Julie Mungall places her painted stones at the Brookside veterans cemetery in Winnipeg, Saturday, October 24, 2020. Mungall is commemorating Remembrance Day by painting poppies and other designs on rocks and hiding them around the city, sometimes in plain sight, for people to pick up and take home with them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Julie Mungall places her painted stones at the Brookside veterans cemetery in Winnipeg, Saturday, October 24, 2020. Mungall is commemorating Remembrance Day by painting poppies and other designs on rocks and hiding them around the city, sometimes in plain sight, for people to pick up and take home with them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Most British Columbians are unaware of WWII battles fought on our own shores

Remembrance Day research shows Canadians know more about European WWII battles than attacks closer to home

Many people across Canada will be honouring veterans on Nov. 11, but a new survey suggests most British Columbians are unaware of the history that happened on our own shores during the Second World War.

Leading up to Remembrance Day, Leger Marketing conducted a survey on the behalf of Ancestry, a DNA history company, and found that less than a third of British Columbians are familiar with B.C.’s contribution during the WWII.

While the history of world wars are slugged away in numerous history books, the study illustrates that only 38 per cent of B.C. residents would like to learn more about their own family history on the province’s shorelines.

One of B.C.’s historical moments during the Second World War is the Aleutian Islands campaign, and only a mere one per cent of B.C. residents are aware that this event took place.

The Canadian army, navy and air force joined the U.S. to regain control of the small island chain off the coast of Alaska.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII. The Ancestry survey reveals that while 55 per cent of British Columbians say they are familiar with larger battles, such as the D-Day landings in Normandy and 25 per cent say they are aware of the Dieppe Raid, not many are aware that the war actually reached Canadian shores.

Simon Pearce, a military genealogist and one of Ancestry’s progenealogists, said that Canada’s efforts on home soil played a “vital role in the war effort” and are stories that should be honoured alongside the European front lines.

“Canada played a key role in some of the Second World War’s most well-known battles, but let’s not forget the ways Canadians served closer to home – bravely defending the country’s borders from attacks, training pilots to serve overseas and facing treacherous waters to deliver essential supplies across the Atlantic.”

To help Canadians discover and learn more about Canada’s veterans, Ancestry is opening up free access to all global military records on their website from Nov. 2 to Nov. 11.

Ancestry uncovered an untold personal story of Lieutenant Sidney Vessey, who was killed in action during the Aleutian Islands Campaign in 1943. He was the first Canadian casualty during the invasion.

They have released a letter written to Vessey’s wife, Dolly in December 1943, which shared the circumstances of his death.

“…Lieutenant Vessey was instantly killed by the explosion of a land mine while investigating an enemy position at Kiska, Alaska…”

Lesley Anderson is a family historian from Ancestry.

“Learning about the role of our ancestors played in World War II can provide many of us with a personal, poignant link to the Remembrance Day commemorations and help us understand how the conflict shaped our families’ lives,” Anderson said.

“Now is the ideal time to search through historic records and images that bring home the humanity and individual stories of wartime.”

Ancestry is encouraging British Columbians to find a deeper personal connection to Remembrance Day by discovering the untold stories of how their ancestors contributed to WWII, at home and overseas.

Remembrance Day

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