Guyana: One Hundred Years since the end of World War l – by Francis Quamina Farrier

Remembrance Day 2018 – by Francis Quamina Farrier

On Sunday, November 11, 2018, many countries around the world, including Guyana, observed Remembrance Day as their citizens paid tributes to those who served in the First and Second World Wars and especially to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice with their very lives.

There were clouds over the city of Georgetown as veterans, government and other officials and civilian citizens made their way to the Cenotaph at the junction of Main and Church Streets for the traditional 8.00 a.m. Wreath-Laying ceremony. Also present were members of the Foreign Diplomatic Corps. Many Laid wreaths, including Prime Minister Hon. Moses Nagamootoo and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Carl Greenidge, Mayor of Georgetown, Patricia Chase-Green as well as the heads of the Disciplined Services and others.  (see video below)   

During the laying of the wreaths, the Guyana Police Force Band played somber music. Of note, and what is so often taken for granted at this and other ceremonies, is the saying of prayers by representatives of Guyana’s three main religions – Christian, Hindu and Muslim – showing that there is Religious freedom and Religious tolerance in Guyana. The clouds which blanketed the city at that first of the two Remembrance Day ceremonies this year, were more protective than threatening rain.  By the eleventh hour, the clouds had all but drifted away revealing an almost entirely cloudless blue sky.

Unlike previous years, there was a second Remembrance Day Wreath Laying ceremony this year; this special ceremony was held at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 2018, which was exactly 100 years after the signing of the Armistice Document which signaled the end of the First World War; the war which was promoted as “A war to end all wars”.

Unfortunately, the Second World War commenced a short twenty-one years after the First World War ended. Laying wreaths at that second ceremony at the Cenotaph in Georgetown last Sunday, were Guyanese veterans of the Second World War – all of them are now in their nineties. The oldest, Benjamin Durant, celebrated his 100th Birthday a few days later on Thursday November 15, 2018, with a worthy Birthday Bash at Coghlan House of the Guyana Legion on Carifesta Avenue in Georgetown. In observance of the signing of the Armistice document 100 years ago, many churches in the city of Georgetown and elsewhere, rang their bells at the eleventh hour on Remembrance Day 2018. Guyana’s last surviving World War One Veteran, Gershom Browne, was up to the very end of his long life, going to the Cenotaph in Georgetown on Remembrance Day, and laying wreaths. He created history by being the only (so far) Guyanese to write a first book at age 100. The book entitled, “A history of Bagotville”, was about his hometown on the West Bank Demerara.

In his address to the veterans and guests at the Guyana Veterans Association Headquarters on Carifesta Avenue in Georgetown, the British High Commissioner to Guyana, Greg Quinn, stated that, “The UK government, through the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Service League, will be providing funding to ensure additional support to 7,000 Commonwealth Veterans and their widows from some 30 countries, including Guyana”.

The High Commissioner further told the story of one of the heroes of the Second World War, Guyanese Cy Grant, who was born at Betertverwagting on November 8, 1918, on the East Coast Demerara and spent some of his boyhood years at New Amsterdam in Berbice. Grant joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1941, as one of  500 men recruited from the Caribbean as aircrew. “Cy was commissioned as an officer and joined the 103 Squadron as a Navigator based at the RAF Elsham Wolds in Linkinshire, and was one of a seven-man Lancaster Bomber crew”, the High Commissioner revealed to the audience.

Continuing the gripping story of the Guyanese hero, Quinn said, ‘In 1943, Cy Grant was on a mission as part of The Battle of the Ruhr and was shot down over The Netherlands. He parachuted to safety, but was captured and imprisoned in Stalag Luft lll where he spent the next two years before being liberated in 1945.”The British High Commissioner pointed out that, “Cy contributed to the defeat of the Nazis in ways which few of us here can really understand”, prompting a listener to remark, “Guyana, where are your heroes?”

After he was demobbed, Cy Grant went on to study and qualified as a Barrister-at-Law in 1950, and also had a very successful career as a singer and movie star. On his last visit to his homeland in 1972, Cy Grant did a concert at the Theatre Guild Playhouse in Kingston, Georgetown, where he sang many well-loved Folk songs among others as he accompanied himself on the guitar. I have to mention that I was one of the star-struck members of his audience that memorable evening. I later visited with him at his London home in England in 1982. Another internationally known Guyanese who served in the RAF during World War ll, was the Teacher, Diplomat, and author of “To Sir, With Love”, and other best-selling books, E.R Braithwaite.

It would be of interest to know that Cy Grant passed away at age 90, Gershom Brown at age 102 and E.R Braithwaite at age 104. They and all Veterans, must always be remembered for the service they gave to help maintain the Freedom we enjoy, not only on Remembrance Day.

Guyana: Remembrance Day 2018 parade and wreath laying ceremony. – Video

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Cy Grant in one of his stage performances in Britain.

 

Cy Grant with Farrier in London, England, in 19​82

British High Commissioner to Guyana, Greg Quinn, congratulates and thanks 100 year old World War ll Veteran, Benjamin Durant. (Photo by Francis Q. Farrier)

 

World War ll Veteran, Teacher, Author and Diplomat
E.R. Braithwaite, displays a gift of a 2016 Guyana Jubilee
Year plaque. (Photo by F.Q. Farrier)

Guyana’s last surviving World War l Veteran, Gershom Browne, in uniform of the British West Indies Regiment. Browne, a native of Bagotville, West Bank Demerara, passed away at age 102.

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