Monday, 06 November 2017 05:04

Banners honour Swift Current veterans during Remembrance Day period

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Family members stand with the banners of a relative who served in different wars for Canada. From left to right, Gertrude Mather (husband Peter Mather, Second World War, Army), Bob Dahl (grandfather Maurice Leavesley, Second Boer War and First World War, Army), Gail McConnachie (father Norman McConnachie, Second World War, RCAF), Mae Christiansen (father Richard McCarthy, Second World War, Army), and Swift Current Museum Curator Lloyd Begley. Family members stand with the banners of a relative who served in different wars for Canada. From left to right, Gertrude Mather (husband Peter Mather, Second World War, Army), Bob Dahl (grandfather Maurice Leavesley, Second Boer War and First World War, Army), Gail McConnachie (father Norman McConnachie, Second World War, RCAF), Mae Christiansen (father Richard McCarthy, Second World War, Army), and Swift Current Museum Curator Lloyd Begley. Matthew Liebenberg

Veterans from the Swift Current area will be recognized during the Remembrance Day period through the Swift Current Museum's Honour our Veterans Banner Program.


Nine new banners were unveiled during a ceremony at the Swift Current Museum, Oct. 25. These new banners and the seven banners from last year have already been installed on lamp posts in Memorial Park, where they will remain until the week after Remembrance Day.
“The Swift Current banners campaign is part of a national program aimed at recognizing and indeed never forgetting those citizens in our communities who served their nation,” Swift Current Museum Director and Curator Lloyd Begley said. “The banners recognize Swift Current soldiers, sailors and air crew who served our nation’s needs, whether in battle or in preparation for it.”
This is the second year of the banner program in Swift Current. The intention is to give recognition to veterans in a meaningful and public way.
“As far as I understand it, we are the only community in Saskatchewan taking part in the program at this point,” he said. “We have helped other museums and other cities, a couple in B.C. for example, to get started.”
The Honour our Veterans Banner Program is funded through sponsorships for the double-sided, full colour banners. The cost to sponsor a banner is $150. Each banner will be displayed for three years during the Remembrance Day period in Memorial Park.
“Then that banner goes to the people or the person that sponsored it,” he said. “They get it, and they can sponsor another one, but they get that to keep.”
Begley is currently trying to find photographs for 30 soldiers from Swift Current who died at the Battle of Vimy Ridge during the First World War.
“So if anybody has any information or if anybody wants to participate in the program, get hold of us at the museum,” he said. “It’s Swift Current veterans from the beginning to Afghanistan. It doesn’t have to be any particular branch of the service or conflict. It includes Swift Current soldiers who are still active as well, because they’re veterans.”
Most of the banners that were unveiled in 2016 and this year have been sponsored by family members of veterans. Some of the family members were present for this year's unveiling and they participated in the ceremony.
Last year a banner was unveiled for Gordon Hartley, the last living Normandy veteran from the Second World War in Swift Current.
He was present at this year's ceremony to unveil banners for his brother Harry and their father Henry.
Henry Hartley was a member of the 209th Battalion a unit in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War that was established in Swift Current in early 1916 to recruit men from southwest Saskatchewan.
Harry Hartley served in the Second World War as a member of the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. He was a stoker on the HCMS Agassiz, a Canadian corvette that escorted convoys on dangerous crossings of the Atlantic, during which an attack by German submarines was a constant threat.
The two Hartley brothers enlisted at different times during the war and Gordon recalled something peculiar about their service.
“I never saw him in uniform,” he said about Harry. “We missed twice. Once, he was on leave at home here in Swift Current, I was in Kingston. So I got leave to come home and see him, and when I was on the way home, he was on the way back to the ship. And the same thing in England. I was on leave in Liverpool and he was in London. He sent me a telegram, I came down to London, but by the time I got there, he had to go back to the ship.”
Harold Wiskar unveiled a banner for his father William, who served in both world wars. He was in the Canadian Army during the First World War and he participated in the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
“In World War One he was actually a sniper, but he never talked a lot about the war because it was so devastating and a lot of his friends died at Vimy Ridge,” Harold said. “That’s about all he usually talked about.”
William was an aircraft mechanic with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) during the Second World War, when he was stationed in Canada.
“He was all over Saskatchewan and Manitoba,” Harold said. “He was head mechanic on all the airplanes. So there was a lot of times he was up in the air flying them to make sure they run right.”
Peter Mather was a member of the South Saskatchewan Regiment during the Second World War, serving from 1941 to 1945. His banner was unveiled by his wife, Gertrude, who met him after the war.
“He got wounded in the Dieppe Raid and then he was in the hospital in England for a while,” she said. “Then he was sent to Caen in Normandy and he got wounded there.”
The Dahl family sponsored the banner for Maurice Leavesley, who served in the Second Boer War in South Africa as well as with the British Army's Rifle Brigade during the First World War. He was killed in battle on Nov. 27, 1914 and he is buried at Rifle House Cemetery in Belgium.
“We really don’t know a lot about him,” Bob Dahl said about his grandfather. “I think he was the first casualty from Swift Current. They moved over here from the UK and just got here, and he was sent back because he was still a British citizen at the time. So he was sent back and then unfortunately he was killed over there, in Belgium.”
Gail McConnachie unveiled the banner of her father Norman, who joined the RCAF in June 1940 and trained as a wireless operator.
“He always said that everybody called him the old man, because he didn’t join until he was 23,” she mentioned. “He had been working with the Royal Bank before he joined. They gave him the leave of absence and when he came back, he resumed his job with the Royal Bank.”
He was posted to the Royal Air Force's 70 Squadron at Kabrit on the Suez Canal, when he participated in 29 bombing missions in North Africa and two missions across the Mediterranean Sea to Greece.
He participated in many bombing missions across Europe as a member of the RCAF 419 Squadron in England.
“He said one time they didn’t know how they made it back, because there were so many holes in the plane, but they patched them up and send them off again,” she recalled. “It was pretty amazing.”
He flew over 86 sorties in various aircraft during the war and he received a number of medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross for courage and devotion during the performance of his duties.
“He never really talked about the war until 1986,” Gail said. “His squadron had a big reunion up at Cold Lake, and then he opened up a lot about the action that he saw and a lot of the good things and a few of the bad things. I think there was a lot of camaraderie back at this reunion that they could talk amongst themselves. So then he could open up more at home about it.”
Richard McCarthy served with the Canadian Army in the Second World War. His banner was unveiled by his daughter Mae Christiansen.
“He was in the medical corps,” she said. “He served overseas most of the time. … He didn’t talk much about it, but he did say that he flew missions from London in England to France to pick up the wounded.”
Banners were also unveiled during the ceremony for Andrew Hay and Frederick Barlow. Hay was a First World War veteran who served as an infantryman with the 49th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
The battalion participated in numerous battles in France and Flanders during the war.
Barlow, who passed away in Swift Current earlier this year at the age of 92, joined the Canadian Army in December 1942 at the age of 18.
He served with the Regina Rifles in England, France, Belgium and Germany during the Second World War. He had the rank of rifleman when he received his discharge in February 1946.

Read 224 times Last modified on Friday, 03 November 2017 10:07
Matthew Liebenberg

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