Westboro Legion: supporting veterans, and so much more

By Bhavana Gopinath – 

Every year, on the first Sunday of May, the Westboro Legion organizes a ceremony to recognize the sacrifices of the members of the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force who died in the Battle of the Atlantic. On May 1st this year, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony starting at 1:30 p.m. followed by a parade at the cenotaph in Byron Park near Golden Avenue and Richmond Road. Attendees will include veterans and members of the Legion, members of the cadet corps that the Legion sponsors, representatives from community organizations and the City, and members of the public. The names of ships that sank and squadrons that lost planes in the Battle will be read out. There will be time for socializing after the ceremony from 3:30 p.m., with a potluck meal at 5 p.m.

Photo from last year’s Battle of the Atlantic wreath-laying ceremony. By Claudine Wilson
Photo from last year’s Battle of the Atlantic wreath-laying ceremony by Claudine Wilson

This battle (from 1939 to 1945) was the longest continuous military campaign of World War II. The Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Navy, the United States Navy, and Allied merchant shipping vessels were in conflict with German air force and navy airplanes and warships. From a relatively small base, Canadian forces ramped up their strength and capabilities to meet their main objective — the protection of shipping in dangerous conditions over thousands of square miles of the Atlantic Ocean. The outcome of the war depended on this effort. Canadian forces escorted more than 25,000 merchant ships  from North America to British ports, delivering approximately 165 million tonnes of cargo to the United Kingdom. Canadian warships and aircraft sank or shared in the destruction of some 50 U-boats during the Battle of the Atlantic.

The toll was heavy: the Battle of the Atlantic took a vast majority of the approximately 2,000 members of the RCN who died in World War II. 752 members of the RCAF died in maritime operations due to enemy action as well as accidents caused by the harsh environment.

The sacrifices of Canadian military personnel in this battle and in several conflicts over the decades enable us all to enjoy our freedom. It is important to remember these sacrifices and support the organizations that help our veterans.

Information about the May 1st ceremony is available at rcl480.com.

A full calendar at the Westboro Legion

The Westboro Legion Branch 480 of the Royal Canadian Legion has a roster of activities as part of its mandate to support veterans and contribute to the community. The Legion conducts events commemorating three major anniversaries in Canada’s military history: Remembrance Day, Battle of Britain and Battle of the Atlantic.

According to Westboro Legion branch president, Doug Cody, the Legion has planned several activities to benefit veterans as well as the larger community over the next few months. For instance, there is a country music jamboree on May 15 to raise funds for Ottawa historian Norm Christie’s “Help Recover Our Vimy Heroes” initiative. Doug hopes to raise $1000 towards Norm’s goal of raising $110,000 to recover the bodies of 44 Canadian Vimy Ridge soldiers from unmarked graves in Northern France and bring these veterans to rest.

The Legion also hosts social events for Christmas, New Year and other occasions. Wednesday night bingo events are popular, and are likely to become even more so, with the imminent introduction of “progressive” bingo*. In progressive bingo, the jackpot does not change. What improves is a player’s odds of winning because an additional bingo ball is added the following week. As of June 1, the big win will be $500, with the “consolation” being $200.

The Westboro Legion’s “progressive bingo” is a popular event. In progressive bingo, the jackpot does not change. If the jackpot is not won that night, the consolation prize is awarded. Each week, a player’s odds of winning the jackpot improve with the addition of an extra number (in other words, a bingo ball) until the week the jackpot is won. The following week, the number of bingo balls reverts to 52. Here’s more good news: on June 1 the big win will climb to $500 and the “consolation” will be $200.
There are also trivia challenges for charity and open stage nights on Friday evenings. Newer activities are being planned to attract more members of the community to the Legion’s facilities for their entertainment activities.

Doug points out that you don’t have to be a veteran to be a member of the Legion or to use its amenities. The Legion’s conveniences include a lounge to socialize in and watch sports on TV, rooms to host your next party, and games like pool and darts.

Support from the community is important as funds raised through the Legion’s activities and facilities go to charity and toward helping veterans get their pensions, benefits and other entitlements. Dedicated service officers in the Legion try and connect any veteran who needs help to the right department or person in the government to help them to access their entitlements, or to support them and their families in any way possible.

“The Legion does good work,” says Doug.

Support from the public in any form— whether it’s hosting an anniversary party at the Legion or helping out during the Legion’s Remembrance activity—is important and welcome.

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