Brethren, soon Remembrance Day will be here again to honour the men and woman who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Much has been written and talked about, but I would like to talk tonight about what Remembrance Day means to me on a more personal level.
I would like you to take a moment and go back in time with me to the winter of 1943.Looking into a small Presbyterian church; a young couple is standing in front of a tiny congregation. On this bitter cold day in 1943 they are christening their four week old son. Not only is the child the most important person in their lives between them, but so is the looming idea that the three of them might not be together again after this special day. For at this time, the world was torn apart by the viciousness and uncertainties of War2. At this time in history the world was fighting to free the world of Hitler, the Nazi’s and Mussolini’s oppressive regimes.
I would like to talk to you about the extreme sacrifices that men and woman in Canada paid to preserve our freedom and our democracy in WW2. I am sure that the brethren sitting here have similar stories, but I am here tonight to tell you about my uncle Major Forbes Bell Fisher who was also a mason and a brother who was a member of Tavistock lodge #609 which I might add was still part of South Huron District back then. After the christening of his son, my uncle unfortunately never did get to see his family again. He died in action, fighting for what every solider in WW2 hoped to achieve. Our freedom.
After the news of war had been circulating for quite some time, Forbes Fisher joined the army and became part of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment in September of 1940. While in Canada he was stationed in a couple locations across the country. He started out in Niagara on the lake, was transferred to Nanaimo BC and then eventually landed at his last stop in Canada which was St. Johns Newfoundland. He managed to get a three day leave while serving on the east coast to come home and visit his family one last time before heading overseas. In the summer of 1944 he took one last glance of the maritime shores of Canada and boarded a troop ship headed for England. While there, in the south of England, their camp was hit by a V-1 flying bomb or also known to most as a “Buzz Bomb. He lost seven solders of “B”company that day as well as being wounded himself. He didn’t have much time to recuperate. On July 25th, 1944 their regiment left England and landed in France. Their unit moved south from the coast through the Ruins of Caen to the village of Bourgebus in the campaign referred to the battle of the” Falaise Gap “. It was the setting for some of the fiercest fighting of World War 2. My Uncle, an officer commanding B company, led the attack on the German position at Tilly-la- Campagne at around midnight on August 1st, 1944. There they met heavy machine gun and mortar fire. I might add that the Regiment were new to warfare and were up against battle harden German troops. He died soon after in a German field hospital from machine gun bullet wounds. He had only been in France for seven days.
Before he met his last hours in the field hospital, a young private saw that he was fatally wounded and stayed with him so he wouldn’t be alone facing death in those dark hours of the night. But Forbes didn’t want this private to meet the same end as him and persisted that he pursue on and return to “B” company. This private disobeyed his orders and stayed with brother Fisher through the long dark hours of the night, letting his act of kindness wash over him as he made his exit out of this world. Brethren, imagine the thoughts that were rushing through both their minds in this particular state. Forbes, who was dying, I’m sure thinking about never being able to return home again and see his family, his wife and young son, and the young private thinking about the uncertain future that lay in front of him. This private was eventually captured along with Major Fisher in the early morning hours and became a P.O.W for the rest of the war. When the war was over he paid a visited too my Aunt, he told her he was with Forbes in the last hours of his life. His accounts of that night were such a comforted for my aunt to know that her husband was not alone in his time of need and closing hours of his life. Brethren, the solders that died paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, democracy and our masonic way of life. Their courage to fight these ruthless aggressors has resonated throughout modern history.
Brethren, the mosaic pavement reminds us of the uncertainty of all things here below. Today we may tread on the flowery meads of prosperity. Tomorrow we may totter on the uneven paths of weakness, temptation and adversity. The white and black tiles represent good versus evil. The free world against the axis of power. The men and woman who fought in the two great wars met many misfortunes and difficulties. They paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom with their lives. Brethren wear a poppy in remembrance for those that gave us our political freedom, and our democratic way of life. So, when you are at the cenotaph on September 11th remember Brother Forbes Fisher, the young private, the men and woman who helped repair the uneven paths of war, and paved our future for many years to come. Brethren remember.
Sincerely and Fraternally
James “Sandy” McTavish,
DDGM, South Huron District