WEYBURN – The supreme cost to the members of the South Saskatchewan Regiment in the Dieppe Raid of 80 years ago was remembered by guest speaker Capt. Craig Bird, at Weyburn’s Remembrance Day service on Friday at the Weyburn Legion Hall.
The service, held entirely indoors this year, also featured remarks from Weyburn-Big Muddy MLA Dustin Duncan, Deputy Mayor Mel Van Betuw, and Yvonne Jones, representing MP Dr. Robert Kitchen, and the first wreath was laid by Silver Cross War Mother Ruth Schultz.
A veteran of the South Saskatchewan Regiment, Howard Schmidt, 99 years old, also laid a wreath, with assistance by Bird, who went on to give tribute to the price paid at Dieppe in 1942.
First, he noted this year also marks the 104th year since the end of the Great War, and the 77th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
“In 1942 the ill-fated Dieppe Raid took place. Most notable are the losses that Weyburn and Estevan, and the South Saskatchewan Regiment suffered during that attack on Green Beach. The SSR recruited out of the southeast and 523 men took part in that raid. The regiment lost 78 killed in action, and 89 were taken prisoner, to serve out the remainder of the war in German prison camps. Three later died of their wounds, and a further three died while prisoners of war. Of those that were lost, 12 were from Weyburn, nine from Estevan, and 25 from the southeast, so over half of the SSR losses were from this corner of the province,” said Bird.
He then read a poem, written by Cpl. Wilford Dunkley, who enlisted in Weyburn in October of 1939, and at the age of 32 took part in Dieppe. He survived the attack, but was wounded, and was able to make his recovery in England.
He went on to survive the war, and passed away at the age of 66 in 1974.
Altogether, Canada saw 1.1 million men and women serve in the Second World War, said Bird, with 42,000 giving their lives, and 55,000 were wounded, from a country with a population at the time of just over 11 million people.
“We have a colourful military history here in the southeast,” he said, and pointed out that there are banners of veterans hanging along Third Street and by the cenotaph.
“It’s important to set aside time on this day to recognize those who served, and the sacrifice they made in order to win the freedom that we now enjoy. The banners that are up are part of that commemoration of our veterans, and we should be remembering them. We will remember them,” he said.
Bird is part of the South East Military Museum in Estevan, and has been promoting the banners to cities and towns in the southeast as a way to remember veterans from the community.
Duncan also made reference to Dieppe, noting the losses suffered impacted many of the towns, villages and farms of the southeast, and they were “forever changed. From Weyburn to Estevan, Bienfait to Alida, Manor, Arcola, Kisbey, Stoughton, Griffin, Creelman, Kennedy, Montmartre, Wapella, Kendall, Grenfell, Broadview, Indian Head and Ogema, forever changed, and we are forever grateful.”
In her remarks, Jones noted, “We pay tribute to our veterans and every year in November we come together like this, poppy on our lapel, to show respect for those who sacrificed so much to safeguard our peace and security. It’s the duty of every Canadian to take a moment to remember.”
She noted that Canada as it exists today only does so because, from 1914 to 1918, thousands of Canadians enlisted, “knowing full well that in crossing the Atlantic may well mean never coming back”, and through six grueling years of the Second World War, many more answered the call to fight a regime “that so desperately wanted to rule by division and hate”.
Many more also went to fight in Korea, in the Middle East and in Afghanistan, and also went to keep the peace on many peacekeeper missions.
“To all the families of the fallen, to the veterans, and current members who are serving, please accept our profound gratitude for your sacrifice, lest we forget,” said Jones.
Deputy mayor Van Betuw said, “We remember the men and women who served our country in time of conflict. We must never forget their sacrifices, and we must always remember their dedication to our country. It’s our responsibility to honour and thank them. The City of Weyburn thanks the Royal Canadian Legion here in Weyburn for their service, and thanks past members and current members who are serving. We thank you.”