Flt Corp Hayden Hart, Flt Corp Trevin Buckland, Flt Cpl Alex Carnegie, and Flt Sgt Fraser Willmott of the 744 Cowichan Squadron Air Cadets salute after placing a cross at a veteran’s grave at Mountain View Cemetery several years ago. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Flt Corp Hayden Hart, Flt Corp Trevin Buckland, Flt Cpl Alex Carnegie, and Flt Sgt Fraser Willmott of the 744 Cowichan Squadron Air Cadets salute after placing a cross at a veteran’s grave at Mountain View Cemetery several years ago. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Crosses to be placed at Cowichan Valley cemeteries to remember veterans

A Cowichan Valley tradition since the early 1950s

By Mike Bieling

Planners of the Cowichan Valley’s annual Veterans’ Remembrance Cross placements in local cemeteries are pleased to announce that the events this year will be held without the restrictions on participation that applied during the pandemic, and they hope that everyone will come out to pay their respects.

A Cowichan Valley tradition since the early 1950s, volunteers from different organizations have been placing small white crosses, decorated with a sprig of cedar and a lapel poppy, on the graves of veterans interred in local cemeteries to commemorate them during the weeks around Remembrance Day. Uniformed veterans or members of the various cadet corps then deliver a military salute to each deceased veteran.

In North Cowichan, where the biggest cross placement is held at Mountain View Cemetery and St. Mary’s, Somenos, the organizers are the members of 744 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron, supported by the 100 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Admiral Mainguy, the 2924 Khowutzun Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps, and the local St. John Ambulance Youth Brigade, as well as volunteers from Royal Canadian Legion Branch 53 and the community.

Parish members, Chemainus Legion Branch 191 representatives, air cadet volunteers, and a contingent of sea cadets also participate in separate cross placements at St. Peter’s Church, Quamichan, at St. Michael’s and All Angels/Chemainus cemetery, and at All Saint’s churchyard, Westholme.

In South Cowichan, volunteers from the Mill Bay/Malahat Historical Society work with members of Malahat Legion Branch 134, cadets from 744 Squadron, and parish representatives to do the remembrance cross placements at St. Andrew’s churchyard, Cowichan Station, at Shawnigan Cemetery, at St. Francis Xavier Church, Mill Bay, at the Mill Bay Historic Church and Cemetery, and at the James Dougan Memorial Cemetery in Cobble Hill. Veterans’ crosses are also placed at St. John the Baptist Church, Cobble Hill, as a parish activity.

This year, the organizers of the South Cowichan cross placements have chosen Saturday, Oct. 29, to do the round of their cemeteries, starting at St. Andrew’s Churchyard in Cowichan Station at 11 a.m. They will continue at Shawnigan Cemetery at 1 p.m., followed by the Mill Bay Historic Church and Cemetery, and conclude at 2 p.m. at St. Francis Xavier Church in Mill Bay. Three veterans’ graves at Cobble Hill’s James Dougan Memorial Cemetery will be marked more informally by the end of the day as well.

The cross placements at Mountain View Cemetery and St. Mary’s, Somenos, churchyard are scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 30. The various cadet corps and other volunteers will meet beside the Legion Section at Mountain View at about 1 p.m., immediately following the Poppy Flag raising ceremony at City Hall.

The following weekend, the cross placements will continue at Westholme’s All Saints’ Churchyard on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 11 a.m., when members of 100 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Admiral Mainguy will join members of the Westholme community in honouring their namesake, Vice-Admiral E. Rollo Mainguy, and 55 other veterans interred there.

St. John the Baptist Church in Cobble Hill will do their cross placements on Sunday, Nov 6, after the 10 a.m. service. Other local burial places where volunteers independently place remembrance crosses are St. Peter’s Church, Quamichan, in Duncan, and St. Michael and All Angels Cemetery (Chemainus Cemetery).

Everyone is encouraged to attend one of these events, or visit one of the community’s cemeteries to see the crosses in place between Remembrance Day and late November. To add the name and burial site of a veteran interred in one of the Cowichan Valley’s cemeteries, please contact Mike Bieling at 250-748-5031 or oldcemeterian@shaw.ca.

Mike Bieling is the coordinator of the Cowichan Valley Lest We Forget Where They Lie Project.

CommunityRemembrance Day