The Abbotsford War Veterans Cenotaph has had a variety of looks and locations over the years, but throughout its history, it’s message has been one of remembrance, respect and gratitude.
It’s with that in mind that Abbotsford’s Royal Canadian Legion BRANCH 15 is seeking the community’s support to update and clean the monument, located on the south side of Thunderbird Square at the west end of Veterans Way.
Beyond cleaning, the project will replace the monument’s current bronze plaques, as recent research indicates the current plaques don’t include all the names of fallen soldiers, and other names are miss-spelled, explains committee member Daniel Bucar.
In addition, the five new plaques will also reflect the first name, family name and rank of 162 veterans – 56 from the First World War, 36 from the Second World War, plus 69 Second World War airmen who died in training at the Abbotsford Airport, the Korean Conflict, and one name from the War Theatre in Afghanistan.
To be considered for the memorial, which received a heritage designation earlier this fall, individuals must have been Abbotsford residents at the time they were called to service, Bucar says.
“It’s essential to recognize our local history, and the Cenotaph is a very important part of that,” he adds.
A Go Fund Me campaign is underway to raise $35,000 for the project, with donated funds earmarked specifically for the remaking and installation of new commemorative plaques.
All donors will be recognized on a specially commissioned plaque once the goal is achieved. Subject to COVID conditions, an unveiling ceremony will be scheduled next year.
A longstanding community history
The original First World War Cenotaph looked very different from today’s granite memorial. In 1922, the memorial flagpole was erected at Five Corners by the Abbotsford branch of the Great War Veterans Association, but when it was removed for roadwork in 1929, the local Legion undertook to replace it.
The resulting nine-foot-tall granite monument stood on a base of stones, with a panel engraved with “Our Glorious Dead,” and was installed at Jubilee Park, the centre of community celebrations at that time.
1950 brought the memorial’s relocation to the courthouse, and the addition of a Maltese Cross, designed by a local Second World War veteran, Cyril Holbrow.
The community’s continuing development and evolution prompted the move to the Civic Precinct in 2006. Today the cenotaph – the focal point of the community’s Remembrance Day service – is found the south side of Thunderbird Plaza, officially renamed Thunderbird Memorial Plaza.
To contribute directly to the Cenotaph project, visit gofundme.com/f/Abbotsford-Cenotaph-Renovation