Preparing God’s Acre

Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

School District 61 (Greater Victoria) students and sea cadets got down to work last week, taking care of some vital spring cleaning at God’s Acre Veterans Cemetery.

On May 17, 30 Grade 7 students from nearby Rockheights Middle School fanned out across the National Historic Site armed with buckets of water and scrub brushes. They cleaned and polished the headstones of 120 military veterans who served Canada and Britain, removing moss and other marks left behind from winter.

The students were continuing clean-up efforts that had been started on the weekend of May 12 by members of Esquimalt’s Royal Canadian Sea Cadets and Navy League Cadets.

The efforts of the young volunteers were in preparation for this year’s Candlelight Tribute, which will be held on May 31 at 6:45 p.m. The annual ceremony normally has a theme and this year’s ceremony has two. It will commemorate both the end of the First World War and the 150th anniversary of the cemetery itself.

The significance of the clean-up and the historical importance of the site had a personal connection for Rockheights student Drew Abercrombie, who’s great-grandfather was a gunner aboard Canadian warships during the Second World War.

“It’s good for the community and a good way to honour the veterans. They worked hard for us and it’s time to give back to them,” he said.

Classmate Brayden Barber’s parents are both members of the Canadian Armed Forces with many other family connections to the military.

“I know the importance of this because I have a huge string of army relatives. Many of them fought in the Second World War and a few of them have recently passed away, so doing this reminds me of them,” he said.

Some of the cadets and students who took part in the maintenance work will also play a meaningful role in this year’s tribute. After musical performances and speeches, military personnel, veterans and dignitaries will gather at individual grave sites and pass a candle to each youth who will then place the candle on the gravesite.

Veteran’s Commemorative Committee Chair, Petty Officer First Class (retired) Bob Haldane described the efforts of the cadets and school students as “wonderful.”

The former Marine Engineer, who enjoyed a 24-year career with the Royal Canadian Navy, says the chapel and cemetery grounds of God’s Acre are nothing short of breathtaking.

“Many of those who haven’t attended the event don’t even know the cemetery is there because it’s so secluded,” said Haldane. “That’s because the cemetery isn’t so easy to get to and requires a short walk from behind the base hospital on Colville Rd., and across the 12th fairway [of Gorge Vale Golf Course] to get there.”

Last week, Haldane was busy in his home office putting the finishing touches on organizing and advertising this year’s tribute. Dignitaries attending the ceremony include B.C.’s recently installed Lieutenant Governor, Janet Austin; Commander Maritime Forces Pacific, Rear-Admrial Art McDonald; Base Commander, Captain (Navy) Jason Boyd; Mayor of the Township of Esquimalt, Barb Desjardins and other community leaders.

Music will be provided by the Canadian Scottish Regiment’s Pipes and Drums, Victoria Children’s Choir and the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy. Free food and drinks are being provided by Thrifty Foods. Other sponsors for the event include The Township of Esquimalt, CFB Esquimalt and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).

Haldane said the golf course will temporarily alter its course to allow safe passage of patrons to and from the ceremony. Past tributes have seen attendance of over 1,000 people and he advises everyone to show up early to find parking in the limited spaces located nearby.

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.