AGIRA, SICILY, ITALY: This long abandoned building is near Agira, Sicily. It’s now home to a sizeable pigeon population that calls the old building home. The building is not far from the Agira Canadian cemetery which is the only exclusively Canadian cemetery in Italy from the Second World War. Elsewhere in the country, Canadian war dead were often buried with other Commonwealth soldiers. Agira is the final resting place for all 490 Canadians killed during the Sicily campaign.
Operation Husky was the code name for the invasion of Sicily. On July 10, 1943,160,000 British, Canadian, and American troops landed in southern Sicily in advance of future Allied landings on mainland Italy. The terrain in southern and central Sicily is very hilly and was mostly barren in 1943. The German defenders put up great resistance and the Canadians had it tough in their advance toward Agira. Still, today, one can see the locations of the German defences and the route Canadian troops took in their attack on the town.
After the taking of Agira, most of the Canadian troops were merged with the British for the final advance toward Messina on the northern tip of Sicily. Sicily finally fell on August 17th, 1943, just five weeks after the landings. Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, ISO 250, f/20, 1/40 sec. 56mm on Nikon 18-200 lens, photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
THIEPVAL MEMORIAL GRAVESTONES: The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Battle of the Somme bears the names of more than 72,000 men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme and have no known grave. Over 90% of those named on the memorial died between July and November 1916. Standing in front of the giant Thiepval Memorial is an Anglo-French tribute that consists of 300 British Commonwealth and 300 French graves. The British Commonwealth graves are marked with rectangular headstones in white stone. On the British headstones is the inscription “A Soldier of the Great War / Known unto God.” The French graves have grey stone crosses. The French crosses bear the single word “Inconnu” (‘unknown’). The cemetery’s Cross of Sacrifice bears the following inscription: “That the world may remember the common sacrifice of two and a half million dead, here have been laid side by side Soldiers of France and of the British Empire in eternal comradeship.”
Shot handheld with a Nikon D40X, Nikkor 18-2oo lens at f14, 1/250 sec., ISO 1600. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
STE. MARIE DUMONT, WWII RE-ENACTORS: WWII re-enactors descend on Normandy in France each June. Community festivals are held. Battles on beaches are re-enacted. All kinds of military equipment is on display and on the roads. It’s been said that on these weekends, there are more jeeps in Normandy than during the D-Day landings. Swap meets are terrific places to see the re-enactors in their full gear. Most are French citizens, but many come over from England. I have even seen re-enactors from former Soviet-bloc countries participating. The small village of Ste. Marie duMont in one of the many communities in the region where celebrations are held with re-enactors out in force. Almost all take on the roles of American soldiers.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D40X with a Nikkor 70-300mm lens at 210mm, f6.3, 1/500 sec., ISO 800. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
Each year, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, we pause to remember those Canadians who died in service to their country. We’ll wear poppies or forget-me-nots. We’ll think about loved ones lost or maybe relatives we never met because they made the supreme sacrifice.
Over these past almost 100 years since wearing a poppy started as a Canadian tradition, approximately 115,000 Canadians have died in war and military service: First World War, 66,665; Second World War, 46,998; Korea, 516; Peacekeeping, 121; Afghanistan, 154. As a percentage of population, in the First World War, almost 1% (.92%) of Canada’s population was lost to war. In the United States it was .13% and the United Kingdom 2.19%. In the Second World War, .40% of Canada’s population was lost to war. In the United States, .32% and the United Kingdom .94%.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D40x, Nikon AFS 70-300 lens at 300mm, f10, 1/250 sec. ISO 1600. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
WINSTON CHURCHILL STATUE AND BIG BEN, WESTMINSTER, LONDON, ENGLAND: In Parliament Square is the wonderful 1973 statue of Winston Churchill by artist Ivor Roberts-Jones. Churchill was Britain’s WWII era Prime Minister certainly its greatest 20th century leader. In this bronze Churchill, aka, ‘Winnie’ and the ‘British Bulldog’ faces Big Ben (actually, it’s St. Stephen’s Tower; Big Ben is the largest bell in the clock tower). A visit to the nearby Churchill War Rooms is a must stop for any fan of Churchill and student of World War II history. Shot handheld with a Nikon D40X, Nikkor 18-200 lens, at 60mm, 1/30 sec, f7.1, ISO 1600. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
BEAUMONT-HAMEL, FRANCE, BATTLE OF THE SOMME, 1916. Click here for my story about Beaumont-Hamel. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography