| Nov 08, 2007

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In Remembrance - November 8, 2007

The Echo of Bagpipesby Don Antione

Ninety-one years ago in the fall of 1916, British Field Marshall F.M. Haig ordered the Canadian troops to attack the Somme. This defensive position was heavily fortified with piles upon piles of barbed wire.The French and the British had failed to take this position. Our General Currie felt this mission was impossible, but "ours not to reason why". The heavy artillery was to destroy the barbed wire, but these guns failed to hit their target, leaving only a small number of openings though the wire. Our troops could not attack in line and went through these small openings, only to be mowed down by machinegun fire. Thirteen hundred soldiers were killed on the first attack- we withdrew.The 16th Canadian Scottish Battalion from Chilliwack, B.C. went into the attack. When all seemed lost, their young piper named James Richardson stepped up through the shrapnel and bullets, and “with great coolness” according to the military citation, piped up and down the line outside the wire to encourage his battalion to fight on. His playing so inspired the company that they rushed the barbed wire and captured the position. Richardson laid down his pipes to take a wounded comrade to safety, but when he returned he could not find his bag pipes and was killed. He was posthumously awarded the highest award for bravery, the Victoria Cross.In 1917, a Scottish chaplain found some bagpipes buried in the mud at the Somme and took them back to Scotland. The broken pipes were displayed in a school there for 75 years as a graphic unidentified reminder of the war.A parent of students at the school, who was also a piper, initiated a search for the pipes’ origins and posted information on the internet. A member of the Canadian Scottish Regiment recognized this and the pipes were positively identified as James Richardson’s pipes based on a scrap of tartan found on them, the tartan of the clan Lennox.An anonymous donor provided money to purchase the pipes for the citizens of Canada, and they were officially repatriated on November 8, 2006. They now lie in a place of honour in the B.C Legislature.The battle for The Somme lasted 8 weeks and in early December 1916, Haig called off the attack and ordered the Canadians to attack Vimy Ridge on April 1,1917. Our total casualties were 24,000 with 8000 dead, the balance gassed, wounded and missing.

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