The stone cenotaph in Jubilee Park following the 1940 Remembrance Day service. Numerous wreaths laid at its base. The stone monument was dedicated on April 7, 1929 and remained in Jubilee Park until 1950 when it was relocated to the site of the new Provincial building on Laurel Street. (Photo courtesy of the Reach Museum, Catalogue number P7059)

Abbotsford’s Remembrance Days in 1939 and 1945 through historical archives

Abbotsford News reporting shows the anxieties of people living through conflict

Looking at how Remembrance Day was reported in 1939 and 1945 by the Abbotsford News shows the anxieties of people living through conflict.

The paper dated Nov. 8, 1939, gives a solemn picture of local citizens grappling with remembering their fallen loved ones from the First World War in the face of another looming European conflict only three months old.

A column on the page reminds citizens that, “Remembrance Day ceremonies will be held as in former years.”

A front-page proclamation in Old English text was issued by the Canadian Federation of Municipalities and Mayors and signed by the reeves of Abbotsford and Matsqui.

“Remembrance Day recalls the courage and sacrifice of the past. It bids us reconsecrate ourselves to the nation’s highest service, in whatever field our duty lies.

“It will make us eager to put national interest before personal security and personal profit.

“On that day, while remembering our glorious dead, let us use those two minutes to seek God’s Plan and to find out how best to serve Him, our King and our Country.

“Then we can build the sort of world they died to bring about.”

The paper is filled with advertisements asking for donations to the Red Cross and the Canadian Legion’s Poppy Fund.

One story reported that school buses filled with local students were joined by 1,300 New Westminster students on a long journey to the Peach Arch in Washington to celebrate 126 years of peace between the U.S. and Canada.

They exchanged flags with their U.S. counterparts, played national anthems and paraded through the Peach Arch to celebrate the long peace at the border instead of paying service to the casualties of “the war to end all wars.”

The paper’s reporting of Nov. 11 celebrations were more far more upbeat when the war had ended in 1945.

There were columns filled with colourful reports of local soldiers telling stories about their time overseas.

In one instance, a returning soldier, Petty Officer Arthur Blackham, described his experience during the German Blitz on London as “no Sunday school picnic,” and storming the beaches of Normandy as “ticklish work.”

Cartoon advertisements selling war bonds to citizens were on every page.

One titled “Unfinished Victory” reminds readers that the bonds will be used to help the returning 68,000 wounded and POWs.

“Our victory is not complete until every mother, wife and other dependants of those who made the supreme sacrifice are given adequate pensions. Over 38,000 Canadians died for us.”

Many traditions have remained the same throughout the World Wars and up to the present day.

The Royal Canadian Legion still distributes the poppies and wreaths. Uniformed veterans still observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. with their fellow citizens around the Abbotsford Cenotaph.

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