Troop ships carried soldiers to the battlefield.

Troop ships carried soldiers to the battlefield.

Troops sail from Victoria

Sooke's historian writes about the troop ships and locals who sailed on them.

As I stood once again on the corner at Sooke’s main intersection on Nov. 11, watching the marchers, thrilling at the Sooke Pipes and Drums’ rendition of Scotland the Brave, I found it hard to keep the tears from flowing. Each of us has so many memories.

On board ship in Victoria Harbour in 1917, hundreds of loyal sons of (then) Dominion of Canada, set sail to support the motherland. Lining the decks, the men were treasuring their last glimpse of loved ones. King George V was on the British throne.

Among the young men on board was Donald Stuart, whose bride waved on the dock. Donald Stuart’s forebears had emigrated to Ontario, and eventually to Sooke in the early 1900s. Serving overseas, Donald Stuart was one of the lucky ones; he survived the war and returned to Sooke.

Others were not so fortunate, and Sooke’s roster of servicemen who lost their lives in World War I includes – Morris Cull, William Drummond, John Erskine, Martin Goodall, Harry Gordon, Isaac Goudie, Alec Hughes, A J Nickson, George Powell, Harry Richardson, Philip Snape, Emmott Snowden, Curtis Trenchard, Lionel Walker. Given the small population of Sooke at the time, this loss was enormous.

Two years previous to the embarkation, Donald Stuart had married Carrie Sanderson, one of the daughters of the Daniel Sanderson family, pioneers whose home on Sooke River Road still stands today.   (Another Sanderson daughter, Ann, married Eustace Arden, and moved to the Sheringham Lighthouse). Donald and Carrie Stuart raised a family of six at their home on Ness’s Hill, Otter Point Road.

When World War II broke out, one of the Stuart daughters, Bessie, joined the women’s forces. In Vancouver, while serving in the Provost Corps, Bessie met a fellow Corpsman from Saskatchewan, Gordon Govenlock. After the war, the two married, settling first in Saskatchewan, then moving to Victoria, and soon joining the Stuart roots in Sooke.

Although young Donald Stuart, outbound on this ship in 1917, could not foresee the future, he would surely have been proud if he could have known that his grandson, Alden Govenlock, would graduate from Edward Milne Secondary School, marry his sweetheart Kathy Pimlott, and rise through the ranks in the local forest industry to become superintendent of Pacific Logging’s Sooke operations. Today, Alden, headquartered in Nanaimo, supervises Timber West’s contract loggers.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

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