Royal Canadian Legion
Cloverdale Branch # 6
17567 - 57 Avenue, Cloverdale, B.C.
Exceptional veterans honouredBy Jennifer Lang
The Cloverdale Reporter
January 26, 2012
Earle Fraser has been presented with the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation, an honour recognizing hard work, selfless commitment and dedication to veterans.
"These individuals have made a real and lasting difference with their service and dedication to our nation's truest heroes," Blaney said. "On behalf of all Canadians, I am proud to acknowledge their extraordinary efforts in helping to provide the care and recognition our veterans and their families deserve."
Fraser is currently serving as second vice president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 6 in Cloverdale. Among his many accomplishments is his instrumental role in efforts to restore the graves of Surrey's First World War veterans.
In 2010, about 60 graves at Surrey Centre Cemetery in Cloverdale – including some that had never been properly marked and were nearly forgotten about – were refurbished and re-dedicated.
Second World War veteran Syd Pratt, formerly of Cloverdale, was also recognized at today's ceremony.
Pratt, 91, is a powerhouse fundraiser for the Royal Canadian Legion's annual poppy campaign. In 2010, the Kelowna legion member singlehandedly collected $33,660 by selling poppies, beating his own record of $28,500.
He's been part of the poppy campaign for more than 20 years. Last year, his stepdaughter Sharon Anderson of Cloverdale told The Reporter: "Every year he's tried to beat the previous year. He's so dedicated. He just loves it."
At today's ceremony, the minister also presented the commendation to the following individuals: John Bishop of Cobble Hill, Velma Emberly of Victoria, Jack Fraser of Salt Spring Island, Vancouver's Sandi Greenfield, Roy Kawamoto of Kelowna, Kelly Kwong of Burnaby, Bob Maley of North Vancouver, Robert Morrison of Vancouver, Gerard Ratchford of Esquimalt and Willliam Whalen of Pitt Meadows.
The commendation is presented to individuals who have contributed to the care and well-being of veterans and to the remembrance of their contributions, sacrifices and achievements. It is intended primarily for veterans, but in some circumstances may also be awarded to non-veterans.
U.S., Canadian veteran mournedBy Jennifer Lang
The Cloverdale Reporter
September 13, 2011
Bugle major John More from the British Columbia Regiment Band played The Last Post in tribute at the service, which was presided over by Major Brian Venables of the Salvation Army, and included a colour party from Branch 6.
Taylor, who passed away last month at the age of 100, served in both the Canadian and U.S. militaries.
A long-time resident of Cloverdale, Taylor was a familiar face at Branch 6, where he is sadly missed. He’s fondly remembered as a bright spirit and enthusiastic “Rock Hound” who also enjoyed travel, and spending time with family and friends.
Tolbert Maurice “Red” Taylor was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on July 11, 1911, and passed away Aug. 16, in his 101st year.
In 1931, he enlisted in the U.S. Army at 19, serving with the 31st U.S. Infantry in China and the Philippines.
His 29-day trip across the Pacific in an army transport ship forged deep and lasting memories; he told stories about that voyage until near the end of his life.
He headed north to British Columbia in 1940. He enlisted in the Rocky Mountain Rangers regiment of the Canadian Army Special Forces, training in Vernon.
Taylor took part in a memorable training exercise involving a 500-km march from Kamloops to Vancouver, said Branch 6 vice president Earle Fraser.
The march took 14 days during 40-degree heat and was meant to simulate war conditions.
He was among the Canadian troops sent to Italy, where he was part of the invasion of Sicily.
He was eventually injured and spent four months in hospitals in North Africa and England before returning to Vancouver.
He worked as a buyer for a luggage company in Vancouver, and later went to work in the maintenance department at the University of British Columbia until his retirement.
On Sept. 9, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 6 held a celebration of life for Taylor, followed by a short service at Surrey Centre Cemetery, where his ashes have been interred in the veteran’s section.
He is predeceased by his first wife Josephine and his second wife Eleanor, and sister Mary Carter. He is survived by his stepdaughter Elva Whitford of Vancouver, step-grandaughter Amy Davidson of Surrey, niece Beverly Schallert of Albuquerque, NM (who attended the service along with her husband and son), nephew Elton Carter of Lee’s Summit, MO, and many great nieces and nephews.
Cloverdale Legion celebrates 85 yearsBy Jennifer Lang
The Cloverdale Reporter
June 22, 2011
So it’s surprising to discover not everyone in town knows where the home of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 6 is – and the equally long-serving Ladies’ Auxiliary – is located, or what they do.
That’s why the local landmark is opening its doors to the public Saturday, when it hosts a celebration marking the 85th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Legion.
The open house is a long overdue opportunity for Branch 6 and the Ladies’ Auxiliary to show off their proud history in Canada and decades of good works in the community – and let people get to know them a little better.
“It’s not an old drinking hole with guys sitting around telling war stories from 50 years ago,” says first vice president Frank Redekop, who says the average age of new members joining is 30. “This isn’t your grandfather’s legion.”
Fittingly, things get underway with a pancake breakfast at 8:30 a.m., along with a barbecue from 1 to 3 p.m. fueling up visitors while they peruse displays showcasing branch history, the upcoming redevelopment plans and much more.
Cloverdale has been home to a RCL branch since 1926, when the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League held its inaugural meeting in the local opera house, but its official charter – and that of the Ladies’ Auxiliary – didn’t come until the following year, in 1927.
“It is a social thing,” Redekop says, pointing to branch’s the full calendar of events, such as hosting a different live band every weekend in the legion’s popular auditorium and watering-hole.
Since its inception, Branch 6 has been at the centre of community life, organizing the annual Remembrance Day service and parade, and pitching in with other local events throughout the year.
“A lot of people say they stay active in the legion and other service groups in the community because it keeps them active. I guess you could say it keeps you young at heart,” says Redekop, a third-generation legion member who joined in 1989.
Of course, there’s an important public service component, too.
“The idea is when you get more active with the legion, you help raise funds for the community,” Redekop says.
Along with supporting veterans and their families, the Cloverdale legion and the Ladies’ Auxiliary have always helped local youth, charities, hospitals, seniors homes and needy families.
The Cloverdale Legion disburses as much as $100,000 a year in charitable funds in the community, from hospital foundations to scholarships and bursaries for seven high schools and other worthy causes.
Membership hit a high of more than 2,100 in 1996 and currently sits at around 1,700, making it the sixth largest in Canada.
Current membership in the Cloverdale Legion Ladies Auxiliary sits at around 42. Nevertheless, the ladies auxiliary gives away an average of $50,000 in donations each year to the hospital foundation, and in scholarships and student bursaries.
Nationally, the Canadian Legion does advocacy work for veterans, while provincial command supports a veterans transition program through a partnership with the University of British Columbia that helps service men and women who are returning home from active duty.
“Right now, people don’t know who we are, they don’t know where we are,” Redekop says, inviting people to come find out for themselves on Saturday. “They don’t know what we do.”
These days, you don’t have to be a veteran to join; Branch 6 offers associate and affiliate memberships. Membership has its benefits – literally, from savings on cable TV packages to BCAA membership discounts and other goodies.
The familiar one-story building at 17567 57 Avenue is merely the branch’s latest home.
Meetings were first held in a shiplap and tar paper shack, then later at A.J. Burrows store in Cloverdale. The third home, a large, two storey hall built in 1947 to house a booming post Second World War membership, burnt down in 1956.
It was rebuilt the following year. An auditorium and kitchen were later add-ons.
The building underwent a major overhaul in 1997 that modernized the look of the lounge, replacing dark panelling with a lighter paint job and adding windows to let in natural daylight.
The new legion hall is the cornerstone of phase one of the City of Surrey’s redevelopment plans for the old Cloverdale Mall site.
On Saturday, there will also be a video presentation outlining redevelopment plans for the new legion.
– The open house is June 25 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome.
Three cheers for the Cloverdale Legion Ladies AuxiliaryBy Jennifer Lang
The Cloverdale Reporter
June 22, 2011
The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 6 Ladies’ Auxiliary presented the City of Surrey with a large, flower-filled planter in recognition of the legion’s 85th anniversary.
Coun. Linda Hepner was on hand to thank the auxiliary for the commemorative gift – and to express gratitude on behalf of council for 85 years of service to the community.
“I know how important the Legion is and the Ladies Auxiliary organization is to the community,” Hepner said, pointing to her own long-standing involvement with the Royal Canadian Legion in her home province of New Brunswick and status as the daughter of a veteran.
“You’re a great asset to the community,” she said. “I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you’ve done.”
The Ladies’ Auxiliary has been around just as long as the Legion – 85 years. Both groups raise funds for the community, distributing thousands of dollars each year.
Cloverdale Legion Branch 6 second vice president Earl Fraser also spoke from the heart, describing how the auxiliary came to the branch’s financial assistance during a particularly lean year during his tenure as president.
“As past president, I recall with immense pride when the ladies gave me a cheque for $20,000 to assist the branch during one of my years as your president. Ladies, without you, I’m not sure the Cloverdale Legion would still be here,” he said, eliciting a spontaneous round of cheers from the male members of the colour party gathered in the square.
“Hip, hip, hooray!” They cheered.
The Cloverdale Legion hosts an open house Saturday, June 25 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome.
Long time member of Cloverdale legion family mournedBy Krista Waddington Johnston
The Cloverdale Reporter
May 25, 2011
With daughters Sandra and Tina, companion Larry MacGilliard and grandchildren Demi, Keelan and Brady looking on, Jessie was remembered with love and laughs by her friends, family, customers, and anyone who had the good fortune to know her and her smile.
Jessie was born April 20, 1942 in Ituna, Saskatchewan amidst six sisters and four brothers. Being the adventurous spirit she was, she left home at an early age and lived in Yorkton and Regina before landing in Calgary in 1967 where she met and married Frank Palmiere on Feb. 24, 1969. November of that year their first daughter Sandra was born, followed by Tina in 1973 after their move to Vancouver.
By 1974 the family had moved to Langley, where Jessie helped establish and co-chair the Nicomekl Elementary Parent Teacher Association. As well as raising her girls, Jessie ran the PTA, assisted the local Block Watch, ran the school’s hot lunch program, and worked tirelessly to raise funds for the school’s new gym, kitchen and playground. She also successfully lobbied Langley city hall for funding for the school programs and equipment. Jessie’s can-do attitude was evident even back then: when something needed to be done she simply did it and moved on to the next thing.
Jessie was a superb hostess who took care of every detail when people came to visit. Jessie made sure that everyone had a place to stay, food in their bellies and smiles on their faces. She was remembered as being a fantastic cook, bringing her famous perogies for anyone who requested a special treat. Her loving, thoughtful nature was often expressed with a bag of perogies at the ready for anyone who asked.
Jessie was also an active and athletic lady. She bowled competitively in Langley and Cloverdale, though in 1975 she discovered she had a natural talent for softball. Her teammates from The Knights, Artisan, and Mom’s Kitchen (to name a few) remember her as a wicked third baseman until a car accident sidelined her from the hot corner. In typical “Jessie” fashion she defied the odds, not only walking against her doctor’s prediction, but returning to competitive play as a great pitcher. As expected, she was at the forefront of the fundraising until the team finally found a sponsor in her beloved Cloverdale Legion Branch 6, where she became an irreplaceable member of the legion family for 32 years.
Softball was her sport of choice until she picked up a golf club and discovered yet another athletic passion. In fact, it was golf that brought her another blessing when she met Larry at a golf tournament in Quesnel in 1994. The two shared a passion for life, travelling and golfing throughout their years together. With her children, grandchildren and Larry, Jessie’s life was just as she wanted: complete.
After her cancer diagnosis in October 2008 she continued to work during her treatments, never complaining except to express her annoyance that it kept her from doing all she wanted to do.
She faced her illness with her trademark strength and fortitude, yet her warmth and loving nature were never diminished.
Four days after a very special birthday celebration, Jessie passed away in the early morning of April 24, Easter Sunday.
As mentioned in her eulogy, the day seemed appropriate as an extraordinary lady left us on an extraordinary day. The very best of her remains in Sandra and Tina, both of whom share her kindness, energy and loving spirit.
The Palmiere family would like to express their gratitude to everyone for their help and support. Jessie’s family and friends meant the world to her, and it was clear from the turnout on Saturday that the feeling was mutual.
The family would like to thank Krista Waddington Johnston for helping Tina and Sandra.
Lest We Forget: why Cloverdale veterans share their stories each yearBy Jennifer Lang
The Cloverdale Reporter
November 13, 2009
Did you kill anybody?
"That question always amazes me," says army veteran Doug Langton, "I just tell them a soldier has to do what a soldier has to do. That sort of seems to appease them."
At 86, Langton is one of a handful of local veterans who tour local schools during Remembrance Week.
He went overseas in 1940 at age 16 serving with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment in England, North Africa, and eventually Italy, where he was among 93,000 Canadians who fought the Italian campaign – fighting their way through some of Europe's most hostile terrain: mud, mountains, ridges and rivers.
"The kids ask you so many questions," Langton says, adding the reality of battle is nothing like the image presented by American war movies. "You try to put forth the harshness and the badness of the things we had to go through, hoping that they never have to see it."
The Edmonton troops were part of the savage battle of Ortona – eight days in December 1943 that were so fierce, the battle was dubbed Little Stalingrad.
"Christmas Day. That was a big day," he says, recalling an incident where things got pretty hairy down in a gully. "We weren't in there too long. Every bit was a lifetime, if you know what I mean."
The deprivation was difficult, too. In Italy, they slept in slip trenches. "Days went by when you'd wake up in the morning after sitting all night in the rain and you take off your boots, take off your socks, and wring them out."
Even the good memories are tinged with sadness. Like the day they were a few miles out of Berlin, when the dispatch rider came through announcing the war was over.
"That was a great feeling," says Langton. "The sad part of it was, we lost three men." They were shot by German troops who were still scattered in places as the Allies took over.
He doesn't like to get too specific when sharing his war experiences with children. "If their parents want to take 'em home and tell them, well..."
While not a pacifist, Langton said he believes Canadians should pick their military causes carefully and offered a strong assessment of the current military involvement in Afghanistan.
"I don't think we should be over there at all. We're never going to cure anything," he said.
"It's going to go on and on, like it has for years," he says. "We thought that our war would be the war to end wars. But we were wrong."
Last week, he joined Korean war veteran Tom Finn and 50-year member of the Royal Canadian Legion's Ladies' Auxiliary, Dollie Greenshields, in making the rounds to senior's homes and schools.
Each receives a great deal of satisfaction in return for sharing their memories with others in the community.
"I love doing it," says Finn, who served with the Royal Canadian Regiment. "I'm going it because it's what I'm supposed to do. I'll do it until I die."
He admits it's a tough time of year, emotionally.
On Remembrance Day, he thinks of the 11 men who lost their lives one terrible night during the Korean War, when he was a section commander. "I'm alive. And they're not," he says simply.
"And," he says, brightening. "It makes the kids remember. And that's why we do it."
Cloverdale service remembers the fallenBy Jennifer Lang
The Cloverdale Reporter
November 4, 2009
Royal Canadian Legion Branch 6 is planning to have a bus to transport those veterans who can't make the walk to the cenotaph at Surrey Museum Plaza on foot.
"We'll get them there and back to the branch," service officer Earle Fraser said, adding legion members are hoping to persuade as many veterans as possible to attend this year's service, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the start of the Second World War.
The average age of Canadian veterans who served during the Second World War (1939-1945) is now 86 years old.
The service starts at 10:15 a.m. at Surrey Museum Plaza following the parade.
Veterans will be joined by RCMP officers, emergency services personnel, local cadets, Scouts and Guides, plus a busload of 45 reservists – members of the 744 Communications Regiment – who are coming to Cloverdale for Remembrance Day.
The Cloverdale Remembrance Day ceremonies are thought to be Surrey's largest, attracting 2,500 to 3,000 participants and spectators.
"The square is jammed," Fraser said.
At 11 a.m., there will be two minutes of silence to remember those men and women who sacrificed their lives in military service.
The skies over Cloverdale will be filled with the rumble of vintage aircraft flying in formation, first by the Cenotaph Flyover group out of Boundary Bay and the Fraser Blues Formation Flying Team, based out of the Langley airport.
The ceremonies of remembrance are followed by the traditional laying of wreaths.
After the service, the colour party leads the procession back to the Legion branch.
It's a busy week for Branch 6 members. The branch sent five local veterans to local schools to speak with elementary and high school students.
Some, including Second World War army veteran Doug Langton, 86, who fought in the Italian campaign, also visited two seniors care homes.
Langton and other legion members have also been stationed at various high profile spots in Cloverdale as part of the Poppy Campaign. The annual campaign runs to Nov. 11.
Donations help support programs for local veterans and their families.
REMEMBRANCE DAY FLYPAST: Timing is everything, vintage flyers sayBy Jennifer Lang
The Cloverdale Reporter
November 4, 2009
The close formation flying team – comprised of a bunch of ex-military fighter pilots – knows a thing or two about precision timing.
The Langley airport-based flyers are scheduled to soar over Cloverdale Nov. 11, in between flypasts over Aldergrove, Fort Langley, Langley and Port Kells.
At eight minutes past 11 a.m. the Fraser Blues will rumble overhead, flying six classic L17 Navions, North American-made aircraft used by U.S. forces during the Korean War.
The Fraser Blues and their single-engine planes are a familiar presence at air shows across B.C. and beyond, performing close-formation flying manoeuvres like head-ons, bomb blasts and split ups.
This will be the team’s 11th Remembrance Day flypast.
“We love to do it,” says lead pilot George Miller, a retired Canadian Air Force colonel and former leader of the Canadian Snowbirds.
“This is our major hobby and it is a great honour to remember the veterans who have paid the price.”
Remembrance Day isn’t just another flight for Miller, who served for three years in Egypt, where he was responsible for the Remembrance Day ceremonies at El Al Amein.
He also worked with the Canadian War Graves Commission, a post that sent him to some truly remote burial sites where Canadians have been laid to rest.
He remembers being escorted by Egyptian and Libyan forces to see a grave site straddling the border that contained the graves of two fallen Canadian airmen.
The Egyptians and Libyans had done a wonderful job of tending the graves, he said. “It’s a pretty lonely place to be buried,” said Miller, who now manages the Langley Airport and will be flying with team member and son Guy Miller of Abbotsford.
The Fraser Blues isn’t the only formation flying team headed for the skies over Cloverdale during Wednesday’s ceremony. Consider the task at hand for Boundary Bay’s Cenotaph Flyover team.
In the span of an hour, they’ll be flying four, very loud, vintage Harvard planes in formation over a Baker’s dozen of Remembrance Day services in the Lower Mainland, including Cloverdale’s, on Nov. 11.
“It’s difficult to be in 13 places, all at 11 o’clock,” says lead pilot Mike Langford, who’s been performing flypasts with his group for 20 years now.
Fortunately, he says, the pilots are in close radio contact with air traffic controllers during the flight, ensuring different formation flying teams don’t collide in the busy Metro Vancouver skies on Remembrance Day.
“We’re able to keep out of each other’s way.”
The Cenotaph Flyover’s flightpath typically takes them over services from Bowen Island and the North Shore to downtown Vancouver and south to Ladner, Whalley, and Cloverdale, where on Wednesday they’ll soar over the Cenotaph at Surrey Museum Plaza at 10 minutes to 11 a.m. – 20 minutes before westbound Fraser Blues are planning their flyover here. “Our planes are louder,” he says.
Langford, a mechanical engineer, says the other three pilots on his team come from commercial pilot backgrounds.
“We all do different things and we come together for this one event,” says Langford, who grew up listening to the sound of Harvard planes, 650-hp aircraft used as training aircraft in Vancouver during the Second World War, explaining why he was drawn to performing flypasts.
“I love planes greatly. That’s basically it.”
Everyone knows someone who has, or is, serving in the armed forces, giving Remembrance Day universal appeal, he added.
He can't march with the boys, but he's always there for themBy Amy Reid
The Cloverdale Source
The 86-year-old war veteran has long since left the army, but he is no stranger to his local legion, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #6 Cloverdale.
Langton joined the army at the age of 16 and soon found himself serving as a walking soldier throughout Africa, Sicily, Italy, Germany and France.
He returned to his native Winnipeg in 1945 and received his discharge. He was out for two years but couldn't handle civilian life and went back to the army for another seven years, then again, took his discharge. He said things were different when he returned home.
"When we joined to go overseas they said that when you returned, your job will be waiting for you, the job you left. "Just so happened the job I left wasn't there, and I don't think I would have taken it anyway because I think I was only receiving $3.50 a day there. It wasn't worth taking anyway."
He worked with his father for a time, and was married after he came out of the army the second time and that ended his career in service. He moved from Winnipeg to the Lower Mainland with his wife because she had family here. And for the last 16 years or so he has lived in Cloverdale and has had a large presence at the Cloverdale Legion.
He was Cloverdale's Sergeant at Arms for many years, he was in charge of the annual parade, he's been an honourary executive for a number of years and he still takes part in the funeral ceremonies when a veteran passes away. And he used to help out with the annual Santa Claus Parade in the community.
While his ill-health has him slowing down, he's no where near stopping. He helps out at the pancake breakfasts that the legion holds, spends whole days selling poppies during the poppy campaign, and helps out at the legion if he is physically able to do so.
Earle Fraser, service officer for the Cloverdale Legion, said that Langton is "just a really nice man. "He's very active in the legion.
"He's been honourary executive for years and he was our Sergeant at Arms - and he was a very good one. "Doug has been a hard working legionaire."
Langton now resides with a friend from the legion, Dollie Greensides, a 50-year member of the Ladies Auxiliary. She caters and serves at the legion, hands out bursaries and more for the Cloverdale Legion. When Greensides heard that Langton was living in a hotel, she said she just couldn't let him stay there and invited him to live with her.
"He very much enjoys being with people," she said. "In fact, it makes him feel better when he is with people -- he's more up when he's talking with people and being with people.
"That's part of the reason I couldn't leave him in a hotel. I couldn't leave him there - he had no one to talk to or anything. "He has lots of history and he likes to talk about it."
Greensides said he still does so much, despite his health.
"When they ask him, if it's possible, he does it."
Right now Langton is looking forward to the poppy fund that is kicking off in November. He'll be busy hitting local grocery stores, the flea market and other local spots doing his part to raise money for the fund.
"From that poppy fund we spread it around and make sure it goes to the right people so it keeps me busy and out of trouble," he chuckled. "I hit lucky last year -- I was just a few dollars short of getting $500 in one day. "People look at me and feel sorry for me," he chuckled. "They so, oh that poor guy, give him a buck.
"And it all helps - our money goes to such good causes. "We do an awful lot of good. We do parades, we do bursaries, we have a fantastic ladies auxilary here."
He also looks forward to the pancake breakfasts that he helps out at, which take place the second Saturday of the month at the legion. He invites local residents to come down, enjoy the $4 breakfast and say hello. He loves being part of it all.
"I'm 86 and I'm quite happy being here and doing what service I can for the boys that are coming home."
He said he will continue to contribute to the legion and to his community "as long as the good lord lets me.
"I can't march with them anymore, my legs are kind of shot, my breathing is not too good for long hauls, but I will do everything I can to help."
A father’s cavalry charge changes a son’s life
Mackay digs deep to detail World War 1 drama in his new novel, "Soldier of the Horse"By Ursula Maxwell-Lewis
The Cloverdale Reporter
March 28, 2009
In the distance, the distinctive wail of approaching bagpipes.
It wasn’t the damp Bob Mackay’s bones were reacting to as he stood on the edge of Moreuil Wood on March 30, 2008.
It was knowledge that his father, Tom Mackay, a sergeant in Lord Strathcona’s Horse, had battled for freedom on the same spot, on the same date in 1918.
Now, 90 years later, the son stood by a cairn marking the battle.
Flags of Canada and France snapped to attention in the wind overhead. Even the elements were on parade.
For the Cloverdale author, time stood still.
Mackay, a retired local lawyer and writer, has crafted the tale of the soldier, his comrades, and the critical battle at Moreuil Wood.
This was the day the Canadian Cavalry Brigade was flung into a fierce battle during which 100 mounted men of Lord Strathcona’s Horse charged a force of enemy machineguns, rifles, and artillery - armed with swords - at the full gallop.
With a major German offensive about to split the French and British allies, Mackay tells the dynamic story of Canadian soldiers earning their place in history with a charge that, under heavy machinegun fire, suffered terrible casualties but turned the tide of the battle.
Standing with his wife, Pat, and locals who to this day revere Mackay’s father and his fellow Canadian cavalrymen, he recalls the emotion of the moment:
“It was a terribly touching occasion,” he said. “Here we were, on a windswept field in northern France where hundreds of Canadians died. And the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the battle was being marked by the grateful French, generations later.
The only Canadians present, my wife and I thought about the young men who gave so much for their country.”
Bob Mackay went on to explain that the French ceremony was spearheaded by local farmer Jean-Paul Brunel.
Brunel had discovered the remains of a member of the Strathcona’s in 1986 where it had been entombed since the battle of 1918.
Appreciating the importance of the MacKay visit on March 30 last year, Brunel, rallied his fellow citizens, and dignified the occassion with a piper, bugler, and flag-bearing French veterans.
Historically Lord Strathcona's Horse was a cavalry unit – mounted men facing brutal battles.
In 1915 they were deployed to the trenches in France.
As luck would have it however, in 1917 they were instructed to re-mount and face the virtually insurmountable metal onslaught of the massive German war machine.
A unique touchstone for Mackay occurred recently.
Aware that Lieutenant Gordon Flowerdew (who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross) had led the Strathcona’s charge, he was delighted to learn that Gordon’s nephew, Barney Flowerdew, lives in Langley and frequents the Royal Canadian Legion in Cloverdale.
Recently, the two men had the pleasure of meeting to share memories and review photographs and books recording the history of their gutsy relatives.
With his carefully researched manuscript, "Soldier of the Horse”, ready to go to press, Mackay is now tackling the search for a publisher.
With a piece of uniquely Canadian historical fiction, he is confident his work will win that battle.
Mackay is an enthusiastic member of the Rainwriters, a dedicated group of writers who meet in Cloverdale...but only when it rains!
Barney Flowerdew and Bob Mackay discuss Lord Strathcona's Horse cavalry history.
Photo: Ursula Maxwell-Lewis, The Cloverdale Reporter
Vets’ volunteers honouredBy Craig MacBride
Surrey North Delta Leader
April 25, 2008
At her worst, the 5’6” Surrey resident was just 82 pounds, and she wasn’t sure she’d ever leave the hospital.
Her family gave her the reason to get well, but it took veterans who had also survived TB to give her the hope needed to make her battle successful.
“These people came to visit me, they didn’t know me from anything, and they told me I had to fight, and that there’s life after TB,” said Henderson.
After six months in the hospital and two years of outpatient treatment, Henderson went on to become a visiting veteran herself. It was her turn to go to hospitals and inspire veterans to push their way through sickness to health.
“The veterans gave me my rights and freedoms to vote the way I want to vote and talk the way I want to talk and practise whatever religion I want, and that means a lot to me,” she said.
Through the Royal Canadian Legion, she has also given back to her community in many other ways. So on Tuesday, Henderson became one of four local veterans honoured by the federal government.
Three vets from Surrey and one from Delta were among 19 people from B.C. and Northwest Territories to receive Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendations in Vancouver.
The medals recognize commitment and devotion to veterans, and minister Greg Thompson was on hand to recognize the volunteers.
“It’s a privilege to be in the company of these distinguished individuals,” Thompson said.
“They served their country with courage, and they continue to service their communities and their comrades with the care and respect they so rightly deserve.”
Michael Cook and Thomas Finn from Surrey, and Raymond Glover, a Delta resident, were the other locals honoured.
Cook, the son of a veteran, has helped initiate a number of programs for veterans, including one in conjunction with the University of B.C. that helps those with post-traumatic stress disorder.
He also successfully lobbied the federal government for a grant for the relocation and reconstruction of the Cloverdale Memorial Cenotaph.
Finn is a Korean War veteran and, among other things, is the chairman of the Sick and Visiting Committee.
Glover, also a veteran, volunteers as a fundraiser and organizer for needy veterans and coordinates Christmas dinners for the homeless with the Salvation Army and Catholic charities.
Photo: Ursula Maxwell-Lewis, The Cloverdale Reporter (April, 2008)
Year of the Veteran
Photo: Ursula Maxwell-Lewis, The Cloverdale Reporter (October, 2005)