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YOUR HISTORY: One war ends and another begins
We don’t often think about war during the month of August — usually it’s around early November leading up to Remembrance Day. But on Aug. 4, 1914, the First World War officially began for Canada when Great Britain declared war on Germany after the latter invaded neutral Belgium.
Our country, as part of the British Empire, was automatically included in that declaration of war and the call went out immediately across the nation looking for recruits. By war’s end, 620,000 men and women had answered the call for King and Empire and served in Canada’s armed forces, with over 66,000 making the ultimate sacrifice.
First to leave locally for distant battlefields overseas were troopers of Port Coquitlam’s 31st Regiment of the B.C. Horse, a militia force that included many local citizens. On Aug. 25, 1914, a large patriotic crowd of family and well-wishers gathered at the old Westminster Junction train station on Dewdney Trunk Road to see them off. Amid tearful farewells to husbands, fathers and sons, the City Band played The Maple Leaf Forever as the crowd cheered and waved Union Jack flags as the train pulled away. Steam whistles shrieked from the nearby CPR roundhouse and workers on the under construction Government Pitt River Bridge did likewise as they passed by. Within their roster can be found many of the names now enshrined on Port Coquitlam’s War Cenotaph honouring those who never returned home from “the war to end all wars”.
What a sad refrain it was.
Hostilities during the Second World War ended on Aug. 14, 1945, on what became known as V-J (Victory over Japan) Day. The war had ended in Europe back in May 1945 and many men and women in Canada’s Armed Forces were already returning home to their families and loved ones.
Heritage Society member Don Reid, a young boy at the time, remembers the troop train that brought his father Morven home from war, and the thrill of being able to ride part way back to Port Coquitlam with him. Scotty had served with the 16th Battery of the 3rd Lt. Ack Ack Regiment and was lucky enough to have returned unscathed from the disastrous raid on Dieppe on Aug. 19, 1942. He was not so lucky later on during the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, where he was seriously wounded a few weeks after landing.
One war began — and another war ended. Let us hope the sound of silence lasts forever.
Bryan Ness is a member of the PoCo Heritage and Cultural Society.