The Syrett family

The Syretts of Sooke River Road

Historian Elida Peers writes about the history of the Sooke region

Back in the days when we ordinary working folk built houses for basic shelter, a little cottage was built on Sooke River Road which still stands today.  The cottage was home to the Syrett family, pictured here in 1937 or 1938.

Ted Syrett was a Brit who emigrated to Canada in 1910 looking for a better life. In 1914 he crossed the ocean again to serve with British Forces, and was wounded at Vimy.  He met a singer called Alice entertaining at a troop hospital and married her in 1918. Back in Canada they put a payment on four acres on Sooke River Road.

Five children were born to the couple, posed with their parents: Florence, Victor, Charlie, John and Edna. They all attended Sooke Superior School, where the boys went in for basketball. Victor, the eldest, developed a love for airplanes. Delivering papers, he earned a few dollars a month, and while contributing to his mother’s grocery budget, he also managed a few supplies to build model airplanes.

After the start of World War II, Victor wanted to enlist and joined the Royal Air Force in 1940. After training in Britain as a Flight Mechanic, working on Hurricanes, he was shipped overseas, first to Java and Sumatra. Meanwhile his sisters grew up writing to their dedicated older brother; his brother Charlie worked in carpentry in the burgeoning wartime economy and youngest brother John went on to a university education and became a professor.

A new chapter began for the Syrett house in April of 1943.  With increased activity in the region through two large Canadian Armed Forces training camps and increased traffic through a growing population, a BC Provincial Police detachment was established at Sooke. Rental accommodation at the time, however, was in short supply.

The first local BCPP ledger records the following:  “April 1st, 1943 – Constable Quinn, #793 – i/c new Sooke Detachment located in basement of Syrett home on River Road … arranged for installation of a telephone at this office.”  While this accommodation was short-term, the basement room did serve as Sooke’s first police detachment.

The story of Victor Syrett’s life was told by writer Ken Stofer in 1991; his book, entitled Dear Mum, included Victor’s letters home to his mother, until he passed away in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in 1943.

 

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

 

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