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Ladysmith pays respects on cenotaph’s 100th anniversary


Ladysmith’s Cenotaph was celebrated at a sunny and warm 100th anniversary last weekend.

About 100 spectators watched on Saturday, January 28, as members of Legion 171, along with a party of color, 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 11am, followed by a minute’s silence.

The act of commemoration was spoken by Legion President Darlene Paulson and Smith, followed by a prayer for the cenotaph and all 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 did in researching all the names on the cenotaph and discovering that some from the First World War are missing. She also thanked the city for supporting and caring for the memorial.

Mayor Aaron Stone followed suit, citing Mayor Wymond Walkem’s comments on the 1923 dedication of the cenotaph and the pledge that the City of Ladysmith would forever honor and preserve it. Stone reiterated the city’s promise to forever honor and preserve the cenotaph.

The opening speech was followed by the laying of a wreath at the base of the cenotaph by Stone and Paulson. The ceremony ended with God Save The King playing and the Color Party marching off.

The event moved to the Legion, where volunteers had prepared lunch. Historical Society Chairman Quentin Goodbody presented a visual history of the cenotaph over the past 100 years and some of the people instrumental in its existence. He also gave an overview of how many Canadians, particularly from the Ladysmith area, served in the armed forces during World War I and how many never made it home.

The history lesson was followed by the cutting of the anniversary cake, baked and donated by Save-On-Foods in Ladysmith. The cake was glazed in red and white with a sepia finish and featured photo transfers of the cenotaph.

Cenotaph turns 100

The headline in the Chronicle read, “Ceremonies Successfully Conducted in Whirling Blizzard, Hundreds in Attendance.”

The blizzard happened on January 29, 1923 and the event was the unveiling of the war memorial at First Avenue and Gatacre Street in downtown Ladysmith. At the time, the site was part of the Victoria to Nanaimo Highway. The prelude to today’s cenotaph was erected by the Ex-Service Men’s Association to commemorate their fallen comrades from the First World War. The memorial was unveiled by Brigadier General. RP Clark, CMC, DSO, MC.

John and Esther Sharp, the historical society volunteers who have spent years researching the history of Ladysmith’s cenotaph and those whose names are engraved on it, told the Chronicle that records indicate the war memorial dates from 1923 was designated as a monument until 1925 and was only called a cenotaph in 1926.

The cenotaph has had three other homes in the community over the years up to its current location in Cenotaph Park at Warren Street and the Trans-Canada Highway. One of the places was in front of the Post Office and Customs House 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 condition. The pillars are now used to chain off the borders of the cenotaph area. According to the Sharps, a close look at ancient images reveals that what was once the cenotaph’s roof has been turned upside down to form the base of what is now the monument.

John Sharp said the choice of names for the cenotaph depended entirely on people’s memories.

“The intent was to commemorate local people and it didn’t matter if someone was on a different cenotaph as that community might have their own reasons for naming someone,” he said. “That still seems to be the norm. At the dedication, the cenotaph had 40 names. Thomas Day’s name was added later.”

It was discovered that 90 locals, British subjects, were traveling back to Britain to enlist for service there. Local residents who died in the war were buried abroad, but their names appear on the local cenotaph.

Engraved on the cenotaph are the names of those who did not return from WWI: 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 , McNiven R, McRae F, Miller FW, Morrison FJD, Musgrave T, Patterson A, Patterson G, Rae M, Scobie J, Sebaston J, Shaw FH, Sharp J, Simpson TN, Tait W , D Taylor, W Turkko, J Wallace, RR Wallace, I Whitcombe, and W Wright, Jr.

Volunteer work at Ladysmith Archives uncovered 17 names of individuals whose names are missing from the memorial. Background work and fact finding is continued by the volunteers and members of the Ladysmith and District Historical Society.

According to Esther Sharp, there are two names on the cenotaph that are not actually local, and no one is sure who they were. The Sharps even researched service records in Britain and visited burial sites in other parts of Europe, but could find no trace of either name.

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