REMEMBRANCE DAY: Fairbridge School students gave their all for the war effort

REMEMBRANCE DAY: Fairbridge School students gave their all for the war effort

There are 78 students and 11 staff members listed on the memorial scroll in the old school chapel.

By T.W. Paterson

There are 78 students and 11 staff members listed on the memorial scroll in the old school chapel.

Cowichan Station’s Prince of Wales Fairbridge School is a fascinating story in itself, oft-told, and not the subject of today’s Remembrance Day retrospective.

But for those not really familiar with its honoured place in the Cowichan Valley’s heritage, this quick re-cap by Library and Archives Canada:

“Kingsley Ogilvie Fairbridge established the Society for the Furtherance of Child Emigration to the Colonies, which was later incorporated as the Child Emigration Society, then as the Fairbridge Society. Its aim was to train homeless boys and girls for colonial farm life. In 1913, the society started sending boys to a farm school in Australia.

“The Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School was opened in 1935 in Cowichan Station, located on Vancouver Island, near Duncan, British Columbia. It was named after one of their major supporters, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII).

“The society had the support of the provincial and federal governments. A regulation that prohibited the immigration of unaccompanied children under the age of 14 was waived. Students at the farm school lived in group cottages and were to receive a standard Canadian education up to the age of 15, then three years of vocational training.

“In 1938, Capt. James Cameron Dun-Waters donated ‘Fintry’, his orchard and dairy farm in the Okanagan Valley near Vernon, to the Fairbridge Society. Some of the older children from the Vancouver Island school worked at the Fintry Fairbridge Training Farm during the summers.

“Fairbridge also brought children from other agencies, including the younger Middlemore children. Also, Fairbridge children were first sent to the Middlemore Homes for training before emigration. Most were sent to Australia and smaller numbers to Canada.

“Emigration slowed during the Second World War and the Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School closed in 1949.”

That’s the short and sweet of it. But there’s so much more to the story of our local Fairbridge. Not all of it’s rosy, and unmentioned in the above summary is the outstanding contribution made by Fairbridge students who served Canada during the Second World War.

Their overwhelming response to King and Country: 95 per cent of the eligible boys and 36 per cent of the eligible girls! This doesn’t include the 11 staff members who also served.

In May 1947 the Cowichan Leader reported a speech in the House of Commons by Lieut.-Col. Cecill Merritt, VC, MP. During a debate on immigration he lauded the wartime enrolment of Fairbridge students.

“When one turns to the war record of the graduates,” said Merrit, “he finds it very good, indeed. At the termination of hostilities with Japan, 95 per cent of boys and 36 per cent of the girls eligible by age to volunteer to serve had done so. I do not suppose that record has been exceeded by any other institution or group in Canada.”

There are 78 students and 11 staff members listed on the accompanying memorial scroll in the old school chapel. Norman Alsop and Thomas Kemp were both killed in 1944 and James Lally was a prisoner of war.

To re-quote Lieut.-Col. Merritt, “I do not suppose that record has been exceeded by any other institution or group in Canada.” It’s something worthy of remembrance — and not just at this time of year.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Fairbridge Farm school. (file photo)

Fairbridge Farm school. (file photo)

Just Posted

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

It’s been almost a year since the last public performance inside the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Lead donors pledge $60,000 in matching campaign at the Chemainus Theatre

Perrys, Hiltons and Duncan Iron Works help to Bridge the Gap during COVID shutdown

Doug Routley is the chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act. (File photo)
Routley selected chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA acknowledges there will be a lot of material to process

Amanda Vance, executive director of the DDBIA, said the business organization will host a workshop for its members on how to deal with customers who refuse to wear masks. (File photo)
Workshop to help Duncan businesses deal with customers refusing to wear masks

DDBIA says businesses continue to deal with anti-maskers

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Most Read