Lest We Forget – Gerald Lees

Menin Gate
Menin Gate

About 3:30 a.m. in Ottawa on Monday, November 11, 1918, bells rang out and whistles blew announcing that World War I had come to an end.

Shortly after midnight in Europe, Germany had surrendered to the Allies and Ottawa as well as the rest of the free world celebrated.

At 11 a.m. on November 11 each year, we stop for a minute of silence to honour those who fought for our freedom and we remember those who lost their lives in service.

One of the many who lost their lives in the First World War was Captain Gerald Oscar Lees, a member of the Canadian Army Infantry (Black Watch Regiment of Montreal). Captain Lees was lost without trace along with another 55,000 men during the defence of the Ypres Salient.

He, along with the other men who were lost, is remembered with his name inscribed in the Menin Gate Memorial located on the eastern side of the town of Ypres (now Leper) in the Province of West Flanders.

Carved in stone above the central arch are the words:
“TO THE ARMIES OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE WHO STOOD HERE FROM 1914 TO 1918 AND TO THOSE OF THEIR DEAD WHO HAVE NO KNOWN GRAVE.”

Over the two staircases leading from the main Hall is the inscription:

“HERE ARE RECORDED NAMES OF OFFICERS AND MEN WHO FELL IN YPRES SALIENT BUT TO WHOM THE FORTUNE OF WAR DENIED THE KNOWN AND HONOURED BURIAL GIVEN TO THEIR COMRADES IN DEATH.”

The dead are remembered to this day in a simple ceremony that takes place every evening at 8:00 p.m. All traffic through the gateway in either direction is halted, and two buglers (on special occasions four) move to the centre of the Hall and sound the Last Post. Two silver trumpets for use in the ceremony are a gift to the Ypres Last Post Committee by an officer of the Royal Canadian Artillery, who served with the 10th Battery, of St. Catharines, Ontario, in Ypres in April 1915.

Who was Gerald Lees?

Gerald Oscar Lees
Gerald Oscar Lees

Mr. Lees had been the Club Champion at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club from 1910 to 1912 and had finished second (1 down) to G.H. Turpin of Montreal in the 1913 Canadian Amateur Golf Association Championship held at the Toronto Golf Club in Toronto, Ontario. When the first Great War broke out, Mr. Lees, who was born in Wolverhampton, England in 1877, enlisted without hesitation and was sent into the action where he lost his life.

Since its inception in 1921, golfers winning the City & District Championship have hoisted The Gerald Lees Trophy donated by Ottawa Sportsman and Publisher of The Ottawa Journal Philip Dansken (P.D.) Ross. Mr. Ross donated the trophy in honour of his friend and fellow member of the Royal Ottawa Golf Club.

On November 11 take a few minutes to remember those who fought and lost their lives so we could have the freedom we have today or better still on a daily basis thank those veterans and those still serving with a simple Thank You.