This Friday marks the 10th year for the Ladysmith Rotary Club’s unique and poignant For King and Country Remembrance Day Veteran’s Dinner.
“The first of these dinners was held in 2003 at Ladysmith High School and was called ‘A Night at the Savoy,’” said Ed Nicholson, who is chairing the event with Sandra Milne. “The idea for the evening and the major force behind it was Rotarian and veteran David Walbank, who passed away in 2012.”
The dinner will take place Friday, Nov. 8 at the Ladysmith Eagles Hall, starting at 7 p.m.
“From a Rotary perspective, we will make a point of honouring and celebrating the veterans who come,” said Nicholson. “Sandra and I really want to make this a celebration of the lives of veterans. It’s not just ‘lest we forget,’ but let’s remember.”
Every year, the For King and Country Remembrance Day Veteran’s Dinner honours a veteran from the Ladysmith area with the Empty Chair. Mayor Rob Hutchins addresses the Empty Chair, sharing the veteran’s story. This year, the Rotary Club chose to honour A. Poulain, whose name can be found on the Second World War inscription on the Ladysmith Cenotaph.
When Poulain went off to war, he changed his name from Adolphe Louis Poulain to Don Poulain, according to Nicholson.
Poulain’s grandfather came from Belgium to Nanaimo to work in the mines, and his father worked in mines as well, in Extension.
Poulain was born Feb. 6, 1921, in Extension, a twin. Poulain’s family moved to Ladysmith when he was young.
After working as a laundryman in Ladysmith and later Victoria, Poulain enlisted in Victoria with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. They were among the first Canadian troops to be stationed over seas, departing Halifax December 21, 1939. They were stationed in England with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division as part of the Shore Defence Forces.
On July 10, 1943, Poulain’s unit landed in Sicily as part of the British 8th Army. Private Poulain was severely wounded while fighting the way up the centre of the island towards Leonforte on July 22, 1943. He died the following day. Poulain was buried along with 464 other Canadians in Agira Canadian War Cemetery in Sicily.
Poulain’s nephews, Jim Buckner and Frans Vandenbrink, both live in Chemainus, and they will be special guests at this year’s For King and Country Remembrance Day Veteran’s Dinner.
During this year’s dinner, there will be several guest speakers. One will be Luc Gelinas, who works for Lockheed Martin supporting the Submarine Refit Program as a System Integration Analyst. He retired from the military in 2011 as Chief Petty Officer after being deployed with the Command Joint Operation Center in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for eight and a half months.
Michael Symons, who sits on the Air Cadet League of Canada/B.C. Provincial Committee as the Director of History for the Province, will speak about the Cadet movement in British Columbia — the birthplace of Air Cadets — and the history of 257 Ladysmith Squadron.