Tuesday, 08 November 2011 15:10

Cemetery tour to highlight role of veterans

Written by 
Rate this item
(0 votes)

By Matthew Liebenberg — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A guided tour of the veterans cemetery in Swift Current on Nov. 12 will provide a unique opportunity to recall the contributions and sacrifices of Canadian soldiers during different wars.

It will be the first time Stephanie Kaduck, who is the education and public programs co-ordinator at the Swift Current Museum, will provide this tour to the public. Kaduck has previously done the tour with school groups, but since then she has done more research.

“The veteran cemetery tour is really an exploration of Canada’s involvement in wartime,” she said. “We have veterans in our cemetery going back to the Fenian Raids and the Boer War in the regular cemetery, but in the veterans’ cemetery we have fantastic variety of units represented.”

Some of the men buried in the veterans cemetery were members of the No. 428 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force. Also known as the Ghost Squadron, these airmen flew night bombing missions from England across Nazi-occupied Europe during the Second World War.

Members of the 8th Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars) are also buried here. Commonly referred to as the 8 Recce, this unit was headquartered in Swift Current.

During the Second World War, it served as the reconnaissance arm of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. The members of 8 Recce were involved in heavy action during the latter part of the war after the Allies landed in France and then advanced to liberate the Netherlands and to invade Germany.

According to Kaduck the veterans cemetery was established after the First World War. One of the first men to be buried there died in 1922 from the effects of chlorine gas. The use of poison gas during the First World War became part of desperate attempts by both sides to gain a few inches of ground during the trench warfare.

The Canadian soldiers earned the respect of others with their bravery in the face of chlorine gas attacks on their lines during the second Battle of Ypres in 1915.

It was during this battle that Canadian army surgeon John McCrae wrote his famous poem In Flanders Field that is still recited every Remembrance Day.

Another unique aspect of the veterans cemetery is that it contains the graves of men who actually died in Swift Current during the Second World War. They were killed while training at the flying training school.

There were two such schools in Swift Current during the war. The No. 32 Elementary Flying Training School operated from July to November 1941, when it moved to Bowden, Alberta.

The No. 39 Service Flying Training School was active in Swift Current from December 1941 to March 1944 and it trained a total of 893 pilots.

“We have about 14 British  airmen who were killed here while they were training,” she said. “A number of Canadian airmen as well and also a New Zealander.”

Kaduck said these flight training schools were one of Canada’s greatest contributions towards  the war effort.

“Commonwealth people could come here and train without risk from the enemy,” she explained.

During her research she was surprised to find a woman who is buried in the veterans cemetery. She was a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC).

“I was hoping this cemetery would be representative of all of our contributions and so it was quite exciting,” she said. “I’m not sure if she’s the only one or not. Even though that’s a fairly small section of the cemetery it takes a lot of exploration.”

The members of the CWAC made an important contribution to the war effort that were not always recognized and they were early pioneers towards the eventual integration of women in the Canadian armed forces. Kaduck also found Korean War veterans in the cemetery.

“That’s an interesting thing because the Korean War really set up the stage for Canada’s peacekeeping role,” she said. “But they weren’t recognized for about 30 or 40 years after the Korean War as contributing soldiers.”

Because it is so time-consuming, her research on the veterans cemetery has not yet reached the point where she is detailing the individual stories of specific soldiers. During the tour she will focus on what the roles of the veterans would have been.

“I’m identifying their roles — what a bombardier did, what a sapper did. I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t know. They hear about different battles but they don’t know for example even what a sapper is.”

She is hoping to add even more detail in the future about individuals who are buried there.

“Even to just place myself there and identify with the kinds of circumstances these people were put in is pretty awe inspiring,” she said.

The tour will take place at 2 p.m. Nov. 12. It will start at the main entrance gate of the old Mount Pleasant cemetery on 6th Ave. N.E.

The first part of the tour will focus on the Fenian Raids, the Boer War and some of the memorials to people who are buried overseas. The group will then move towards the veterans’ cemetery.

For more detail, phone the Swift Current Museum at 306-778-2775.

Read 725 times

More In Entertainment...