Photo by Chung Chow
Dressed in a navy blue legion blazer and grey slacks, Jim Lamond stands solemnly in front of the Richmond Cenotaph.
It is a routine the well-known and much-respected 89-year-old local resident follows every Remembrance Day, while paying homage to the untold individuals who have served their country in the ongoing fight for freedom.
Lamond is a member of Branch 291 of the Royal Canadian Legion, a non-profit organization founded in 1925 to support ex-servicemen and their families. For the last several years he’s also been actively involved in distributing poppies as part of the annual poppy fund campaign. In fact, he and Coun. Bill McNulty have more or less become fixtures this time of year at the Ironwood Plaza.
“I had a great uncle who lived in Montreal fight with the Canadians in the First World War,” said Lamond. “He fought right through it, but was gassed.” He died in1923.
Lamond was a precocious 10-year-old in his native Scotland when the Second World War broke out in 1939. His dad, a police officer, was in the reserves when he was called up to active duty.
“I remember it very well. Dad left on the third of September 1939, the day war was declared. He was attached to the 51st Highland Division that fought at (St. Valéry-en-Caux), France.”
In June 1940, the Scottish regiment was employed to enable 300,000 British and French troops to evacuate off the beach. But on June 12, the most difficult of decisions was made to surrender. Members of the 51st Highland Division were taken prisoners and spent the next six years in Poland in the Prisoner of War camps.
Shortly after the war ended, and his dad returned home to Scotland, Lamond enlisted for military service. He joined the army after completing training. He was posted to the Royal Artillery.
“I went into the army in June 1946,” he explained. “I was 17-and-a-half and you could enlist, and so my buddy and I decided to join. We were going to get called up anyway, because as soon as you were 18 you were called to the armed forces.” It was tense time when the USSR blockaded all land routes to Berlin. It was state of emergency. My mother didn’t say much, while my dad didn’t either.”
Lamond, meanwhile, was stationed in Germany during the Berlin Airlift, when the United Kingdom and United States began a massive airlift of food, water and medicine to citizens for nearly a year in response to the Soviet blockade.
“We were the occupation forces,” he said.
Born in Greenock, in the west central Lowlands of Scotland, Lamond spent part of his childhood (during the war) living on his uncle’s farm. He recalls driving an old, eight-gear Rolls Royce hearse flatbed that they used to pile hay onto.
“I just about broke my wrist changing gears,” he chuckled. “But that was part of growing up.”
Before signing up with the army, Lamond considered joining the merchant marines. He had several cousins who did so, and would have been able to join at 15.
“But mother didn’t like the sea, and the boats were getting torpedoed,” he said.
After his military service, Lamond decided to immigrate to Canada. He’s been proudly serving this nation ever since in various volunteer capacities—including as the longtime chair of Richmond Sports Council.
But he never takes for granted the freedoms and privileges we all too often take for granted. Those made possible by the sacrifices of many who came before us.
“Remembrance Day to me is a time to remember the comrades you lost, even in peace time,” he said. “They went to war to try and stop war. You hope the message gets through. We need to wake up and ask where does it all end?”