What’s a Reinovorerous?
by Gwynne Hunt
Remembrance Day brings many memories to mind—it was an event that ranked high around our house when I was a kid. My dad had been in the Royal Canadian Air force and every November 11 we stood parade-side and watched him proudly march down the a street.
Years later we came to understand that dad had been dishonorably discharged from the RCAF; so it was hard to reconcile the pride with the fall from grace. There was nothing dishonorable about dad—a little shady perhaps but no dishonor. He explained to me that he had brought women to a party as instructed by his commanding officer and he took the fall for the Lieutenant. It could have been true, hard to tell with dad, he told good stories.
Dishonorably discharged or not, he marched year after year before retiring to the Legion to bend elbows with his comrades. I was proud of him and have never forgotten his lessons or orders to honor and obey. I was instructed to stand up when God Save the Queen was played. To this day I hear the first few bars and spring to my feet knocking drinks and snacks off the tea tray with my robe.
We always got the day off school, made poppies to wear and stuck in my head forever are the words to In Flander’s Field. My grandson asked me not long ago why Ed Flanders from the Simpson’s had a field where poppies grow, between the crosses row on row?
“That mark their places and in the sky, a lark still bravely singing flies . . .”, I carried on with tears gathering in the corners of my eyes.
I cried at every Remembrance Day Ceremony I attended; not for the soldiers, not back then. Back then I cried because I knew war was sad and hopeless. Later, I rebelled against glorifying war and refused to wear my poppy or go to the cenotaph. I thought honoring the dead perpetuated some idea that war was good. I grew up and have been a proud poppy wearer every since. I can’t put a poppy in my lapel without seeing my dad salute me as he marched down the street. I try to get the image of him possibly being a pimp out of my mind.
Armistice day, Remembrance Day – also known as Poppy Day, or Veteren’s Day is a Commonwealth holiday to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War. It is observed on 11 November to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918 (major hostilities of World War I were formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice). Is that why I wake up at 11:11 all the time? Freaky coincidence if you ask me. Another freaky coincidence. is that my girlfriend’s house burned down at 11 after 11 AM on November 11th a few years back.
Remembrance Day was specifically dedicated by King George V, on 7 November 1919, to the observance of members of the armed forces who were killed during war. My dad was born in 1907 so as a 12 year old boy, it must have made an impact on him in England. He was a monarchist who loved his country and before he became a dishonorable person after the Second World War, he was a pigeon keeper during the First World War and received a citation. But as he was only age 11 when the war was over I have to wonder if that was another of dad’s stories. I’ve seen the letter thanking him for keeping the carrier pigeons so perhaps he was a young warrior up on his roof helping to fight for the cause in short britches.
My dad passed away when I was in my early twenties and I forgot about poppies, and going to the cenotaph and remembering anything then in the late 1970s I went to visit my sister in Chetwynd. We decided to honor dad and refresh those feelings of pride in our country we would make Remembrance Day a day to remember-sisters forever kind of thing.
We went to the cenotaph and observed the silence, crying, wearing our poppies and remembering our poppy. We went to the Legion after following in dad’s footsteps we bent our elbows for a bit, stood when we hear God Save the Queen and spent a solid day being sisters united in our beliefs and our memories.
We got home late and she went to bed. Having had a pint or two my brain was a little fuzzy and I started to replay the day’s events, started reciting ‘scarce heard amid the guns below, we are the dead . . .”. I started singing the songs from the ceremony and later the rowdy ones from the bar like Good Night Irene. I lay in the quiet living room on her lumpy couch listening to the clock ticking-the clock struck 11 and I peered through the darkness and watched the hands slowly move to 11:11. I felt a shiver and heard the words from God Save the Queen rattling through my brain, “long to reinoverous, God save the queen”.
I tried to puzzle it out-sang the words slower and faster, deciphering every phrase but every time I got stuck on that line. Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore, I knew there would be no sleep. I had to find the answer so I could drift in a healing sleep. It had been a big day. We stood in the rain during the ceremony, we had lunch at the Legion, drank a few pints, we had gone back to the cenotaph several times throughout the day—I was drawn to the place. I felt like I was going to solve one of life’s mysteries—maybe understand my complicated dad. Just before we had tumbled into our beds we had walked back to the cenotaph and under the cold and quiet moonlight we had marched around saluting each other and singing God Save the Queen in honour of our dad who was so dishonourably discharged. It was a somewhat poignant, if not drunk event. But I had bigger questions on my mind at 11:11 PM.
I called out to the snoring sister, “Hey, sis, what the heck is a reinoverous?”