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.
Sooke Region Museum