A letter written about the death of a brother in the First World War, a result of the battle at Vimy Ridge, will be a poignant tribute during the Remembrance Day service on Sunday, Nov. 11, at the Weyburn branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, known at the time as the Great War and the “war to end all wars”, and services all across Canada will be acknowledging this major historical milestone.
For the Weyburn service, Bengough resident Jerry Coubrough will be sharing a letter from one of his uncles, written during the First World War, and which was just found recently in a box of letters from his family.
The Remembrance Day ceremonies will begin with the parade up Third Street to the cenotaph at 10:45 a.m., followed by two minutes of silence and the laying of the wreaths. The War Mother, Susan Mailhiot, will lay the first wreath, followed by dignitaries, then local organizations, individuals and businesses.
The service will then move inside to the upper hall of the Legion, where the ceremonies will begin with the marching on of the Colour Guard, with the call to worship, an opening hymn and introduction of the War Mother.
There will be greetings from dignitaries, including MLA Dustin Duncan, Mayor Marcel Roy and a representative of MP Robert Kitchen, and the community choir, Variations, will perform a couple of songs, led by Colleen Weimer.
Rev. Tim MacKinnon of Calvary Baptist Church will give the address, and Coubrough will then share his uncle’s letter from the First World War.
The letter concerns two of his father’s brothers, Simon and John, who were very close and enlisted together in the Army at Weyburn, and went on to train and to serve overseas together.
The letter was written by John to his older brother back home in Canada about what happened to Simon the day he was shot at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
John marked his 23rd birthday while fighting at Vimy Ridge, and in the letter, he described finding his brother lying wounded, shot in the chest, in a foxhole. John carried him up out of the trench as he felt if he was able to get him help and shipped back to England, he would be all right — but he later found out by letter that Simon had died of his wounds.
John also died, closer to the end of the war on Aug. 8, 1918 at a battle in France.
Out of Jerry’s father’s family of nine boys and six girls, he had three uncles and his father all in the First World War, and of those, two came home. Up until this letter was found, he said there had always been a sort of mystery around the two brothers who died in war, but the letter made clearer what happened.
“I feel pretty sad about the letter. I feel like that part of my life was taken from me, as I never got to know my uncles,” said Coubrough, noting he feels this more around Remembrance Day.
“Another thing I wondered, is how do parents handle that when they had four kids in war, and you know somebody’s probably not going to come home?” said Jerry.
“The first time I read this letter, I cried,” he explained, noting how his uncle described the fighting and finding his beloved brother shot in the chest.
Coubrough said he wants to share this as a way to remember how his family was impacted by the war that ended a century ago, and noted in this part of Saskatchewan, there are bound to be family and friends of his family around to hear what happened to the two brothers. He will also be sharing this letter at the Remembrance Day service at the Weyburn Comprehensive School today, Nov. 7, where a niece is a student.
He is hoping the contents of the letter will bring home to people what happened on those battlefields a century ago, providing a reason why it’s still important that we stop and pay tribute today on Remembrance Day.
“If you touch one heart, then you’ve done something, I feel,” he said.