All Sappers’ Cenotaph, which may be so named since on its south face are inscribed the words “In memory of all Sappers of the Empire who have given their lives in the service of the Empire,” stands where the public may have access to it, on the main Chilliwack-Cultus Lake road before the Royal Canadian School of Military Engineering.

It was unveiled on 14th July, 1946, by the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief, His Excellency, Field-Marshal the Right Honourable the Viscount Alexander of Tunis, K.G., G.C.B., G.C.M.G., C.S.I., D.S.O., M.C.

Seen against its background of nearby hills and mountains, and set in a great circle of lawn, it is a column of much beauty and dignified simplicity.

Unlike most monuments, which are built by public subscriptions, this one was raised by the labour of many hands. Lieut-Colonel C. N. Mitchell, in September, 1944, conceived the idea of “a cenotaph to all sappers, designed, made and erected by sappers”. A resolution of the A6 C.E.T.C. Officers’ Mess that a stone plaque should be erected and carved with the names of the Centre’s dead had been sent to him for approval. But for the R.C.S.M.E. of the future, as he saw it, this would not do. It was not a unit memorial that was wanted but the memorial of a Corps. Artists and architects began to sketch and into the hills Mitchell sent a geologist to find suitable rock to quarry. This was found at Harrison Lake, 22 miles from the camp. The choice was monzonite, an igneous rock of plagioclase, feldspar and horneblende resembling a grey granite.

The 42-ton block for the shaft of the column, a lesser block for its base and numerous other blocks, that when split would become a broad three-step surround, were all quarried by the end of March, 1945. An obsolete Valentine tank was converted to a carrier for the biggest block of stone. On 16th May the loaded Valentine chassis trundled onto a five-pontoon Bailey raft and the journey down the Harrison and Fraser Rivers began. The long trip was not without incident. A few miles from the off-loading point the raft grounded on a gravel bar in midstream. The Fraser boiled around it and forced it hard on the bar. The services of a powerful tug were required to free the raft against the sweep of a current that threatened to swamp the pontoons. However, on the 18th the tank was relieved of its load in the centre of the future Memorial Park and the masons began the long work of dressing and carving the stone.

Almost a year later, after unsuspected faults in the rock forced more than one design change, all was ready for the final operation. On 13th April 1946, the delicate job of raising the shaft from the horizontal and setting it accurately on its base block was successfully accomplished.

The mounting of four bronze swords above the inscriptions on the cardinal faces of the octagonal column and four bronze grenades on stone corner posts, together with the landscaping of the park completed the task.

While the inscription on the south face is for all fallen sappers, there are other inscriptions. The east face is devoted to the Canadian Engineers of the Great War of 1914-1918, the north to Canadian Sappers everywhere who gave their lives while serving with other Corps and the west is inscribed in memory of those who died during the Second World War.
************
Major Williams designed the Cenotaph.
Major J. W. Davies selected the site and prepared a memorial park.
Major N.B. Gillies, a geologist, selected the site from the rock would be quarried in one piece.
Major T. A. V. Tremblay, set out the quarry camp and transported the rock to Vedder Crossing.
Lt T.H.E. Copps, an experienced miner and prospector started the quarrying.
SSgt Crowe, Cpl Bloomfield, Cpl Thatcher and Sapper Forster, stone masons, would cut and shape the rock.
Mr Booth, a landscape gardener from New Westminster, (whose son was a Sapper), gave trees, shrubs, and much time to the landscaping.

The original design called for a twelve-sided shaft set on a square base, with a grenade at each of the four corners. The monument was to be 16 feet, 6 inches high and the base, 4 feet, 10 inches square. However the faults in the stone changed the design to an eight sided shaft.

****************
When CFB Chilliwack was closed in 1998, the Canada Lands Company (CLC) became responsible for disposing of the DND property. But DND still retained ownership of All Sappers Memorial Park and the Cenotaph. The cenotaph continued to be the focus of local memorial activities, whether Remembrance Day or special occasions.

Concerns were raised about DND’s ability to maintain the Cenotaph in a condition that would ensure that it properly honoured the sacrifices of all Canadian and British Commonwealth Sappers. Local retired engineers kept a close watch on ‘their cenotaph.’

In 2004, as the local real estate market quickly grew, proposals were considered to expand the intersection, where the Cenotaph was located. The suggestion was for a turning lane which would widen the roadway, using some of the Park land.

A CFB Chilliwack Historical Society committee advised Canada Lands Company that the option of taking land away from the cenotaph was unacceptable! Canada Lands responded with an offer to beautify the grounds, and would not disturb the cenotaph. Concerns were also raised, as over time the ashes of many former military engineers were spread around the Cenotaph and the committee wanted to ensure CLC would respect the soil where ashes were spread.

Initially spurred on by LCol Paul Corcoran (Ret’d) representing the CFB Chilliwack Historical Society until his untimely death in Nov 2007, numerous Retired Sapper watchdogs kept a close eye on proceedings.

LCol Al Dempsey (CME Ret’d) from Canada Lands provided strong leadership and ensured the support of the local community with informative meetings and securing advice from Retired Sappers. After the retirement of Al Dempsey, Mr. Randy Fasan and Mr. Larry Morgan of Canada Lands Company, worked tirelessly to revitalize and refurbish the All Sappers Memorial site, returning it to its former glory, to properly respect the proud Sappers around the world who have given their lives in the Service of their Country.

Mr. Greg Smallenberg, renowned for his work at the Vimy Monument among his other high profile works, was selected as the designer. He quickly won the hearts and minds of the senior sappers with artist renditions and a presentation that could not be dismissed.

Ground was broken in June 2009. Work included a major re-design and comprehensive landscaping of the surrounding Park in order to vastly improve the visibility and focus on the Cenotaph itself. They stripped away the concealing hedge, elevated the centre island, beautified the landscape, inserted soft lighting and signage, redirected sidewalks into the site and added numerous seats to invite visitors to sit and reflect.

The construction company GEMCO, came through with flying colours and consistent high quality workmanship, ensuring the glory and integrity of the site well into the future.

On 7 November 2009, Military Engineers gathered on a rainy day to re-dedicate the Cenotaph. Members of the Canadian Military Engineers Branch Council were in attendance as the Chief Engineer MGen Daniel Benjamin served as Reviewing Officer.

Members of Lt-Col Mitchell’s were present to witness the re-dedication of the Cenotaph. His daugther, Mrs. Frances Bailie, her son Philip Beck and his son (Mitchell’s great grandson), Liam Gleeson in his cadet uniform. Mrs Bailies poignant speech held the spectators spellbound and the silence was maintained as the family laid a wreath in memory of their renowned relative.

The Canadian Military Engineers Branch also awarded CME Commendations that day to Canada Lands for preserving the heritage of Military Engineers in the community, as well as the late Col Roger St. John and Jim Harris for their efforts on the refurbishing project.

All Sappers Memorial Park is located at the intersection of Vedder and Keith Wilson roads in Chilliwack BC.

Coordinates:   49°6’12″N   121°57’47″W

http://www.chilliwackremembers.com/history/veteransstories_02a.html

All_Sappers_April_46

All Sappers Cenotaph April 1946

Advertisements