Sunday, April 09, 2006

Witness the Birth of a Nation

Private William Johnstone Milne, of the 16th Battalion Canadian Scottish Regiment (Canadian Expeditionary Force) was awarded the Victoria Cross (posthumously) for gallantry during the Battle of Vimy Ridge many years ago. Pte Milne was only 24 years old when he was killed on that fateful Easter Monday, April 9th, 1917.

The whereabouts of his grave still remain unknown.

He was born on Dec 21st 1892 far away from here, in Cambusnethan (Lanarkshire) Scotland. He moved with his family when they emigrated to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan - where he would ultimately enlist and start the journey that ensured for him a place in my heart.

Pte Milne’s VC Citation describes his last moments as thus: "For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in attack. On approaching the first objective, Pte. Milne observed an enemy machine gun firing on our advancing troops. Crawling on hands and knees, he succeeded in reaching the gun, killing the crew with bombs, and capturing the gun. On the line re-forming, he again located a machine gun in the support line, and stalking this second gun as he had done the first, he succeeded in putting the crew out of action and capturing the gun. His wonderful bravery and resource on these two occasions undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades. Pte. Milne was killed shortly after capturing the second gun."

Among others, my unit proudly carries on our regimental colours the battle honour 'Vimy, 1917' and my thoughts (through out the years) have often come to rest with Pte Milne in particular – almost as if he were known to us; as a hero, a mentor, a friend, a brother and a comrade – we felt his spirit with us as we all pondered at some time or another what we would do if the time ever came to learn what we were made of. And we knew in our hearts that we would do the same, for as long as we were able, for as long as we were still aware of our brothers following us, for as long as love for Canada still lived in our hearts.

Because he had done so first.

It’s a courage I pray no one has ever to muster again, but one that I know with a great deal of conviction resides within the core spirit of our nation, ready to be called upon.

"It was Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parade. I thought then ... that in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation."
- Brigadier General Alexander Ross
on watching the attack on Vimy

No comments: