Moreuil Wood in the Maywand District
By Capt Kristian Reiten
25 May 2007
For the soldiers of A Squadron deployed as part of Operation ATHENA, Moreuil Wood observances held a special meaning this year. In the desert of Afghanistan, events took on a bit of a “gritty” texture, for lack of better words, as we paused to remember Fallen Comrades. First of all the traditional services, sports day and mess dinner that we have all become accustomed and anticipate did not play out, nor did the cool spring weather that is normally experienced.
Our historical day (89 years to the day after Flowerdew’s charge) began with the usual morning routine in the ‘Hotel’ Company Combat Team leaguer. However, not only were there surprises on tap for the afternoon, there were visitors scheduled as well. The Commander Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command and Commander Operational Training Standards dropped in to offer us encouragement and well wishes entering our fourth week on Operation ACHILLES (NATO’s largest ground offensive in history).
As the day continued, the pseudo-sports events that were held in no way resembled the organised sports held back in garrison. These events came more as a surprise to those who participated in them. Although the temperature reached above 30 degrees, the athletes showed total determination in their chosen events. When the skies to our west turned an ominous shade of brown, it was as if the Olympic torch had been lit. As the wall of brown approached, in the form of a sandstorm, the games began.
The first event was the 50-meter scramble to whatever kind or type of cover was available. It was not known who was the clear winner as it was an all-out, each man for himself event, though Corporals Joe “Outta-my-way” Gushue and Cory “That’s my shelter spot” D’Andrea certainly distinguished themselves. The unlucky competitors were then forced into the next event, the blind man grope to try and find their goggles. This became more of a humorous spectator type sport. The tiebreaker was eventually the across the desert steeplechase to what ever you did not tie down. New categories this year included tent, combat shirt, floppy hat, and (the most challenging) air mattress pursuits. To the disappointment of all participants there were no clear winners, this was mostly due to the fact that anything past ten meters was quite blurry and the judges could not clearly identify the athletes. Despite this, judges did award honourable mentions to Master-Corporal Keary “Look at that air mattress go” MacAtasney and Corporal Derek “Has anyone seen our tent?” Romkey.
The crowning event for our Moreuil Wood day was our first fresh meal in nearly a month. This evening, our meal came with a heck of a fireworks show. The sand storm had subsided as the running replen reached our location. Once the Combat Team had topped up on all of the required fuel and water, it was time for us to get a much needed and well-deserved fresh meal. Just as the first haybox was opened with the juicy, mouth-watering steaks, so too did the skies. They opened up with a torrential downpour that few of us, or a desert for that matter had ever seen. Meals were distributed by officers and senior non-commissioned officers from both the Strathcona’s and the Royal’s (most likely a Moreuil Wood first); as the rain continued to come down, soldiers voraciously devoured their repast. As the last steak was passed, so too did the thunderstorm. Following overhead for the rest of the evening was an incredible light show that lasted for hours. A similar storm occurred the following day but as the sun waned on the last day of March, a brilliant rainbow appeared on the horizon, possibly signifying the end of our Moreuil Wood remembrances.
Although we may not have been able to join with the rest of our Regimental family in remembering Fallen Comrades this year, we were still able to enjoy our fine tradition, in a less (or would that be more?) traditional way.