s red and white maple leaf flag was raised on Parliament Hill.
This year on June 6, 10 volunteers from Branch 43 placed a total of 206 flags in seven separate local cemeteries including St. Josephs, South Brook and Holy Trinity cemeteries in Port Hawkesbury; St. David’s, Clough and MacLean Cemeteries in Port Hastings and district; and the cemetery in West Bay Road. The placements required an earlier visit by committee chair Anna-Marie Langley, comrade Marguerite Howlett and Zone Commander John MacLeod Langley, to locate and identify all the graves.
On June 8, some of the committee reconvened to have a group photograph taken at St. Joseph’s Cemetery to commemorate the event. The group was prepared for the photo in Legion Dress but not for the cold north wind which blew across the cemetery that evening as if it were November 11, putting our minds in full Remembrance Day mode.
Branch 43 hopes the families of local veterans find some solace in knowing that “We will remember them.”
The legion extends its thanks to photographer Jack Ronalds for his patience in getting this done. Although COVID-19 masks were not worn for the photo, spacing was well maintained, and coupled with the strong north wind, the safety of participants was assured.