This Remembrance Day, as we honour all those who gave their lives for others, and those who came home to live out their lives as strong leaders in our free world: free to grow old and teach their grandchildren the true meaning of honour, and integrity of character, I’d like to pay tribute to a living legend — Frank Rowan.
It wasn’t until 1988 that my father-in-law, Frank Rowan, went to his first Veterans’ reunion — fearing that talking about the war, too soon, would cause post-traumatic stress problems. Lately, however, the memories seem to haunt him on a daily basis.
My father-in-law was a navigator stationed in Lincoln, England with a Squadron of Lancasters with the RAF in WWII. On St. Patrick’s Day 1945, after just dropping their load of bombs, his aircraft was hit. All crew bailed at 18,000 feet. (Qualifying him for the Caterpillar Club: people who have successfully used a parachute to bail out of a disabled aircraft.)
He always claimed it was the luck of the Irish (being of Irish descent) that he had the good fortune of landing on a German Air Base: it was their practice not only to take prisoners (as opposed to shooting them on the spot) but also to photograph each prisoner and mark their name and country of origin on the back of the photo.
Forty-five years later, an archivist, finding a number of these photos, contacted Ottawa, and forwarded several pictures taken of him in captivity and on the march. This is one of those photos:
Two days after his capture, he and approximately 150 others who were able to, began a gruelling 47-day march. It was very difficult for most of the older ones and many died along the way. For the wounded soldiers, their days were ended. My father-in-law was allowed to remove all dog tags from the cadavers so the families could be notified.
My father-in-law, P.O.W. Frank Rowan is now 92-years-young. “When I think back over my life I count my blessings, not my birthdays, as they have been far greater” — as he always says.
I believe the point of continuing the tradition of observing Remembrance Day lies at the heart: What are we prepared to do to protect our democracy?
Canada is a very different place from the democratic country we think we live in now. It’s about The State of the Canadian Constitution, eh? (see editorial posted 20 Feb 2013.)
For fear we may forget, lest we remember the cost we paid for our democracy?