Slocan’s cenotaph was rededicated during Remembrance Day ceremonies Monday in a new location where it’s expected to anchor a town square.
Local Royal Canadian Legion president Pat Ashton says the move also restores the war memorial to its original prominence in the community.
“When the cenotaph was put on its original site, Main Street was the main thoroughfare and people knew what it was for,” he says. “As times changed, and our main corridor switched to Harold Street, it blended in with the residential area and newcomers didn’t know what it was.”
Ashton counts himself among the latter. When he and his wife first came to town, they thought the cenotaph was on private property, since it was located between two houses near the intersection of Delany and Main, and felt uncomfortable taking a closer look.
The idea of moving it to the old school grounds on Harold Street was first proposed about three years ago, but didn’t come to fruition until last month.
“We felt it was best to move it to a more prominent spot,” Ashton says. “If you’re going to remember somebody, you should have it in a place where people at least realize what it’s all about.”
He says planning the move took about two months, but the actual relocation only required about an hour and went even more smoothly than expected.
It turned out the base only consisted of a thin wall of cement which was easy to chip off. Once boxed up, the village’s forklift scooped the monument up and transported it to its new cement foundation four blocks away.
The move, made with village council’s blessing, was accomplished with the help of volunteers but still cost about $2,100. The Legion hopes to recoup half through Veterans Affairs Canada.
In its present spot, the cenotaph is expected to become part of a town square and veterans corner, where gardens will be planted and a wall created with the names of Slocan Valley veterans.
The move was not without controversy, however. It was panned by those who felt the cenotaph’s original location was as sacred as the monument itself.
“Anytime you move a war memorial you get a certain amount of resistance,” Ashton admits. “People are attached to it and we respect that. By no means did we want to upset anybody, but unfortunately that does happen.”
He believes, however, that the debate has quietened down and adds that they intend to honour the families who looked after the site over the years.
The granite monument bears the names of two soldiers from Slocan killed during the First World War: Thomas Holt and James Robert Armstrong were both single miners who enlisted at Victoria on June 5, 1916.
Holt, born in Waterbech, Scotland to John and Jemima Holt, joined the 7th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry. He was killed May 20, 1918 at age 22 and is buried at Etaples military cemetery in Pas de Calais, France.
Armstrong, born in Slocan to Mr. and Mrs. T.J. Armstrong, belonged to the 2nd Mounted Rifles of the Canadian Infantry. He died April 9, 1917 at age 19 and was buried at the Vimy memorial at Pas de Calais.
During Monday’s ceremony, attended by a large crowd, Armstrong’s nephew Wayne Butler of New Denver raised the flag and placed a wreath.