WWI battlefield soil to blend with earth at District Cenotaph

MANITOULIN—Lieutenant (Navy) Denis Blake, the commanding officer of the Manitoulin Sea Cadets Corps made a poignantly symbolic presentation to the stewards of the Manitoulin District Cenotaph as part of the annual Declaration Day ceremonies on Sunday afternoon.

Lieutenant Blake had been asked to accompany the group of Manitoulin Secondary School students who visited Canada’s famous Vimy Ridge war memorial earlier this spring when the 95th anniversary of Canadian participation in the Battle of Vimy Ridge was celebrated.

On Sunday, Lieutenant Blake had explained this to the large and attentive Decoration Day audience and then called on the stewards of the Manitoulin District Cenotaph to join him on the dais.

He went on to explain that as part of the tour, he and the other Manitoulin members of the group had visited a number of First and Second World War battlefields.

One of these, he explained, contains a bunker in which Colonel John McRae worked as a surgeon during the First World War.

Colonel McRae, originally from Guelph, himself died on the battlefield during the 1914-1918 war, but not before he had penned the famous sonnet, “In Flanders’ Fields.”

Lieutenant Blake had dug up some battlefield soil from beside the bunker occupied by Colonel McRae nearly 100 years ago, which he presented to the stewards of the Manitoulin District Cenotaph “to be mixed with the soil of this place.”

Fittingly, World War II veteran Dennis Dockrell, of Little Current, had just previously recited Colonel McRae’s famous poem for the Decoration Day attendees and so sets the scene for Lieutenant Blake’s presentation.