My grandfather was a veteran of the The Great War.
The Great War is also known as Word War I. And, yes, you read that right and, no, it's not a typo. World War I, not II. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the The Great War was that it had to be renamed because of the bigger, more horrific war that broke out just 21 years later. Whatever the name, my grandfather was there.
I dwell on this point because it still amazes me that a 46 year-old guy living in the year 2010 has a grandfather who participated in a war that ended in 1918 ( some 92 years ago to the day, in fact).
I have, of course, long been familiar with my dad's WWII service in the Royal Canadian Air Force, my uncle who survived both Dieppe and D-Day and of another uncle who was not so fortunate and was killed circa 1943 during the Italian Campaign . However, I'd heard comparatively little about my maternal grandfather and his time in uniform during what was often naively referred to as "The War to End All Wars".
I never knew the man. He died when I was three. There is picture of me with him when I was a baby but I have no idea of its whereabouts now. Luckily, though, a lost of photo of my grandfather and his Canadian Expeditionary Force Discharge Certificate were both recently unearthed.
Take a look:
You now know about as much as I do.
Richard Edward Rist enlisted in Ottawa on April 13, 1915. He served in Canada, England and France with The Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was discharged in Hamilton Ontario on May 19, 1919. What happened in those four years no one really knows. My mom tells me he spoke very little about his time in the army.
The certificate tells us that Richard Rist served with The First Field Company of Canadian Engineers. A quick Google search reveals that there were some 14, 000 troops of the aforementioned company in Europe between 1914 and 1918. It also states that these particular Canadian engineers dug tunnels and laid mines during The Battle of Vimy Ridge. Vimy Ridge, of course, being one of Canadian military history's most significant and bloodiest battles. Who knows if he was actually there or not.
His rank and date of birth are both smudged out on this certificate and so lost to the ages. My guess is that he was about 35 when he signed up.
We do know one very important detail. Whatever the soldier named Richard Rist's experiences, whatever horrific things he may or may not have witnessed or lived through, he came back alive and in one piece.
Shortly after the war, my grandfather worked in some capacity as an iron worker in Toronto. We can see him with his co-workers in this photo. He was nice enough to be the only guy in the shot wearing a white fedora. That's him in the second row. Most likely, this photo was taken sometime in the early 20's, about three to five years before my mother was born. He would have been close to the same age I am today.
For those of you who may not know, my full name is Terence Richard Bowman. I was named for Richard Edward Rist, veteran of The Great War.
Many of the details may be missing but, nonetheless, we do still remember Richard Edward Rist and that he lived through what was one of the most brutal conflicts Canada has ever been involved with.
And isn't that the whole point of of a day like today?
- Terence Bowman
- Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- I am a Montreal-based actor, writer and comedian. When U.S. President John F. Kennedy was shot, I was three days old. I cried all day. My favourite books of all time are Moby Dick by Herman Melville, The Last Temptation by Nikos Kazantzakis and The Ewoks Fun Time Activity Book by Chirpa and Pamploo. I am a member of The Vestibules, On The Spot Improv and The Best Buy Battery Club. Except for the Battery Club, I've been at all this stuff for over 20 years. Enjoy my blog.