November 11th is upon us and this year, it has a special significance for me. I have always known about a great uncle who died in World War I, but last spring I truly discovered him for the first time.
His name was Matthew Craig and he came to Canada in 1911 at the age of 15. Four years later, he sailed to England with the Canadian 21st Battalion to fight in World War I. A month before the signing of the Armistice, he was killed, on a battle field in northern France. His war medals and effects were sent to his oldest brother, Bill Craig, in Sault Saint Marie. This tragic death broke the hearts of his siblings and family.
I never saw his photo before. I didn’t know he had come to Canada. In my mind, he joined the war from Ireland. I didn’t know he was buried in a war cemetery in France. Many years ago, with my two children and mother, we visited several war cemeteries in Normandy, France. Had I only known.
There is a war tribute in the honour of Matthew Craig which I also discovered on line. As I read it, I was deeply moved. It felt as if he had just died.
The question arises, why did he enlist to fight in a far away war? Twice he was wounded, once with shrapnel wounds and the second time he was gassed. For months he was deemed unfit to fight. Yet they patched him up each time and sent him off to the front again. Of the original 1013 men of his battalion, only 103 survived the war.
I do not believe that he sacrificed his life for his country. No, his young life was stolen from him as were the lives of millions of other men and women who were slaughtered in that dreadful war. Ninety-eight years have passed and there is still no peace.
Yes ninety-eight years have passed and this year, 2016 and every year after, I will hold him in my thoughts at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month.
His bio can be found at this link – Matthew Craig