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The Victoria Cross Blues

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Victoria Cross, 1900
Orig. print in frame - Size - 41 x 51 cm
Found - Barrie, ON
A rare print of a VC action of the kind that won Canadian William Knisley a DCM, one notch down from a VC, for riding into a hail of Boer gunfire, to rescue a comrade whose horse had been shot down.

The Victoria Cross has always been a British Medal awarded for Individual Acts of Gallantry, for over 150 years. All 94 VCs won by Canadians, were always awarded to the recipient by the King or Queen of the British Empire when possible.

It has now been decided to manufacture the VC in Canada and to have it awarded in future by Mr. Harper or his proxy.

But for starters it was planned to have the Queen make the first award to a fine specimen of Canadian manhood - which is why Mr. Harper, after a quick look in the mirror, volunteered to be the recipient - but then, somewhat sheepishly, thought better of it, apparently, suggesting that perhaps Mr. Brian Mulroney and his business partner, Karl-Heinz Schreiber - in a "Hands Across the Border" gesture - might be a more honourable choice. A staff member apparently backed Lord Black, whom Pierre Berton erroneously referred to as Lord Diddley of Squat. But there was a worry that the Queen might have to make the presentation in jail. Barbara Amiel, or Lady Black, as she insists her chauffeur call her, apparently spoke up quite strongly suggesting that if Conrad were preoccupied elsewhere she would be glad to serve her country by accepting on his behalf.

In the end cooler heads prevailed and they opted for a less controversial recipient, in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

And the veterans are mad, hopping mad, almost all of them.

But then what do they know? The wars they fought in are long gone, most people alive today don't even remember them.

The veteran's group is angry that some bureaucrat PR guy dreamed up this idea of giving the new VC - always previously awarded to a very rare group of individuals for acts of uncommon heroism - to the Unknown Soldier. Wow! What a concept! What a neat idea! What a coup to have dreamed that one up!

The veterans are pretty united that it stinks and so it does for many other Canadians.

They say the Victoria Cross was mandated, from the beginning, by Queen Victoria, for Individual Acts of Bravery in the Face of the Enemy; it was not designed to honour, or to be given, to groups, or representatives of groups. This is a new use for the medal, and, say the veterans, wildly inappropriate. (This probably was anticipated and explains why the Government initiative was kept a secret, to be unveiled quickly, just before it was to be done, confronting any possible opposition, with a fait accompli. Then there was a leak...)

The veterans say the Unknown Soldier represents the ordinary service and sacrifice of the common man; not those who are officers, or Lords, or bemedaled notables, or for those committing outstanding feats of daring do.

Making the Unknown Soldier a VC winner, cheapens and breaks his link to the thousands of Canadian footsoldiers whose bodies were never found but now lie mouldering in the far flung fields of France and Belgium - indeed all corners of the world - where crops are grown over their remains.

The Tomb will now, instead, become a memorial to Canada's VC winners, turning it into an elitist memorial it was, not only not intended to become, but departing completely from its original intent, to honour the unsung, unknown, undistinguished, unbemedaled, common man, and NOT the VC holders.

The VC on his Tomb will set him apart from them.

The Unknown Soldier was supposed to represent one of tens of thousands, who may have died of disease, from gangrene after accidentally shooting himself in the foot, from a horse kick, from friendly fire, from suicide, or any number of other non-VC rewarded activities, but all war related deaths that claimed them while in the service of their country. While they were young, their lives unfulfilled.

Now, granting him a VC, honours only the heroic among the dead. The common death is brushed aside. Not what this Tomb was supposed to represent, at all.

Word is that next, of course, will come a suggestion, from the same idea man that:

"Wouldn't it be neat to take a DNA sample - that technology was not available when he was buried - so we can try to put a face on the body, and maybe honour his family posthumously by giving them a copy of the medal and welcome "closure."

"It'll be much more meaningful if visitors can see a picture of the previously Unknown, on a stand, and read how he got to become Canada's Unknown Soldier.

"We could jazz up the memorial even more by playing Amazing Grace, with the press of a button, you know the line "Was lost but now am found!" We can get Discovery to do the TV version. I have a friend whom we could arrange to get the sole source contract to do the program. And we could sell it in the coffee shop. We could call it "Lost and Found;" and have Gordon Pinsent in the lead role, disappearing in a shell burst in a crater, and emerging, at the end, as Tom Cruise! Or to keep in fashion with the times - as Margot Kidder!"

Hopefully the last of the veterans will soon die off, so they won't have to endure this further indignity on the Tomb; nobody cares to hear from them about the war they fought, and their feelings about how to appropriately memorialize 100,000 of their comrades who died horrific deaths in solitude.

In that solitude may they, too, at last, be free from the show business that war has become to those in Ottawa, who say, "Damn the veterans; we're doing this because it'll make a great show, and besides, the Americans have done the same thing. And if it's good enough for the Americans, then it better be good enough for Canadians. And if they don't like it, the veterans should just shut up and go away."

And in time, they will...

And as for the Tomb, none of it will really matter. It has already lost its solemn mystique by being reduced to a show business prop, and symbolizes how - like the scandal at Walter Reed Hospital in the US - veterans are useful when the powers-that-be want men to lay down their lives, for their political agendas, but could care less about them, or their opinions, if they are lucky - or unlucky - enough to survive to come home to neglect and marginalization.

That is just another way that Canada's political trend-setters are emulating the United States, and opting for an American, instead of a Canadian, standard...

A common heritage shared by returning US, and Canadian veterans, left, and below: a large (76 cm x 1 m) British cotton banner, featuring the Victoria Cross, which was hung from balconies, to welcome troops back from World War I, as they marched by below, and a US counterpart.

The Welcome Home, for both, was short-lived... A banner, a hand-shake, followed by a shrug...

Great Canadian Heritage Site
Site of Eddie Holland's VC Action, 1900
Orig. Canadian historic site
Found - Leliefontein, RSA
Showing the fine style that won him an international Gold Medal for On-camera Host, at the Houston International Film and Television Festival, Canadian historian and filmmaker, John Goldi, points to the spot, where Eddie Holland had his machine gun set up, and, in a celebrated Victoria Cross action, held off the Boers charging in from the background as the British Army and the rest of the Canadians retreated backwards up the slope to the left.

Since there were no signs, maps, or pamphlets - Canadian or other - to guide anyone here, let alone memorialize the event or its people, John Goldi had to use maps and books he brought from Canada, and talk to local experts to find this site. In fact, the first attempt to find it, using a Canadian guide he had hired - he purported to be a Boer War expert, but proved to know nothing of the people, places, and events of the conflict, owned no books on the subject, and turned out to know even less about its major sites, or even where they were! - ended in failure after a day of searching. Returning alone, weeks later, and with the help of local experts John Goldi found Eddie Holland's site above.

In 2000 he, and his wife, had spent two months, and driven 11,000 kms to search out all the Canadian Boer War historic sites in South Africa - the most extensive research ever done by anyone - all by using photos, books, and maps they had amassed for their four international Gold Medal winning series the Canadian Anglo-Boer War: the Canadian Experience. They found, to their amazement, that in over 100 years not a single official Canadian historic marker, of any kind, was to be found anywhere on these Canadian historic sites.

In 2003, John Goldi personally submitted a massive proposal to the office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, to the Historic Sites & Monuments Board of Canada, to Parks Canada, and to the Prime Minister's Office.

In a massive and detailed copyrighted proposal of documents and videos, he proposed using his unprecedented on site research, to mount an initiative to end A Century of Neglect, suggesting how it could be rectified, with a multilevel approach, to memorialize the people, places, and events of the Canadian Boer War experience, with a website, a museum and signage in South Africa.

We suggested our own internationally acclaimed Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum as the kind of web site; we suggested a property in Belmont, RSA - with an important Canadian tie-in, which we discovered - as a museum; we suggested important Canadian people and sites for signage.

As a result of further consideration of a small part of his proposal by Canadian Government historians, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, and Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Sheila Copps decided to set up the first Canadian Government historic markers in South Africa. St├ęphane Dion, the Minister in the succeeding Government - and now Liberal Party Leader - made it a reality.

They will become the first official Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada markers on the African Continent.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Welcome Buddy Banner, World War I, 1919
Orig. fringed cotton banner - Size - 86 cm x 100 cm
Found - Halifax, NS

Welcome Buddy was an affectionate term used to greet American doughboys as they paraded in triumph down the streets of New York on their return from the blood-letting in France in February, 1919.

Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996-1999-2005

Victorian/Edwardian Medals & Trophies - 3

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