F/O Bernhard W. Martin, RCAF 419 Squadron, flew his Lancaster bomber into Germany on Feb. 3, 1945 and, like so many of his colleagues in Bomber Command, never returned.
Every Remembrance Day (Veterans' Day if you're from the USA) my parents would open one of the family photo albums, the one with the photos of my Uncle Ben, and they would talk about him: how clever he was, how he loved to dance, and how much they missed him.
My father kept my Uncle's small suitcase in a closet. The suitcase, which was sent to my family after my Uncle was killed, contained his medals, his log book, a group photo from his training period, German currency that was given to Canadian pilots in case they were shot down – and the telegram that was sent to my Grandmother saying that my Uncle was missing in action.
I now have the suitcase, the medals and the telegram.
I also have the photographs of my Uncle. There are only six photographs but they are the most significant links I have to him. Photographs continue to connect us to our families and help us to understand them. They are an integral part of our cultural history.
David Francey's song Flowers of Saskatchewan (from his album Far End of Summer) was written as a tribute to my Uncle and the other Saskatchewan men and women who did not return from the Second World War. It says far more than could ever be communicated by the speeches, the marching and the guns we will see and hear on November 11. Buy the album or buy the song on iTunes.