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Ladner man researches cenotaph names
The names of soldiers from Ladner who died in the Great War are etched in fading letters on the cenotaph in Memorial Park, but one Ladner resident is trying to bring their stories to life.
Peter Broznitsky has been using the Library and Archives Canada database to track down information on the 27 soldiers who died nearly a century ago in service of King and country.
"We see the names there and our eyes just really glance over them," says Broznitsky, adding researching the history of the men has connected him to the history of Ladner.
He began his interest in war history while researching his grandfathers who served in the army during the Great War, one in the Canadian army, one in the British army.
Using old census data, military records, and newspaper articles, Broznitsky uses deductive work to connect the names on the cenotaph to events.
Some of the names are unusual or unique enough that the process is fairly easy. The more common names become a trickier process of elimination.
"Each one has a story," he says. "The casualties are from all years of the war Canada was involved."
Broznitsky says it's a little unusual that the Ladner cenotaph has two sailors since the Navy was relatively small at the time. However, that fact fits well with Ladner's history.
"Ladner was a seafaring community and a lot of the people were fishers and cannery-based people at that time."
Broznitsky says one sailor died in Esquimalt of the flu, while the other died in a notable shipwreck.
Fred Whitworth came from a pioneering family living on the west side of the Ladner slough in or around the 1890s. Whitworth was a young man operating the ferry running from Ladner's Landing over to Woodwards Landing in Richmond.
For some reason during the Great War he decided to join the Navy and he was placed onto a ship called the HMCS Galiano, which sailed up and down the Pacific Coast.
"Just a few days before Nov. 11, 1918—I think it was Oct. 30—the Galiano was caught up in a huge storm off the Queen Charlotte Islands and all hands were lost."
Forty officers and sailors died, representing the single greatest naval disaster for Canada in World War I.
Whitworth's body was never recovered but his name is memorialized not only on Ladner's cenotaph, but a memorial in Victoria.
Broznitsky says more people are visiting cenotaphs since the Afghan war has revitalized an interest in Canada's military.
"The major difference between Afghanistan and now is in Afghanistan all the bodies came home and were buried in Canada. Whereas in the first war and the second war it was agreed upon by the governments to leave the bodies where they lay."
The original reason for cenotaphs was to provide family and friends a place to grieve because they couldn't visit the tombstones of the fallen.
Broznitsky will provide a seminar entitled The Delta Boys (1914-1919) at the Ladner Library this Thursday (Nov. 8) from 1:30-3 p.m. Anyone interested in contacting him directly can email firstname.lastname@example.org.