Parksville on the hunt for historical images

Pte Thomas Wheatley Kilby who was killed in action in France, March 27, 1917.

Pte Thomas Wheatley Kilby who was killed in action in France, March 27, 1917.

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

The City of Parksville, B.C., is on an ambitious hunt to obtain photographs of 60 residents from the area who died during military service in the First and Second World War.

The Veteran Remembrance Banner Program was launched by Mayor Ed Mayne and the City of Parksville Council earlier this year. Their goal is to install banners featuring photos of veterans, whose names are listed on the City’s cenotaph, on lamp poles along the Island Highway 19A in time for Remembrance Day.

Valda Stefani from the City of Parksville has been scanning museums and archives worldwide and following any lead that will yield her photographic pay dirt.

So far, she has found half the photos needed, and says finding the remaining 31 photographs is proving difficult.

“Many of the local young men who enlisted, especially in the First World War, had recently arrived from places as far away as the U.K. and Australia, and some were only on Vancouver Island for a short time. They had their lives cut short and many were too young to have started families, adding to the challenge of finding photographs. But their lives mattered and they should be remembered.”

Even if all the photographs cannot be found in time for Nov. 11, the search will continue well beyond Remembrance Day, says Stefani.

Parksville, a popular beach vacation and tourism destination located on the Salish Sea, has a present-day population of approximately 13,000 permanent residents. During the first half of the 20th century it was a small farming and logging community. It can trace its colonial origins back to the expedition of Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver in 1792 and a subsequent survey of the Alberni Valley by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1855.

Parksville’s population boom began with the development of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway in 1901, leading to the expansion of forestry and logging operations. 

At the time, the deaths of these young men would have been a huge loss for such a small, remote community, says Stefani. 

She has found imagery for the first 30 names on the cenotaph. The photographs came from archives in England, Ireland, the Parksville Museum, UBC, The Daily Colonist newspaper of Victoria, and personal collections.

“I know there are people out there that can help us, but getting word out to them about our search is critical,” she said. “I have already been in contact with a few people from Vancouver Island who are very involved in their family history and were very excited to see that their relative would be included in our project.”

The search for one photo that she finds particularly intriguing is that of Private Thomas Anthony Brewis of the 29th Battalion Canadian Corps., of Vancouver. Commanded by LCol H.S. Tobin and known as Tobin’s Tigers, the 29th Battalion fought as part of the 2nd Canadian Division, 6th Infantry Brigade in France and Flanders until the end of the war. The battalion colours were deposited in Christ Church Vancouver in June 1919 and the battalion was perpetuated by the Vancouver Regiment.

Stefani says she has searched high and low but cannot find a photo of Pte Brewis anywhere.  The only information she has about him is that he was a rancher from the nearby community of Errington, B.C.

“If you do a simple white page directory search there are all sorts of Brewis’ listed on Vancouver Island,” she said. “Hopefully, someone might see this article, find out about our search and may have a family connection and be able to share an image with us.”

Anyone interested in making a photographic contribution or providing Stefani with a possible lead in her search for photos can contact Parksville Manager of Communications Deb Tardiff at

A complete listing of the soldier’s names can be found at


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