Canadian soldiers pay tribute to the commencement of WWII

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Article / September 6, 2016

By: Captain L. Benak Public Affairs Officer, Operation REASSURANCE Land Task Force

On September 1, 2016, flanked by Polish and American soldiers, Operation REASSURANCE Land Task Force (LTF) members commemorated the 77th anniversary of the start of WWII during a ceremony in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland.

Thirty-eight members of the Land Task Force (LTF) attended with Commander LTF, Major Lonnie Campbell, serving as the senior representative of the Canadian contingent. “I am honoured to have the opportunity to bring Canadian soldiers to commemorate such an important event in our host nation’s history. This ceremony provides all of us with a new perspective as to the importance of the history we share with our Polish allies and their immense sacrifices in the struggle for freedom,” said Major Campbell.

The ceremony commenced with the playing of the Polish national anthem, while soldiers hoisted the Polish flag to take its place in between the NATO and European Union flags. After a prayer to the fallen by the Padre, the Drawsko Pomorski Training Area Commander, Colonel Marek Gmurski took the podium to speak. “Seventy-seven years ago no one expected for the history books to be rewritten the way they were. Our presence here is the best way to pay tribute to the deceased Polish soldiers and to ensure that we remember them,” said Gmurski.

The mayor of Drawsko Pomorskie, Zbigniew Ptak, echoed Gmurski’s comments by saying, “I am extremely grateful to have foreign soldiers present to commemorate this historic occasion at Drawsko Pomorskie War Cemetery. Today we pay tribute to those who fought for our freedom. Many unknown people and many unknown heroes who stood up, fought, and refused to give up are in our thoughts today.”

After the playing of the Polish military canon, local dignitaries along with school children in attendance laid flowers and wreaths at the foot of the cenotaph pillars. As the event concluded, Canadian soldiers participated in the placing of candles onto the tombs of the fallen soldiers. This tradition offers individuals a moment of reflection as they pause to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in war.

The annual ceremony, which honours those who died during the Nazi invasion of Poland, took place in the city’s historic Cemetery of War. The cemetery contains the graves of 3,458 Polish soldiers who were killed in battle while clearing the region of Nazi forces in 1945.

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