Headstones for our veterans

Over the past three years, the Fernie Heritage Cemetery Restoration Society has been working to improve the Legion Military Cemetery

  • Nov. 11, 2011 2:00 p.m.

Over the past three years, the Fernie Heritage Cemetery Restoration Society has been working to improve the Legion Military Cemetery, which is part of the Fernie Heritage Restoration Project. Many of the grave markers are substandard. Most of them are small, flat pieces of concrete with the last names printed in black paint. Some other World War I markers are concrete crosses with the black painted names. The Last Post Fund through the Department of Veteran Affairs will authorize proper; military head stones only if all data is provided.

Through extensive research from 2008-2010, the Restoration Society has acquired the completed data for 16 World War I and World War II veterans. The research on World War I veterans was made easier after the death of the last World War I veteran because all service records became public domain. The 16 headstones were installed in the fall of 2010. More recent research in 2010-2011 has resulted in the authorization by the Last Post Fund of four more proper military headstones. These headstones will be installed in 2011 before winter.

Research in 2010-2011 has indicated that there are gravesites of Boer War veterans, allied forces veterans, and service men who were not called overseas. There are four Boer War veterans interned in the Military Cemetery. One veteran was an officer in the Northwest Mounted Police and another veteran was a land grant officer with the Canadian Contingent. The other two veterans fought as Canadians in the regular British Army.

There are also three World War I veterans who served in other allied forces and one serviceman who was not called overseas. Unfortunately, the Last Post Fund through the Department of Veteran Affairs only supplies headstones for World War I and World War II veterans who served overseas. The Restoration Society hopes to raise funds to supply proper stones for the Boer War veterans, allied forces veterans, and the servicemen who was not called overseas.

While involved in the research on the non-military section of the Heritage Cemetery internees, it was noted that not all deaths in World War I were on the battlefield. The public should be aware that in the Fernie area, the Coal Creek mine explosion of May 5, 1917 killed 34 miners. These miners were part of the war effort supplying coal for fuel and blast furnaces.

The Fernie Heritage Cemetery Restoration Society hopes to provide every interned veteran with a proper headstone.  The Society plans to have funds to complete this portion of the restoration by 2014.

Some information is now available at the Fernie Heritage Cemetery Restoration web site

 

fernieheritagecemetery.com.

By Len Kosiec

Submitted