St. John’s Norway to commemorate First World War

The Anglican church of St. John’s Norway will put new meaning into the words, “Lest we forget,” with Poppies, Poetry and Song: A Remembrance of the Great War.

This year marks 100 years since so many members of the Beach community responded to the call to action as war clouds gathered in Europe in 1914.

St. John’s  – the oldest church in the East End – will remember those courageous young men  with an evening of poetry, music and prose from the First World War.

“So many from our community gave their lives in that conflict. We believe it’s only right that we acknowledge that sacrifice with an evening of remembrance,” said St. John’s priest, Rev. Geoffrey Sangwine.

All are welcome, Friday, October 24, 7.30 at the church at Woodbine and Kingston Rd.

Renowned music director Melva Graham and the St. John’s choir will lead the musical tributes. Rev. Canon Michael Burgess will present poetry reflecting not just the serious side of war, but some of the more light-hearted moments.

It will be an evening of period poetry, including selections from Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and John McCrae as well as popular songs from the home front.

Admission is $10 for adults, under 18 free and includes refreshments at intermission.

St. John’s has a long connection with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) of World War I.

One of the church’s longest serving priests, William Leonard Baynes-Reid, served as chaplain to the CEF.

In August 1918 Baynes-Reed was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his heroism during action at Amiens, one of only eight awarded to Canadian Chaplains during the First World War. He was also mentioned in dispatches in 1919.

Baynes-Reed returned to St John’s Norway following the war and had a stained glass window made for the church at his own expense. The window paid tribute to the officers and men of the 75th Battalion who served and fell in combat.

The Union Jack flag he used as a cover for coffins for burial services for the fallen is also on display at the church, as well as the communion set he used on the battlefield.

Another plaque in the church pays tribute to Captain Ole Olsen, of the 75th Battalion, a holder of the Military Cross.

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Hello, I am the granddaughter of Captain (Major) Ole Olsen, and just happened upon your article today. I wish I had known about the commemoration ceremony at St. John’s on October 24th. I would have been pleased to be present. Another medal received by Ole Olsen was the Croix de Guerre, and I am proud to have them displayed in my home. His children, George and Barbara, were only 5 and 1 when Ole died at the age of 46, apparently of stomach cancer from the gases in the trenches. The family is buried at St. John’s cemetery.

I wish I knew more about both of my grandfathers who served overseas in WW1, but they died when their children were young, leaving their widows the difficult task of raising their children alone, like so many of that era.

I am truly honoured to have a piece of my family’s history proudly displayed in the beautiful St. John’s Norway church.

Bev Florio

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