Each December, the 2277 Seaforth Highlanders Army Cadets Corps re-enacts the famous Seaforth Regiment Christmas meal enjoyed by Canadian soldiers in Italy during the Second World War, as a fierce battle waged all around them.
But unlike the officers – who might have turned to the black market for food and supplies – the modern-day cadets benefited from the generosity of local families, businesses and groups.
“Using the ugly food is new this year and really a great teaching moment for the cadets that relates to today, as well as to Canada’s military history,” said Capt. Mark Iredale, Commanding officer of the 2277 Corps.
The Canadian soldiers ate in shifts before returning to battle, as a padre prayed with the men and an organist played “Silent Night,” touches that are included in the recreation for cadets.The dinner took place Dec. 13 at the Cloverdale Legion, where cadets learned how in the midst of battle the Canadian officers were determined to provide a good Christmas meal with all the trimmings for their men, scrounging table linens, china dishes, beer and wine, roast pork, applesauce, cauliflower, mashed potatoes, gravy, chocolates, oranges, nuts, and cigarettes.
“Part of the Army Cadet program is teaching cadets about Canadian military history,” Iredale said.
“The Ortona Dinner teaches them so much about the harsh realities of war, in all its complexities, by bringing the history to life with bits of history, memories of soldiers read out throughout the meal, and an empty table set in memory of fallen comrades adjacent to the head table.”
The recreated meal – prepared by parent volunteers – is faithful to the original in most respects, except that the cadets are served root beer and candy sticks instead of the real things.
DeLorme Food Services supplied the roast pork. The DeLorme family has enjoyed a special and enduring relationship with Seaforth cadets in Surrey and Langley, and were special guests.
The late John “Jack” DeLorme served with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and was one of the soldiers at the original Ortona dinner in 1943. His wife, Dorothy, is considered mother to the cadet corps.
The Royal Canadian Army Cadets is a federal program for young people aged 12 to 18 that develops leadership, good citizenship, and physical fitness, along with stimulating interest in the history and activities of the Canadian Army.
For more information on the free army cadet program in Langley, visit the 2277 Corps website: www.2277rcacc.com.
[PHIL EDGE PHOTO – The Cloverdale Legion is transformed into the Santa Maria di Constantinopoli ruins of 1943 where Captain Nikki Scarf, below, serves cadets at the Ortona Dinner.]