Mayor Bill McKay

Remembrance: Events help commemorate veterans of armed conflicts

NANAIMO – Royal Canadian Legion branches offer meals and music to community.

Nanaimo’s Royal Canadian Legion Branches are once again preparing for Remembrance Day.

Canadians have observed Remembrance Day since Nov. 11, 1931, according to the Canadian War Museum, due to two Vancouver Island members of Parliament, Alan Webster Neill, Comox-Alberni, who on March 18, 1931 tabled the motion to observe Armistice Day on Nov. 11, and to Charles Herbert Dickie, Nanaimo, who moved an amendment to rename Armistice Day to Remembrance Day.

Hundreds of veterans and active members of Canada’s armed forces, merchant mariners, RCMP officers, cadets, firefighters and other supporting services will parade to Dallas Square Cenotaph, built in 1921 to commemorate Nanaimo’s First World War dead, which also bears the names of those killed in subsequent conflicts.

Royal Canadian Legion branches No. 10 and No. 256 take turns organizing the annual event, which requires months of planning and preparation. This year’s organizer Bill Brayshaw, from Branch 10, describes nailing down the details, from scheduling the order of laying of wreathes to finding a master of ceremonies as “mind boggling.”

Even the traditional howitzer gun salute can get snarled in government regulations.

“You can’t fire from where we used to fire, you know, across the road from the cenotaph,” Brayshaw said. “We cannot do that now. We have to have 100-metre clearance all around.”

This year’s howitzer salute will be fired from the W.E. Mills Landing pier at Cameron Island.

Dozens of people from various military, municipal and volunteer agencies are needed to make the event run smoothly.

“It’s an awful lot of work getting all these people coordinated,” Brayshaw said.

Local legion branches will host activities throughout the day for veterans, legion members and their guests.

Branch 10, at 129 Harewood Rd., opens its lounge immediately following the parade. Food will be served from noon to 6 p.m. with entertainment by Frank Hannah  3-7 p.m., followed by the band Big Daddy after 7 p.m.

Branch No. 256 hosts breakfast in the hall 7-8:30 a.m., followed by a Remembrance service in the hall 9-9:45 a.m.

Following the downtown cenotaph service, Branch 256 reopens from noon to 2 p.m., for beef on a bun, with music all day in the hall and lounge.

Dancing to tunes from the First and Second World Wars starts at 6 p.m. and from 7 p.m until closing, the branch hosts Club 256 Dance In the Hall.

“All events are free to veterans, legion members and guests,” said Corrine Stewart, Branch 256 secretary. “The whole community is absolutely more than welcome to participate in any of these events and the beef on a bun at noon is absolutely free for whoever is here – young and old.”

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 257 Lantzville’s parade forms up at 10:30 a.m. for an 11 a.m. service at the Huddlestone Park cenotaph.

Complimentary hot dogs and hot chocolate at Costin Hall or hot soup, coffee and tea at the legion hall starts at noon. An afternoon of live music starts with the Pacific Gael Pipes and Drums.

Roast beef dinner is served at 5 p.m., followed by a dance with the Double Play Band 6-7 p.m.

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