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Cloverdale cenotaph turns 90

A First World War German field rifle captured on the battlefield once lay on top of the Surrey cenotaph. It was later melted for scrap for the Second World War effort. 40.5.20 - Image courtesy Surrey Archives
A First World War German field rifle captured on the battlefield once lay on top of the Surrey cenotaph. It was later melted for scrap for the Second World War effort. 40.5.20
— image credit: Image courtesy Surrey Archives

On Remembrance Day hundreds will gather at the Surrey War Memorial in Cloverdale to honour service men and women who have given their lives serving their country during conflicts and peacetime.

This year marks a special anniversary in Cloverdale, site of Surrey’s First World War cenotaph and war memorial.

The original granite cenotaph, built in 1921 by a Surrey municipal crew from B.C. granite, is 90 years old this year.

It was dedicated on Aug. 4, 1921, and was meant to honour those who “fell in the Great War, 1914-1918.”

A crowd of more than 1,500 people turned out for the monument’s unveiling in May 22, 1921 – a gloriously sunny day, a newspaper called the British Columbian noted approvingly.

Everyone stood as the Salvation Army band led a parade of veterans, boy scouts and school children to the site of the memorial.

A cenotaph is a tomb or monument honouring those whose remains lie elsewhere.

The names of 23 “Surrey boys, with the place at which they gave up their lives,” were inscribed in the granite, the newspaper reported. “It is probable that more will be added to the list.”

On top of the memorial was a German field gun (known as a “whizz-bang” among the boys,) that had been captured by the Canadian 47th Battalion on Sept. 27, 1918. (It was removed and melted for scrap at the start of the Second World War, along with a second German gun that had stood on the other side of the 1912 municipal hall).

Cloverdale CenotaphParents and relatives were joined by more than 50 veterans on parade at the ceremony, performed by Brig.-General Victor W. Odlum, who pulled the cord, releasing two flags covering the artillery.

After dedicatory services were conducted by Rev. Col. G.O. Fallis and Canon G. C. d’Eastum, MC of New Westminster’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, a choir sang O Canada, Fight the Good Fight, Nearer My God to Thee and the national anthem. Bugler Clark sounded The Last Post. Dignitaries from as far away as New Westminster were on hand.

Following the benediction, wreaths were brought forward by representatives from the Surrey Board of Trade, the Surrey Women’s Institute, various ladies’ auxiliaries, Cloverdale veterans and others, including schools, boy scouts and churches.

The cenotaph has been in three locations in Cloverdale over the past 90 years.

The first was on the west grounds of Surrey Municipal Hall (the 1912 Hall that now houses the Surrey Archives). The outline of where the cenotaph once stood is still visible on the grass.

During the late 1950s, it was moved to a new location outside of Shannon Hall at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds. Many residents would recognize it as the former Surrey Museum site at 176 Street and 60 Avenue (until recently home to the Cloverdale Seniors Centre).

Today, the cenotaph is located on the plaza between the Surrey Museum and the Surrey Archives, where it was moved in 2005 – as close to the original location as possible.

The monument was refurbished that year. A wider base was added, the granite acid washed and flashed to restore its original beauty. New granite panels engraved with historic information were added, replacing old metal letters.

Also, the top was modified to better represent a grave and provide permanent Second World War, Korea and Peacekeeper memorials.

Kneeling in RemembranceThe statue, “Kneeling in Remembrance”, depicts a soldier in typical First World War battle kit, with the insignia of the local B.C. 47th Battalion, kneeling at a battlefield grave. It was built using funds donated by Surrey school children, the Cloverdale Legion Branch 6, the B.C. government, and office of Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon.

It was unveiled on Nov. 11 during the 2006 Remembrance Day ceremony.

Annual ceremonies were held on Aug. 4 until after the Second World War.

The figure and granite blocks are meant to resemble a temporary grave a soldier’s unit might have created for someone killed in battle.

– Sources: “Heritage Square Elements,” and “Surrey pays tribute to her sons who were killed in the war,” New Westminster British Columbian, May 24, 1921, both courtesy of the Surrey Archives.



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