Shawnigan Lake School joined the rest of Canada on November 11 to honour those who have served, those who continue to serve, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom in a sombre Remembrance Day ceremony with a special focus on members of the Shawnigan community who died in the Second World War.
Conflict is something unfamiliar to most Shawnigan students, but not all. A film produced by the School, Shawnigan Remembrance Day Reflection 2022: Shawnigan Stories, shared the harrowing experiences of some of our students from places like Ukraine and Afghanistan. Remembrance Day began with an opportunity for students to view that film in their Houses, after which they sang their House hymns and the national anthem before gathering in the Quad with the rest of the School.
The ceremony in the Quad began with the Shawnigan Voices choir performing “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae. Const. Mark Hall of the West Shore RCMP detachment led the colour party, consisting of students Grace D. (carrying the flag of Canada), Ivy S. (USA), Rehia C. (Royal Canadian Air Force), Jonty N. (UK), Drayson K. (Royal Canadian Navy), Ashley M. (Shawnigan Lake School), Onyx D. (BC), and Sean K. (Canadian Army).
Co-Heads of School Henri G. and Ingrid H. read out the names of the 45 Shawnigan alumni and staff who died in the Second World War, and as the chapel bell rang out 45 times, Grade 8 students placed a poppy on each of the small white crosses in the Quad, representing the fallen. A moment of silence was observed, bookended by “The Last Post” and “Reveille” played by Mr. Ralph Fraser on the trumpet. As the youngest member of the student body, Caleb H. had the honour of laying the first of five wreaths at the School cenotaph. Grade 11 student Josef J. led the School and visitors in O Canada to close out the ceremony.
The day wrapped up with a special Remembrance Day ice hockey game between Shawnigan’s U18 Prep team and St. George’s School at Charlie Purdey Arena. Shawnigan defenceman Gabriel K. read “In Flanders Fields” prior to the game, and a ceremonial faceoff preceded the game, won 3-0 by Shawnigan.
Remembrance Day was also discussed in a gathering in Chapel two days earlier. Head of School Mr. Larry Lamont told the story of Lt. William John McMullan, a Shawnigan groundskeeper who died in the disastrous Dieppe Raid in August 1942, and Mr. Tom Lupton talked about Lt. William S. Ferguson ’28 (Old School), who died in Normandy, two days after arriving on Juno Beach during D-Day operations in June 1944.
An officer with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Lt. Ferguson was captured by the Waffen-SS, and negotiated and pleaded with his captors for the release of his soldiers — many of them not much older than Shawnigan’s students — before they were executed by the Nazis in clear violation of the Geneva Convention.
“We’ll never fully know his motivation for going to war, and for leading his troops into the firestorm of the Second World War,” Mr. Lupton said of Lt. Ferguson. “But I rather think that it’s because he knew that to stand for something means you often have to stand up to someone. He laid down his life for his friends, his country, and for generations to come, in defiance of the authoritarian, fascist and racist regime of Adolf Hitler.”
Mr. Lupton recalled how, on a tour of Europe with Shawnigan students years ago, he sought out Lt. Ferguson’s grave. The phrase Lt. Ferguson had chosen for his grave when he enlisted was, in fact, the motto of his alma mater: Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat.
"Remembrance is not just about thinking about what other people have done,” Mr. Lupton said. “It’s also about reflecting on why they did those things, and why it matters today. It’s about considering the lives that we live, and how we can make changes right now, today, to make tomorrow better for people we’ve never met, and probably never will meet. The world becomes a great place when people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit."
Also in the gathering on November 9, Grade 9 student Mersaya H. read a poem she wrote that day, reflecting on the importance of Remembrance Day.
That’s all they wanted
That’s all they needed
Four years of pain and conflict all came to an end
The fighting, the bravery, they did it for us
During autumn days, November 11 comes to remember the ones who fought for our country and for their loved ones
The time comes to pay our respects on the 11th month, 11th day, 11th hour
We will never forget
The red poppies we wear, red as red can be, to show we care for the ones that fought for me
These rustling leaves blowing through the trees
The wind takes off in the field of dreams
The poppies grow for us to know, the ones we remember will always show