Wednesday, July 29, 2015

World War Wednesdays: The Silver Cross Mother

     Attending a Remembrance Day ceremony at which a Silver Cross Mother is present adds an additional element of sorrow to the day. Your heart goes out to the lady who has lost more than you could ever imagine, and you know that there is nothing anyone could ever do to ease that pain. War has a strange way of creating sadness across so many dimensions, whether it reaches you directly or just seeing it from a distance is enough to make it real. This week, we'll discuss what it means to be a Silver Cross Mother, along with the story of Mrs. Charlotte Susan Wood, with information courtesy of

     Every year, the Royal Canadian Legion selects a National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother to represent the mothers of Canada at the national Remembrance Day Ceremony in Ottawa. She will lay a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial on behalf of all mothers who lost children in the military service to their nation. During her year-long tenure, which begins on November 1st, she performs other official duties, as required. The Memorial Cross (usually referred to as the Silver Cross) is awarded to mothers and widows of Canadian soldiers who died on active duty or whose death was consequently attributed to such duty. 

     In 1936, Mrs. Charlotte Susan Wood of Winnipeg, Manitoba became known as the first National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother. Mrs. Wood immigrated with part of her family from Britain to take up a 160 acre Dominion Land Grant northwest of Edmonton in 1905. Of the eleven of Mrs. Wood’s sons/stepsons that signed up to serve with either the Canadian or British army during the First World War, five did not return. 

     On September 22, 1914, her son, Petty Officer Stoker Louis Robert Wood, was lost at sea while serving with the Royal Navy, HMS Hogue.
     On June 4, 1915, a second son, Able Seaman Harry Wood, was killed at Gallipoli while serving with Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
     On October 7, 1916, a third son, Private Francis Wood, was killed at the Somme while serving with the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment).
     On May 5, 1917, a fourth son, Private Peter Percy Wood, was killed at Vimy Ridge while serving with the Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regiment).
     On November 3, 1917, a fifth son, Leading Seaman Joseph Wood, was killed at Passchendaele while serving with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

     Mrs. Wood was awarded the George V Jubilee Medal in 1935. While on a pilgrimage to attend the unveiling of the Vimy Ridge Memorial in July 1936, Mrs. Wood was presented to King Edward VIII. Seizing the opportunity she said to him, "I have just been looking at the trenches and I just can’t figure out why our boys had to go through that." He replied, “Please God, Mrs. Wood. It shall never happen again.”

     Canada’s famous war mother died three years later, just weeks after the start of another world war. She was buried in an unmarked grave in Winnipeg’s Brookside Cemetery. A new gravestone was erected over 60 years later.

     An incredible story of incredible loss, it is a testament to how devastating war can be on all fronts.

     Thanks for reading,

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