Fort Langley will mark the centennial of the end of the First World War this Remembrance Day, as the names of Langley’s Great War dead are read during the annual service.
“I think it’s important that we remember that these young men were real people, not just surnames and initials on a war memorial,” said Warren Sommer, a local historian who will read the 44 names aloud.
He wants to recognize their individuality.
“They were real people, with hopes and dreams, just like young people have today,” Sommer added.
The Langley those soldiers came from was very different.
The population was somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 residents during the war.
Out of that population, there were perhaps 1,000 adult men, and about 400 of them enlisted, Sommer noted.
That meant about 10 per cent of the total population and 40 per cent of the adult men signed up and served in some capacity at one time or another.
Many of those who enlisted were farmers, some worked in mills and the logging industry, which was still busy clearing the vast forests that once covered most of the Langleys.
Some had just arrived in Langley a year or two before they enlisted, while others came from families settled in Langley and had grown up in the district.
Some were labourers, some mature men with families, and some had studied or hoped to study at university.
There likely isn’t a single person alive today who knew one of the war dead commemorated on the cenotaph in Fort Langley.
Anyone old enough to remember them would be a centenarian and would have been a small child when the war came to an end.
Reading their names is the least that we can do today to remember them, Sommer said.
Although they have passed out of living memory, their names will strike a chord with many who hear them, noted Jonathan Meads, one of the organizers of this year’s Fort Langley ceremony.
Allard, Trattle, Carvolth, Wright, Glover, Wilson, Henderson, Brown – the names of the war dead were given to Langley streets, particularly around Fort Langley, in the years after the conflict.
At the same time as the Fort Langley and Murrayville cenotaphs were being built, the Township also planted memorial trees in the honour of the war dead, alongside the roads named for the fallen.
Meads hopes that young people, like the Scouts who cleaned gravestones in the Fort cemetery last weekend, will be able to take away an important lesson from the ceremony.
“It’s important to remind the younger generations of the sacrifice of war, that war’s not a good thing,” he said.