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by Pat Turcotte
It is now just over four weeks since the National Convention in Ottawa reached its conclusion. We are still receiving congratulations from the many people across the country who felt that the event was a great success. We thank all of you for your kind words.
On the Saturday night, as part of the festivities surrounding the banquet and dance, we had a series of Cash Draws. Some of those present were winners, but others had to be notified by mail as they weren’t in attendance that night. It has taken quite awhile to contact each person, but we finally have the complete list of winners whose names were drawn. All of the money has now been distributed, and the names of the recipients are listed below. We hope they enjoy their good fortune!
Our appreciation to all those who were able to attend the Convention. Some of you came long distances to be with us. We know there were many who very much wanted to be there, but could not attend. You were in our thoughts, and we hope that you can join us for the next Convention in 2007. The Ottawa Committee and the Ontario Executive feel sure that the memories of this year’s event will prompt our members even more strongly to set aside the next opportunity to be a part of the Hong Kong family.
Ontario Region, HKVCA
Bonnie Boudreau Fredericton, NB $300.00
Anne Labar Beaconsfield, QC $200.00
Lillian Osborn London, ON $100.00
Arnold Ross New Richmond, QC $100.00
Margaret Ford St. John’s NL $100.00
Bryce Craig Callander, ON $100.00
Grant Wood Mississauga, ON $100.00
Muriel McDavid Thornhill, ON $100.00
Find out more! Check out the special pages at the Veterans Affairs Canada site including the Victory in the Far East Blog.
What a weekend it was!! From the Hospitality Room conversations starting Thursday night to the closing breakfast chats on Monday morning, the Lord Elgin Hotel in Ottawa was an exciting place to be.
The activities began in earnest on Friday morning. Even if you hadn’t signed up to see the Changing of the Guard, or the tours on Parliament Hill, the Governor General’s Foot Guard Band passed the hotel that morning, and every morning, so that the guests were able to enjoy the marching and the music as they went by. What a colourful way to start the day!
Friday afternoon involved four different sessions. The first was the HKVA luncheon for the Veterans, so the veterans were able to get together at the very start of the weekend. The second was the Board of Directors’ meeting, held in the Penthouse Suite – a most relaxing atmosphere.
The third session was a very stimulating talk by Nancy Hamer–Strahl, explaining the trip that she and over 200 students and their teachers will take to Hong Kong in December to honour the soldiers who fought at Hong Kong. They will be involved in ceremonies there in the first week of December, one of which will be the burying of a memorial capsule just outside Sai Wan Cemetery containing works created by the students who, as part of their course work, have researched a Hong Kong veteran and have reacted to his story with poetry, songs put on CDs, stories, videos and art work of various kinds. All their thoughts and ideas have been transformed as a permanent memorial near the spot where many of the Canadian soldiers are buried.
The fourth and final session of the afternoon was an inspiring lecture by Vince Lopata, giving those present a very clear picture of the Interpretative Centre which the Organizing Committee based in Manitoba has projected as the home for all the information out there that could relate to the soldiers who fought in Hong Kong. The plans are quite exciting and the presentation is very well-organized. Those who were able to see it were very impressed. There is much to look forward to in the future.
On Friday evening, everyone boarded buses to the National War Museum for the official presentation of a plaque honouring the soldiers who fought in Hong Kong. The plaque will have a prominent place in Ottawa to help ensure that the Battle of Hong Kong and those who fought there are well-remembered by Canadians. We were well-represented by Phil Doddridge, National President of HKVA and Carol Hadley, National President of HKVCA, speaking on behalf of all of us.
Saturday morning the Annual General Meeting of the Association (HKVCA) was held in the Pearson Room at the hotel. With the Remembrance Protocol as a preamble to the meeting, the reading of the Honour Roll, the skirling of the bagpipes, and the trumpeter’s “Last Post”and “Reveille” reminded everyone present why we had gathered there. The meeting itself gave members of both associations, HKVA and HKVCA, an opportunity to welcome the attendees and to bring them up to date regarding ongoing activities.
Special meetings were held in the afternoon, with Ron McGuire giving a slide presentation involving “C” Force, and the Treasurers from all six Regions getting together with our National Treasurer, Barry Mitchell, to compare notes and discuss the challenges facing an organization as large as HKVCA.
Saturday evening was an opportunity to recognize all the veterans present at the Convention with a special gift provided by the Ontario Region. There were 71 Hong Kong veterans present, as well as 64 other veterans of the fighting in the Far East, including Burma Star, Burma Bombers, merchant seamen and sailors from the H.M.S. Uganda. All were honoured, and all seemed very moved by the occasion. The gift each man received was a clock with a special plate on it naming the veteran, and his unit, and in the case of the Hong Kong veterans, the Hong Kong insignia was there .Our guest speaker, following the dinner, was Cliff Chadderton who is Patron to both organizations, HKVA and HKVCA. He has been active on behalf of the Hong Kong veterans for many years. John Spearn then provided musical entertainment, and introduced the song he had written especially for the Hong Kong veterans called “Christmas in Hong Kong, 1941”. Lively music by “Assembly Required” had many up dancing, and a Cash Draw was held at various points during the evening. The list of winners will be posted on the Website when all those who won prizes have been reached.
The most important occasion of the weekend took place on Sunday morning at 11 a.m at the National War Memorial Cenotaph. Governor General Adrienne Clarkson spoke, many wreaths were laid and prayers were offered. The soldiers who fought in Hong Kong and other areas of the Far East were honoured, as were those died in the prison camps of Hong Kong and Japan. There was a touching moment when a group of children offered large poppies to each of the veterans attending. The flypast and the parade which followed was the finale, with the veterans themselves taking the salute.
Following the Memorial service, the families and friends of the veterans were invited to a luncheon in the Convention Centre at which the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Albina Guarnieri socialized with those attending. The veterans themselves, their wives, the caregivers and the widows were then bussed to Rideau Hall for a reception with the Governor General, at which she spoke most movingly about her special connection with the Hong Kong veterans. After a motorcade through the city in 10 articulated buses, with police escort, the veterans were ready for the evening’s Gala at the Crown Plaza Hotel.
Before dinner, Minister of Veterans Affairs Guarnieri spoke to the group about her focus for the present and for the future in Veterans Affairs. The meal was followed by Terry Kelly’s entertaining video, which he combined with a live presentation that many in the audience found very special. The Gerry Helke Orchestra provided great music for dancing, and the evening concluded in a lively fashion, with many of the veterans “strutting their stuff”.
As everyone prepared to leave the next morning, there was no doubt that the Convention had been a great success, and may were heard discussing meeting again in 2007.
On behalf of the Ontario Region, may I thank all of those on the Ottawa Committee, in particular Derrill Henderson as its Chair, all those working with Terry Tobin in Veterans Affairs, such an important part of the celebration, and all of the many volunteers who helped look after our 719 registrants so well.
Cheers! See you in 2007!
HKVCA, Ontario Region