The True North Strong and Free

Mourning figure at Vimy RIdge.

Mourning figure at Vimy RIdge.
(P. Ferguson image, October 2009)

They did not waiver.
This was Canada at its best.
The Canadians at Vimy embodied the true north, strong and free.

Extract from Prince Charles’ speech, Vimy, April 9, 2017

Within these few lines some words from Canada’s national anthem, …the true north, strong and free. Words to ponder upon a ridge or to feel at home or wherever Canadians might be, some place in life or at rest in this world of ours.

This past Sunday saw thousands of visitors upon a ridge in France, gathered to remember a battle of 100 years ago. Much was mentioned, stories told and yet one story escaped our attention…those national words of our anthem and its Great War.

Robert Stanley Weir wrote the English lyrics to O’Canada in 1908 while sitting at his piano. Words of unity, a message that with the Great War it was said, “O Canada” was the patriotic song of choice among Canadians fighting in the trenches of Europe. Taking these words beyond the trenches to the men and women in uniform behind the lines, at home and abroad, instructing, training, recording – providing the administrative roles that kept the Canadian Expeditionary Force advancing let us remember them too. So too remember that casualties in war, soldiers in, and out of the line did not always die from bullets and shell bursts, gas or other human harm…but from infections and viruses, bacteria and other maladies.

Captain Douglas Weir served with the Canadian Army Service Corps and the Canadian Forestry Corps.

Captain Douglas Weir served with the Canadian Army Service Corps and the Canadian Forestry Corps.

One such soldier in uniform was Robert Stanley Weir’s son, Douglas, a biologist who in 1915 served our nation as an instructor in the uniform of the Canadian Army Service Corps.  On 10 May 1916 Douglas joined the CEF and once overseas was appointed as Chief Forester with the Canadian Forestry Corps serving in London, England and Scotland. It was while in Edinburgh that Douglas, on attachment to the Transport Service, became ill and one day after the Great War ended, Robert Weir and his wife Margaret lost their son 12 November 1918 to pneumonia following influenza.

Captain Douglas Weir was 34 years of age.

They did not waiver…..they lived…..felt dawn…..saw sunset glow. Loved and were loved…..wherever they may be…..our home and native land…..the true north strong and free.

Mourning figure at Vimy RIdge.

Mourning figure at Vimy RIdge.
(P. Ferguson image, October 2009)

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


One Response to “The True North Strong and Free”

  1. pferguson says:

    Images of Vimy Memorial mourning figures (P. Ferguson, 2009)

    Image of Captain Douglas Weir (Canadian Virtual War Memorial)

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