The end of an era nears
On Sunday I attended for the 63rd time the Remembrance Day service which is in celebration of the end of WWII. The first of such celebrations were held in New Providence, with church services at St. Francis and Christ Church Cathedrals, and the laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph in remembrance of the fallen of the Army and Royal Air Force, and the casting of a wreath into the sea at Prince George wharf in remembrance of those that went down to the sea in ships, in November of 1948. In those days the laying of wreaths were limited to the royal governor, the chairman of the British Legion, the representative of the Royal Air force, the representative of the Royal Navy and relatives of those that had made the supreme sacrifice.
After the establishment of a final resting place for the survivors of WWI and WWII a ceremony was held at the Veterans Cemetery on Infant View Road and the R.A.F. Cemetery on Farrington Road prior to the church services. Over the years, time and the Grim Reaper, began to take a toll on the members of this once grand organization (the Royal British Legion). It goes without saying that after demobilization they, as far as governments were concerned, were a forgotten lot. Their numbers over the years were decimated by disease and death. Many died in poverty forgotten and abandoned. A high level mover and shaker, who is still today surviving, in the Pindling Administration when told of the plight of some of these brave Bahamian patriots said: “They fought for Britain, not The Bahamas.” I would like to remind this once powerful individual, who was in a position to help our veterans, that they volunteered to fight for freedom and to defend democracy, not for Great Britain.
I used to attend services at St. Francis up to two years ago when our numbers dwindled to one, me. Remembering the old saying that there is safety in numbers, I moved to Christ Church Cathedral, but to my dismay there were only two there. Today we had a grand total of six, one of whom was in a wheel chair. I was very happy to see him as I had not seen him in decades. There were three of us who joined the army in 1942 and early 1943 as teenagers: Ambrose (Cabbage) Hanna and Maceo (Boy Coakley) in 1942, both under 17 years of age (November), and yours truly in February 1943, under 16 years of age.
All of the WWI veterans have crossed the great divide and gone on to their just rewards,and I can say without fear of contradiction that there are less than 40 of us, WWII veterans, still kicking up dust on this archipelago called The Bahamas – most of them in pretty bad shape. It will bode well with the powers that be to extend a helping hand to those of us who are in dire need. The Good Book admonishes us to look after our own and if any is left then tend to the strangers within our gates. Do not allow those of us who are left to depart these shores, a forgotten lot, like those that have gone on before us.
Every Remembrance Day we as a nation adorn ourselves in our finest to attend the church of our choice to pay homage to those who volunteered to fight and die, not for Great Britain, as the PLP politician once said, but in defense of democracy and for the freedom of all mankind. In the words of the soldiers ode: “They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. Yet at the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them.” We only remember them once a year. Let us remember those who are left more often and show our appreciation for the service they rendered. In the not too distant future we, like those of WWI, will be history and the end of an era.
Errington W. I. Watkins