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The Great War

The Great War

This Remembrance Day we celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the ending of the Great War.

The Ladysmith Legion is planning a Remembrance Day celebration that will include the ringing of bells and other special activities.

Here is a look at the Cenotaph and the rich history that is inscribed there.

The first unveiling of the War Memorial was constructed in 1922 in memory of fallen comrades. The official unveiling was in January 1923 at its original location at First Avenue and Gatacre Street. Since then, the memorial has been moved to three different locations. Unfortunately, during one of the moves, part of the memorial was broken to pieces and was never restored to its original state.

Following is an excerpt from The Unveiling of the War Memorial, Ladysmith Chronicle (Feb 3, 1923 edition):

Ceremonies Successfully Conducted in Whirling Snowstorm- Hundreds of People in Attendance

The snowstorm on Sunday last did not prevent the citizens from turning out in large numbers when the monument erected by the Ex-Service Men’s Association in memory of their fallen comrades was unveiled by Brig-General R.P. Clark, C.M.C., D.S.O., M.C.

A company of over forty returned officers and men lined up at the City Hall, and headed by the band, marched from there up Roberts St. and along First Avenue to the site of the monument.

Four Sergeants in full military equipment formed the guard of honor. They were placed one at each corner of the edifice, and during the various ceremonies, stood at “present arms.”

Just below the platform erected for the ceremony, the returned men who paraded lined up under Capt. J.E. Montgomery. On the platform were assembled General Clark, Rev. F. L. Stephenson, Rev. J.G. Reid, Rev. J.F. Shaw, Rev. Thos. L. Conney, His Worship the Mayor and all the members of the City Council, Mr. T.A. Spruston, Mr. W. Wilson and Capt. C.G. Callin, who acted as Master of Ceremonies.

Before a crowd of some hundreds of people, the Ladysmith-Extension band opened the proceedings by playing the National Anthem, after which a prayer was offered up by the Rev. J.G. Reid. This was followed by a silence of two minutes.

General Clark then unveiled the memorial, and read the names inscribed thereon. In a very few well-chosen remarks the General expressed his appreciation of the honor that had been conferred upon him in asking him to unveil the monument to the men of Ladysmith and district who had given their all in the Great War for freedom and he complimented the residents of the district on erecting such a splendid edifice in their memory.

The names of the fallen engraved on the monument are as follows:

  1. 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, R. McNiven, F. McRae, F.W. Miller, F.J.D. Morrison, T. Musgrave, A. Patterson, G. Patterson, M. Rae, J. Scobie, J. Sebaston, F.H. Shaw, J. Sharp, T.N. Simpson, W. Tait, D. Taylor, W. Turkko, J. Wallace, R.R. Wallace, I. Whitcombe, W. Wright, Jr.


Missing names

But there was a problem. It took the sharp eye of John and Esther Sharp to discover that not only were some of the names spelled incorrectly but a number of fallen soldiers’ names had been completely missed. To date, the Sharps have discovered 16 names. It is hoped that once the research is completed – these names will be added.

John takes this project personally. His grandfather James Sharp is one of the names inscribed on the monument.

“My father was only 9 months old when James Sharp was killed in action so I don’t have many stories of him,” said John.

He was born in 1877 in Glasgow.  He joined the Scots Guards (one of the four regiments who take turns to guard the queen – Queen Victoria in his case) in the 1890’s.  In early 1898, he bought himself out of the army to marry my grandmother.  He was in the Boer War. He had five children born in Scotland, three sons and two daughters, but unfortunately, two of the sons died of meningitis in Glasgow.”

While most of the men were killed in action, a few succumbed to pneumonia, measles, tuberculosis, and injury-related diseases.

Fredrick William Millar, the son of Annie Stevens, the builder of the Travellers Hotel, died of cancer after being gassed. His name is misspelled Miller on the cenotaph. It wasn’t that uncommon to get names wrong in those days when not everyone was literate and the handwriting was an art form in itself.

The other misspelled names should read G. Lorrie, P. Sebiston, and W. Torko.


In the British Columbia History (Fall/2018) issue, Esther Sharp wrote about the Great War and the Home Front and how the small community of Ladysmith banded together to support the war effort.

The Great War started in 1914 at the end of the Great Miners Strike of 1912-1914 that had a devastating effect on the families as miners and strikebreakers pitted against each other. Conscription excluded farmers and miners. Esther Sharp writes that in June 1917 “the Ladysmith Register held 749 men and 626 females, not including the Asians and Indigenous populations.”

The average pay was $1 for a private, with an extra $1.50 a day if you were sent to the front. People were encouraged to buy war bonds, plant Victory gardens, cut back on waste, and dig ever deeper in their pockets to fuel the war.

The War ended in 1918 – leaving a wounded nation now struggling with the Spanish Flu.

The Temperance Hotel (still standing on the corner of First Avenue and High Street) was turned into a temporary hospital. Public assemblies were stopped and schools closed.


In this atmosphere, the ending of the “War to End All Wars” was a subdued celebration. A telegram arrived at 2 am on November 12, 1918, announcing the surrender of Germany. A parade from the Ladysmith post office to the public school was organized.

In the conflict, camaraderie and friendships were made between immigrants who spoke different languages, and out of the fire, a nation had been forged.

But the cost was great. Civilian and military casualties ranged from 15 to 19  million deaths, and 23 million wounded military personnel, ranking World War I among the deadliest conflicts in human history.

The Sharps research on the Great War will ensure that the Ladysmith men who fell will be remembered and remembered correctly.

The names not listed on the cenotaph are John Joseph Anderson, John Bain, Henry Leopold Breakey. Joseph Maitland Cardwell, Etienne (Stephen) Frechette (Freschette), Jonaithan Harvey Gillette, Malcolm Eyton Lawrence, Wilfrid Arthur Malpass, Alf Matheson, Leo McKinnon, Robert Paton, Robert Gowland Petherick, Alfred James Pickup, David Morice Pittendrigh, Malcolm Pollock, Hall (Harry) Provan.

If you have any information on the soldiers or would like to help with this ongoing research project, please contact the Ladysmith & District Historical Society at 250-245-0100.


About the author: Angie

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