By Elida Peers
At Sooke Superior School, on a memorable day in May 1945, my Grade 7 class was called to attention to hear an announcement: the war in Europe was over and VE Day was declared.
It was one of those dramatic days in history when you recall where you were and what you were doing when there’s a momentous happening.
The scene in the picture here was Oct. 5, 1939 and shows army training taking place at the Otter Point Camp, located at the foot of Kemp Lake Road, at the very start of the Second World War.
The caption for this photo reads: “Victoria’s famous First battalion, Canadian Scottish Regiment, has evacuated the Armories and “dug-in” at Otter Point. “The Ladies from Hell” will likely hold this position, the most advanced on Canada’s Western Front, for some time as the military leaders at Ottawa have not named them as an overseas unit …”
We are indebted to Harry Crooks for bringing us this clipping from a Victoria newspaper saved by his mother, who was Winnifred Hope.
One of the childhood memories I treasured was listening to Pipe Major Ian Duncan of the Canadian Scottish playing the bagpipes as he strode up and down the street at his parents’ home on Parklands Road.
True to his Scottish Highland background, Ian married Adeline Grant of Victoria, who started Adeline Grant Duncan School of Highland Dancing, a forerunner to the Highland dancing taking place these days in Victoria.
Velma (Cook) Jessiman, who lived near the Otter Point camp, recalls sitting on the hilltop above with her Grandpa Poirier, watching the marchers. She says that as there was no parade ground, the soldiers marched along the gravel road, drumming and piping as they went. While I had never heard the term “Ladies from Hell,” Velma does recall that expression.
The month of May, of course, has significant commemorations, and the Royal Canadian Legion at Sooke has marked them so well, recognizing the Battle of the Atlantic in addition to VE Day.
The Canadian Scottish Regiment, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012, has a long connection to Sooke, with Sooke personnel consistently included in their ranks.
Sooke’s Maj. Stewart Parkinson, retired from his position as operations officer, fills in the blanks.
The Canadian Scottish did go overseas of course, and landed at Juno Beach on D-Day June 6, 1944, fighting through campaigns in Belgium, Holland and Germany.
The regiment’s retired commanding officer, Lt.-Col. Eric Boucher, now living in Sooke, has the distinction of being the last Canadian soldier out of Afghanistan.
Elida Peers is the Historian of Sooke Region Museum.