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Letter: Looking for leads on veterans’ unmarked graves

I am the coordinator of the Last Post Fund’s Unmarked Grave Program in B.C.

Looking for leads on veterans’ unmarked graves

As we approach Remembrance Day, I am hoping that your readership can assist me with a solemn task related to Veterans. I am the coordinator of the Last Post Fund’s Unmarked Grave Program in B.C. lastpostfund.ca. We are a non-profit organization with a mission “to ensure that no veteran is denied a dignified funeral and burial, as well as a military gravestone, due to insufficient funds at time of death.”

The catalyst for the creation of the Last Post Fund and subsequently, the Unmarked Grave Program began in December 1908. Two policemen find a homeless man huddled in a doorway of downtown Montreal. Unconscious, the man is taken to the nearby general hospital where he is quickly diagnosed as being a drunk and taken to a room where he could sleep it off. When the head orderly Arthur Hair looks on the so-called drunk, he notices a blue envelope sticking out of the man’s pocket. Being a veteran of the South African War, Hair is familiar with that type of envelope. Issued by Britain’s War Office, it contains the honourable discharge of one Trooper James Daly, who has served the Empire for more than 20 years. This blue envelope represents his sole possession. However, Trooper Daly was not drunk. Instead, he was suffering from hypothermia and malnutrition. He died two days later, still unconscious, at age 53. Since his body was unclaimed, his remains would be turned over to science for medical research, as was customary in those days. Hair was utterly shocked by the Empire’s disregard for its veteran. So he raised money from friends and colleagues to give the soldier a decent and dignified funeral. Daly was then buried at the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery on Mount-Royal. This was the catalyst for the creation of the Last Post Fund in Montreal, in April 1909. Trooper Daly was the first of nearly 150,000 servicemen and women for whom the Last Post Fund has provided financial benefits over the past century.

Our main objective is to ensure that no veteran will ever experience the same fate as Trooper Daly.

In many circumstances, when a veteran passes away, either, they or their family did not have the financial means to purchase a marker. As a result, I rely on British Columbians across the province to provide me with leads to follow up, which I do so with fervour. Across Canada this year, the Last Post Fund is currently on track to provide approximately 1,000 headstones to veterans laying in unmarked graves! Our criteria to provide a marker is relatively straightforward: the Unmarked Grave Program is available to eligible veterans whose grave has not had a permanent headstone or foot marker for five years or more, and who have not previously received funeral and burial funding from the Last Post Fund or Veterans Affairs Canada. I will also point out that a veteran to us is someone who served, regardless of the era and how long they served! If a grave of a veteran has been marked with a temporary marker (i.e.: wooden cross), we will also consider replacing it with something more permanent. If any of your readers are aware of an unmarked veteran’s grave, regardless of location, I would love to hear from them. I can be reached at smithglenn039@gmail.com

Glenn Smith UE

Last Post Fund

Unmarked Grave Program

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