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Sunday, April 13, 2008

How Britain and Canada treats its heroes...

They serve the same Queen, fight the same foe and lay down their lives with equal valour and sacrifice.

But when the fallen heroes of Canada and Britain come home, the welcome is very different.

At airbases in both countries there is only sombre respect.

But today The Mail on Sunday publishes extraordinary pictures that contrast the final road journeys: in Canada, there is a police escort and crowds line the route; in Britain, the hearses are denied outriders and go unremarked.

Shameful: In Canada, (above), roads are cleared and police stand to attention to welcome home fallen heroes. In Britain, (below) hearses carrying our war dead routinely get stuck in traffic without even so much as a police escort

Coffins carrying the Canadian soldiers' bodies are driven 107 miles from the airbase at Trenton, Ontario, to a coroner's office in Toronto; in Britain the trip is 50 miles from RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire, to the morgue at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital.

In Canada the road is cleared and a police escort of several squad cars ensures a smooth passage as onlookers pay tribute and police and fire officers salute.

But in Britain most of the journey is spent ignored and stuck in traffic – because Thames Valley Police refuse to provide an escort as they "focus on community safety rather than ceremonial roles".

Last night MP Quentin Davies, who is heading a Ministry of Defence study into strengthening public support for Britain's Armed Forces, labelled the failure to provide an escort for our war dead "despicable".

Other Service personnel and police from other Forces concur.

The intensely moving pictures of the Canadian repatriation are being emailed among British soldiers and have been posted on the internet.

Canada currently has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and has so far lost 82. Britain has lost 91 from a total of 7,800.

The series of pictures includes emotional scenes last year when six Canadian soldiers were flown home.

Captain Jefferson Francis, 36, Captain Matthew Dawe, 27, Master Cpl Colin Bason, 28, Corporal Cole Bartsch, 23, Corporal Jordan Anderson, 25, and Private Lane Watkins, 20, were killed together in their armoured vehicle by a massive roadside bomb near Kandahar.

Along the entire route, on 50 motorway bridges, at roadsides, intersections, on the sides of roads, in fields and even on the central barrier of the busy motorway, local people, firefighters and police stood to attention, Royal Canadian Legionnaires lowered flags and whole families proudly waved "We support our troops" placards.

The spectacle was so striking that the highway, part of which was known as the Queen Elizabeth Way, has now been renamed the Highway of Heroes.

Since then, every body travelling along the Highway of Heroes has been greeted by hundreds of ordinary Canadians who often wait for hours in the bitter Ontario winter to show their respect and support.

Lieutenant Colonel Jim Legere, Provost Marshal for the 1st Canadian Air Division Headquarters, wrote of one such journey in a letter to a Toronto newspaper.

He said: "Although words cannot possibly do justice to this heart-wrenching experience, I thought it important for you to be aware of the overwhelming – and I mean overwhelming – support provided by law enforcement, fire services, ambulance services and, indeed, the public at large, for this very solemn occasion.

"I could not believe my eyes as we made the solemn journey from Trenton to the coroner's office in Toronto.

"Every on-ramp had a police vehicle blocking traffic, with members standing by the vehicles saluting.

"Entire police detachments stood along the route, saluting in front of their vehicles.

"Fire halls had their trucks out, with their members in full dress uniform out front paying respects to our comrades.

"People stopped their cars along the side of the road, got out and saluted or held their hands over their hearts.

"As we neared downtown, the streets were lined with crowds waving Canadian flags and paying their respects.

"The outpouring of support for our fallen heroes and their families was beyond belief."

Lt Col Legere's letter concluded: "Never before have I been as proud to wear this uniform."

More at the Daily Mail...


Anonymous said...

One thing is for sure.... Canadians really support their troops even though they don't always support the mission (If they even know what the mission is.) This is good. The Brits deserve better.