BY DUCK PATERSON
Ladysmith’s cenotaph was celebrated at a sunny and warm 100th anniversary this past weekend.
A crowd of about 100 spectators watched on Saturday, Jan. 28, while Branch 171 Legion members along with a colour party held a ceremony to commemorate the event.
The ceremonies, led by MC Don Smith, included the singing of O Canada, then trumpeter Robin Roberts playing the Last Post at 11 a.m. followed by a minute of silence.
The Act of Remembrance was orated by Legion president Darlene Paulson and Smith followed with the prayer for the cenotaph and all those whom it represents. The address for the occasion was given by Paulson who thanked the Ladysmith and District Historical Society for all the work the dedicated volunteers have done in researching all the names that are on the cenotaph as well as discovering that some are missing from the First World War. She also thanked the town for its support and maintenance of the memorial.
Mayor Aaron Stone followed, quoting Mayor Wymond Walkem’s comments at the cenotaph’s dedication in 1923 and commitment that the Town of Ladysmith would honour and maintain it forever. Stone re-committed the town’s pledge of honouring and maintaining the cenotaph in perpetuity.
The opening remarks were followed by the laying of a wreath at the base of the cenotaph, by Stone and Paulson. The ceremony wrapped up by the playing of God Save The King and the marching off of the colour party.
The event moved to the Legion, where volunteers had prepared lunch. Historical society chairperson Quentin Goodbody presented a visual history of the cenotaph over the past 100 years and some of the people who were instrumental in its existence. He also gave a rundown on how many Canadians, and especially those from the Ladysmith area, served in the forces during the First World War and how many never made it back home.
After the history lesson came the cutting of the anniversary cake baked and donated by Save-On-Foods in Ladysmith. The cake was iced in red and white with a sepia finish and featured photo transfers of the cenotaph.
Cenotaph reaches centennial
The headline in the Chronicle read “Ceremonies successfully conducted in whirling snowstorm, hundreds of people in attendance.”
The snowstorm happened on Jan. 29, 1923, and the event was the unveiling of the war memorial located at First Avenue and Gatacre Street in downtown Ladysmith. At that time the location was part of the highway from Victoria to Nanaimo. The prelude to today’s cenotaph was erected by the Ex-Service Men’s Association in memory of their fallen comrades from the Great War. The memorial was unveiled by Brig-Gen. R.P. Clark, CMC, DSO, MC.
Historical society volunteers John and Esther Sharp, who have spent years delving into the history of Ladysmith’s cenotaph and those whose names are inscribed on it, told the Chronicle that records indicate that from 1923-25 the war memorial was referred to as the monument, and wasn’t called the cenotaph until 1926.
The cenotaph has had three other homes in the community over the years leading up to the location it’s in today in Cenotaph Park at Warren Street and the Trans-Canada Highway. One of the locations was in front of the post office and customs building on Roberts and Esplanade.
The original structure had four pillars surrounding it, but during one of the moves they were broken and the structure was never restored to its original state. The pillars are now used to chain off the boundaries of the cenotaph area. According to the Sharps, looking closely at old pictures shows that what used to be the roof of the cenotaph has been turned upside-down and is now the base of the present-day monument.
John Sharp said the selection of names for the cenotaph depended totally on people’s memories.
“The intent was to commemorate local people, and it did not matter if someone was on another cenotaph, as that community could have its own reasons for naming someone,” he said. “This still seems to be the rule. When dedicated, the cenotaph had 40 names. Thomas Day’s name was added later.”
It has been discovered that 90 locals, British subjects, journeyed back to Britain to enlist there for service. Local residents who died in the war were buried overseas but their names do appear on the local cenotaph.
The names of those who did not return from the First World War are engraved on the cenotaph: W. Appleby, J. Barron, J. Beauchamp, J. Bell, J. Brown, W. Cleworth, J. Davidson, R. Davidson, G. Forrest, J. Gaffney, Jr., F. Gisborne, A. Glen, J. Grant, W. Harris, H. Kemp, J. Lapsanski, G. Laurie, W.F. Luton, A. McKinnon, N. McNiven, R. McNiven, F. McRae, F.W. Miller, F.J.D. Morrison, T. Musgrave, A. Patterson, G. Patterson, M. Rae, J. Scobie, J. Sebaston, F.H. Shaw, J. Sharp, T.N. Simpson, W. Tait, D. Taylor, W. Turkko, J. Wallace, R.R. Wallace, I. Whitcombe and W. Wright, Jr.
Work being done by volunteers at the Ladysmith Archives has turned up 17 names of persons whose names are missing from the monument. Background work and fact finding is ongoing by the volunteers and members of the Ladysmith and District Historical Society.
According to Esther Sharp, there are two names on the cenotaph that actually aren’t locals and nobody is too sure of who they were. The Sharps even researched service records in the U.K. and visited burial grounds elsewhere in Europe, but could find no trace of the two names.
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