By Rawle Toney
Amidst an atmosphere that seemed to have borrowed its solemnity from the heavens, Bridgetown emerged Sunday as a bastion of honour, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of Barbados.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, with her characteristic determination, led a procession of dignitaries, Army veterans, and Government officials in a tribute to the courageous souls who valiantly confronted the tumult of World Wars I and II.
The Prime Minister was unable to participate in last year’s Remembrance Day activities due to her commitment as the keynote speaker at the Nelson Mandela Memorial Lecture in South Africa.
Like clockwork, the annual Remembrance Day spectacle unfolded at the Cenotaph, where the island’s heroes are duly remembered and celebrated.
Prime Minister Mottley, along with President Dame Sandra Mason and representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, orchestrated a symphony of respect by laying wreaths.
The Barbados Legion and various uniformed organisations joined the poignant procession.
National Heroes’ Square served as the dignified stage for a parade that transcended mere marching; it became a sincere ode to the fallen, where an interdenominational service provided a spiritual backdrop, accompanied by a gun salute and prayers that resonated through the air.
Remembrance Day, affectionately known as Poppy Day for the floral tradition that adorns lapels, is a Commonwealth affair but holds a special place in the hearts of Barbadians.
It’s a day when Barbadians collectively tip their hats to the brave souls who made the ultimate sacrifice.
In the historical narrative, 12 valiant Barbadian men constituted the Second Barbados Contingent of Volunteers for the Armed Forces.
In November 1940, they sailed for England, prepared to confront the might of Germany. Among them was Errol Walton Barrow, a pilot who would later ascend to become Barbados’ first Prime Minister.
Barrow’s trajectory through the Royal Air Force was nothing short of remarkable. By 1945, he had ascended to the rank of flying officer and was appointed personal navigator to the Commander in Chief of the British Zone in occupied Germany.
The wartime chronicle unfolds dramatically off the shores of Barbados in 1942 when the Canadian steam merchant ship Cornwallis succumbed to a German submarine.
The subsequent transformation of the shipwreck into a reef and marine park became a symbol of resilience amidst the adversities of war.
As the world commemorates Remembrance Day on November 11, a remembrance of the symbolic end of hostilities in 1918 is marked by the famous armistice signed “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.”
The First World War’s formal conclusion with the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 laid the foundation for what we now know as Remembrance Day.
The origins of the day trace back to Armistice Day, initially unfolding at Buckingham Palace with a royal banquet hosted by King George V.
Over time, the Commonwealth adopted Remembrance Day, while the United States opted for Veterans Day.