Remembrance Day falls on solemn anniversary

Governor Marytn Roper stands in the foreground as Commissioner of Police Derek Byrne salutes behind him.

The Cayman Islands joined the world in mourning this weekend, when it held its Remembrance Sunday parade and ceremony in honor of lives lost at sea and in World War I and II.

The ceremony, which took place at Elmslie Memorial Church, was preceded by a parade that involved veterans, police and fire brigades, scouts and other civil institutions.

They lined up on the streets of Harbour Drive, and Governor Martyn Roper and Premier Alden McLaughlin made remarks followed by a wreath-laying at the cenotaph and the Seamen’s Memorial.

Mr. Roper spoke about the end of World War I, which had occurred 100 years to the day on Sunday, and about the world’s unity in banding together to fight oppression and tyranny.

“Throughout World War I, church bells fell silent and only rang again when Armistice was declared on Nov. 11, 1918,” Mr. Roper said. “Today, bells have rung out in churches and cathedrals and towns and cities across the [United Kingdom]. One thousand four hundred bell ringers have been recruited to commemorate the 1,400 bell ringers that lost their lives during the Great War. Today, I’m very proud as the Cayman Islands joins the U.K. in ringing bells to honor the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.”

The governor went on to say that more than 15,000 volunteers served in the British West Indies regiment during World War I, and 300 Caymanians served in the British Merchant Navy. At one point, Mr. Roper spoke warmly about some of the young people who showed up to the event.

“I’m pleased to see many young people gathered today,” he said. “It is right that they too recognize the sacrifices made for our freedom that we all enjoy today. It’s important that in the U.K. and here in the Cayman Islands, schoolchildren are marking the occasion. We must endeavor to teach our history to generations to come, and there’s no better way to honor the past than to promise a better future.”

Members of the government and public took part in a wreath-laying at the cenotaph, and a series of wreaths were laid at the Seamen’s Memorial. The governor and premier laid a wreath at both locations, as did McKeeva Bush, speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller.

Mr. McLaughlin said that it took a week for news of the British declaration of war to reach Grand Cayman in 1914. During the course of hostilities, the Cayman government donated 450 pounds – which would have amounted to about 10 percent of its annual revenue in 1918 – to the war effort.

Now, 100 years later, said Mr. McLaughlin, it’s important to mind the lessons of history.

Loxley Banks tolls the symbolic bell during Remembrance Day ceremony. – Photos: Spencer Fordin

“Today, we salute those men and women for their service and valor,” he said in closing. “We appreciate them and the many families who made sacrifices and served these islands and the overall cause of freedom and democracy and peace everywhere. They will forever live in our hearts.

“And we will owe them, as long as we live, a debt of gratitude.”