Wednesday, November 11, 2009



Americans call this holiday Veterans' Day. I think of it as Armistice Day.

At 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Armistice was signed, signaling an end to World War I afer four long, bloody years.

Of course, it wasn't called that back then. It was known as the Great War, the largest war the world had ever seen. It was thought of as the war to end all wars. Sadly, as we well know, it wasn't.

Today, I honor my three great uncles who died during or because of the Great War. Though in desperate circumstances, Archie, Jack and William were positive they would beat the savage Huns. William never even lived long enough to learn that isolationist America finally came to the Allies' aid and joined the fray. Jack died a mere 6 days after the U.S. entered the war. None of them knew that defeated, humbled Germany would bitterly and vindictively rise again, just a couple of decades later, and start a firestorm that would engulf the entire globe in another world war.

Throughout the centuries, people have saluted their soldiers, and today I salute ours, living and dead, including the newest - the American, British and other allied soldiers of the Iraq and Afghan Wars, heroes every one. They include my Uncles Donny and Scotty, two members of the Greatest Generation who fought in WWII, and my husband Dan, who served as a Navy corpsman (medic) attached to the Marines in Vietnam.

But I carry a special place in my heart for three brothers from Golspie, a small town in far northeastern Scotland.

Archibald (Archie) Munro

Archie Munro did not let immigration to Canada, having a wife and children, or being too old stop him from enlisting in the Canadian Army. He lied about his age, joined up, and was among the first Canadian soldiers to be shipped to Europe.

He was gassed at Ypres, France, and taken prisoner in April 1915. So close to death that he was mistaken for dead, he was thrown on a heap of corpses awaiting burial detail. Fortunately, he was saved at the last moment. Archie later returned to Canada and lectured about his experiences as a POW. However, he died in 1921 - a mere three years after the war ended, never having fully regained his health.
William (Willie) Munro

William and Jack entered the British Army as members of Scottish regiments - Jack joined the King's Own Scottish Borderers and William joined the Seaforth Highlanders. Praised as a famous footballer (soccer player), a journalist, and a fine young man, William was well-respected in his home grounds of Sutherland and Caithness Counties in the Scottish Highlands.

William Munro of the Seaforth Highlanders

Attaining the rank of sergeant, William was much loved by his men. After he enlisted and was posted to France, he filed reports from the front to his former newspaper. That same newspaper, when reporting his death, said those stories were some of the best writing it had ever published. Willie was the first Munro son to die. All of Golspie mourned when he was killed on Nov. 13, 1916.

Beaumont Hamel, France, Nov. 1916
The hellhole where William died

Archie and William were heroic soldiers. Jack was all of that, and something else as well: a publicly-recognized, much-lauded and highly-decorated hero. 

Jack, seated

Written on the back of this postcard: "Just a P.C. in haste. Hope you are all well. Saw Archie's name in Scotsman yesterday 2-6. Our 3rd Batt. have gone from Portland (England), off to Edinboro Kings Park. Love to you all in haste. Jack."

The brief note "Saw Archie's name in Scotsman" would have been in reference to the listing of Archie as Missing in Action. Jack had to have surmised that family members back home would know what this meant.

RSM John Alexander (Jack) Munro

Jack was a true soldier's soldier and became the youngest Regimental Sergeant Major in the British Army at the time. He participated in such well known conflicts as the famous Mons Retreat, the Battle of the Marne, the fierce fighting around Ypres and the Offensive on the Somme. He was wounded but survived four times, his injuries usually occurring while he was rescuing another soldier.

After his last hospital release, he became a British Army instructor and could have remained in the rear until war's end. However, he felt he could not abandon his men. He returned to the French front and was later mortally wounded by a shell. His last act in life was to yet again rescue a fallen comrade. He died on April 12, 1917.  Jack and William's widowed mother, Hughina, had lost two sons within just five months, and Golspie again wept over the loss of another gallant Munro soldier.

An embroidered linen postcard of the
KOSB, mailed home by Jack

Jack's medals. He was posthumously
awarded the Military Cross (far right)

Who among us actually has the courage to die for our country? I surely don't. I salute those who have, and still do, every day.

This image is a montage that includes photos of Jack and William, the World War I Memorial at Golspie, Scotland, and Golspie itself, along with part of a famous poem. It was created by an e-card company with the guidance of my second cousin Shirley Sutherland, who lives in Golspie. Shirley, our family historian, has traveled to France to visit and document William's and Jack's gravesites. Though I could not accompany her, I took the journey with her in spirit.


"The Ode of Remembrance" taken from
"For The Fallen" by Laurence Binyon

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them."


Leanne said...

a moving post Julie x x x

Rowan said...

Lovely post Julie as we all remember those who died in wars both past and present.

Sid Brechin said...

Here ( Canada ) we call it Remembrance Day.

For my Great Grandfather it was the best birthday gift he could have got. He had be serving since before the war. Shortly before the war broke out he had been the youngest Sgt in the Black Watch. His older brother had been killed in South Africa during the boer war.

On the news I noticed this is the first Nov 11 that there are no surviving WWI veterans in the UK.

I recall it wasn't that many years ago that Canada lost the last of the Boer war vets. We lost our last VC winner about 2 years ago.

All in all I'm glad I choose to serve. I became the first commissioned officer in the family. ( Shorty after my father was commissioned. Odd having your Dad calling you Sir. )

It may sound like an oxymoron but no one hates War more than the soldier.

Colleen - the AmAzINg Mrs. B said...

Julie, that was have done them they have for all of us :-)

Autumn Leaves said...

I so enjoyed reading your words, Julie. I have to say those Munro boys were quite a handsome lot (especially that yummy Archie!). I so wish I had such stories and history of my own family. Sadly, there is no one left to tell them. I have only dim memories.

gma said...

I remember....Hope all of our vets felt the love on their special day.

Thomas Wold said...

Beautiful memorial to some extraordinary men. TW

Shopgirl said...

I wish that I had brought out the pictures of our family that have been in war. We have a long list of wonderful men who put their life on the line for us.
Arney was in the Air-Force.
This was as always a beautiful post, we have so much to be thankful for...We will never forget.
Love, Mary

Acornmoon said...

It is hard to imagine what it is like to serve and die for your country. Equally, it must be as hard to sit at home and wait. Your post was a lovely, moving tribute.

Lynda said...

This is a beautiful post, Julie. It's wonderful that you know so much about your ancestors.

Joyce said...

Fascinating! I always love hearing your family should be very proud of those wonderful Uncles who were so brave and willing to forsake their own lives for another.
Thanks as always for enriching my day!!
Be blessed, Joyce

Sharon said...

I have faithfully attended Remembrance Day ceremonies (as it is called in Canada) in my small town since I was a child. The weather always seems to be cold and rainy or snow which helps to remind me of the misery the men went through in the trenches. We don't have many World War II vets left; however, there were some young men who had been on tour of duty in Afghanistan, and one private who laid a wreath in memory of his friend who was killed over there.
Your post was very moving. It's an incredible gift to write about the history of your brave family so that we feel we know them personally.