“Where Have All the Flowers Gone” was written by Pete Seeger and Joe Hickerson in 1955 and 1960.
This song is about the missing flowers that young women picked for their husbands who had gone to war. Not returning, the young women placed the picked flowers on their husbands' graves.
When Craig Travel introduced the tour “The Italian Campaign: Tracing the Path of Liberation,” Faith Ivall of Chilliwack, B.C. and Heather Ivall of Waterloo, Ont. signed up to go this past November.
This decision was to honour the contribution of four young men (relatives) from Rainy River who met the requirements of enlistment and became members of the Joint Allied Forces of World War II (1939-45).
They were Edward, Leslie, James, and Arthur Ivall—a true “Band of Brothers.” Three of the four brothers served in Sicily and Italy from July, 1943 to May, 1945.
This was Canada's longest army campaign in the Second World War with 93,000 Canadians, along with British and American troops, fighting under the code name “Operation Husky” for almost two years.
The landing took place at the beaches of Gela and Pachino, Sicily in one of 3,000 ships and landing crafts.
Edward Ivall (Faith and Heather's father), became a member of the Calgary Patricia Tank Corps, utilizing his skills as a tank driver. Ed also was one of the 2,210 soldiers out of 4,963 returning to England who survived the bloodbath of Dieppe.
Jim Ivall, a competent truck driver, delivered ammo and food supplies to the men along the many miles of hilly terrain. Les Ivall, meanwhile, was promoted to sergeant on the field in one day for his efficient capabilities and leadership skills just before the infamous Gustav Line took place.
Miraculously, all four of the enlisted brothers survived the war.
Craig Travel's tour followed the footsteps of all the brave soldiers in the battlefields of the Etna Line, Monte Cassino, the Gustav Line, Salerno, Ortona, and the Gothic Line.
Tour participants shared their deep respect at the gravesites of the fallen Allied soldiers in Syracuse (a UNESCO world heritage site), a Commonwealth War burial ground, Monte Cassino, Passo Futo, and Marzabotto with the many white gravestone markers.
On Nov. 11, the Remembrance Day service was held by a small group of Canadian soldiers at Monte Cassino, where 55,000 Allied and 22,000 German casualties had faced death (Faith and Heather are pictured holding the photographs of their uncle, Les Ivall, and their father, Edward Ivall).
Faith and Heather placed poppies they had brought with them on a few grave cross markers at the various cemeteries, never knowing who the soldiers were. Some were just 18 years of age.
In total, some 60,000-70,000 Allied and 38,805-150,660 German soldiers died in Italy. This does not include the thousands of casualties and deaths among the Fascists, Italian civilians, anti-Fascist partisans, or troops of the Italian Social Republic.
Although the tour highlighted Mount Etna, Temple Valley at Agrigento, the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii, the Tuscany cities of Florence, Siena, and San Simignano, and the Accademia Gallery in Florence (home to Michelangelo's “David”), the war history was the heart's journey for both sisters.
Some one million Canadians served in World War II and roughly 61,300 are still alive—with the average age being 92.
Les Ivall is one of them.
A million thanks is offered to him and all the veterans in the Rainy River District who signed up in Fort Frances almost 80 years ago.
This acknowledgement also is extended to all the men and women not mentioned, to those in the Canadian Forces, police, firemen, paramedics, first responders, and medical staff who help keep us alive and safe.
Freedom is not free. It costs lives and brings pain.
"Where have all graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one.
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?"