Chilliwack part of interactive war memorial

Chilliwack has a place on Heritage BC’s online map of World War monuments and memorials, which was launched Thursday.

  • Mar. 31, 2016 6:00 p.m.
The plaque at the Blue Hydrangea Memorial outside Chilliwack middle school.

The plaque at the Blue Hydrangea Memorial outside Chilliwack middle school.

Chilliwack has a place on Heritage BC’s online map of World War monuments and memorials, which was launched Thursday.

The first 192 war memorial sites submitted to Heritage BC’s Get on the Map project are now viewable on the province’s first interactive, searchable World War Monuments & Memorials Map. This first phase launch, to be followed by over 100 more sites in April, features war memorials from diverse communities, rural and urban, from Dawson Creek to White Rock, from Ucluelet to Sparwood.

Amongst the more unique stories submitted for inclusion was the Blue Hydrangea memorial in Chilliwack. During the Second World War, every time the community was notified of the death of a member of the Airforce in the war, the RCAF Women’s Auxiliary would plant a blue hydrangea bush outside the Chilliwack High School – blue for the Air Force uniform colour. By the end of the war in 1945, there were 49 bushes.

“The plants got neglected over the decades. The high school became a middle-school and when the grounds were altered they were replanted around the flagpole. Only a handful of deteriorated hydrangeas survive there today,” recounts Chief Warrant Officer Reg Dawes of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association.

The local RCAFA office in Chilliwack is now planning the re-establishment of this living, colourful memorial in collaboration with the School Board and middle-school principal.

“School students, aged 12-15, will pass by this memorial several times a day. It’s an important reminder to young people that somebody died for their freedom,” adds Dawes.

A plaque on the site reads: “To the former students and teacher from Chilliwack High School who were killed on active duty with the RCAF and the RAF during WW2. A blue hydrangea was planted near the school as each casualty occurred. These historic plants are taken from the originals.”

Other Chilliwack locations include the Airplane Creek Memorial in the Chilliwack River Valley, and the All Sappers Memorial Park at Vedder Crossing.

The World Wars continue to intrigue us, even generations so far removed. High school students in Armstrong were impassioned by an enthusiastic social studies teacher who organized annual field trips to Europe and battle sites where soldiers of their community had fought and died. This tangible connection to the places and stories of the wars inspired the students to grow and elaborate on Armstrong’s war memorials. The town dedicated a mountain that overlooks their cenotaph as Memorial Mountain in 1998. Later on in the 1990s and 2000s, subsequent classes of students built the Stones of Sacrifice memorial embedded with stones brought back from oversea battlefields.

These stories and another 190 war memorial sites can be viewed on Heritage BC’s World War Monuments & Memorials Map of BC at http://www.heritagebc.ca/war-memorials-in-bc