A quick history of the Sooke cenotaph

The image shown was taken when the Sooke Cenotaph stood at the corner of Highway 14 and Sheilds Road, right where the three-storey Sheilds Business Centre stands today.

This Saturday, Nov. 11, crowds will gather in patriotic remembrance at the cenotaph placed in the Royal Canadian Legion’s beautiful Memorial Park, alongside the legion lounge on Eustace Road, the third location for this symbol of our community’s patriotic spirit and respect.

In a past column, we have shown the original location of the Sooke Cenotaph in 1920, when the ceremony included a band of young naval cadets assembled to pay their respects at the southeast corner of Murray and Sooke roads. This spot had been made available by John Murray, JP, and his wife Margaret, owners of the extensive Murray farm which reached to the waterfront.

In 1953, when business development began to expand in downtown Sooke after the Second World War, particularly at our busiest intersection, the cenotaph was moved to the corner of Sheilds (in this photo) to land belonging to the Sooke Community Association. Bill and Ken Cains, the brothers who ran the Cains Garage in the 6500 block Sooke Road, used their equipment to lift the cenotaph and reposition it.

Under the cenotaph, a scroll with the names of almost 80 veterans of the Great War was found. Damaged, it was restored and a listing of Second World War veterans added, and again placed under the cenotaph. This photo was taken in 1976, after the Cedar Grove Shopping Centre had been established in the 6700 block by Stan and Len Jones. You can see the cedars in this view, with just a glimpse of the shopping centre at right.

Meanwhile, the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch No. 54, which had received its charter on December 6, 1926, had made great progress in expanding its presence and facilities. With a lounge and new auditorium in place on Eustace, the cenotaph was moved to that location on April 8, 1979, by Bud Knight and Verne Heywood, using equipment made available by Sooke Forest Products.

A time capsule, with the earlier documents, plus names of volunteers who had created the new buildings, was once again placed under the cenotaph. On Nov. 11, 1979, the parade for the first time, mustered at Evergreen Shopping Centre and marched to the new Memorial park, led by the Sooke Highlanders Pipes and Drums.

We are indebted to the information recorded by the Legion’s outstanding volunteer Sammy Fedosenko for many of these details.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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