A man places his poppy on the memorial cairn outside Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139 in Williams Lake. (Patrick Davies photo)

Looking back and moving forward: Legion set to celebrate 85 years

In September, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139, Williams Lake, celebrates its 85th anniversary.

In September, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139, Williams Lake, celebrates its 85th anniversary.

Researching Branch 139 history has brought to light some points of interest.

The cairn commemorating the First World War, the Second World War and Korea, at the front and side of the Legion at 385 Barnard St., was originally situated in Gardner Park at the east end of the old Williams Lake library, which sat between Mart Street and Oliver Street.

Amidst the memorabilia in Branch 139, there hangs a large carved wooden plaque, an honour roll of those in our district who made the ultimate sacrifice in the First World War and the Second World War. It was made by veteran C.H. Dodwell, who was a notary, realtor and insurance business owner in Williams Lake.

The plaque hung in the foyer of the old Williams Lake War Memorial Hospital (near where City Hall is today) and came to Branch 139 when the Legion was built.

From the minutes of the Village of Williams Lake council meeting: “A special meeting was held in the board room, village office, at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, the 17th day of September, 1957, with Chairman Mr. H.J. Gardner presiding.

Present: Chairman H.J. Gardner, Commissioner J.A. Hamel, Commissioner A. Smallenberg.

“Mr. Huckvale and Mr. Mason attended the meeting on behalf of the Canadian Legion and produced plans of a $25,000 building which they wish to erect on Barnard Street.

“After some discussion, permission was granted to the Legion to commence excavating pending deposit of plans, in the motion of Mr. Hamel and seconded by Mr. Smallenberg. Carried.”

Read More: Legion celebrating 85th birthday this weekend

Before 1958, Legion meetings were held in a Quonset hut on First Avenue near the Tribune building and the office papers were kept in “the black box,” carefully protected by Bob Blair, secretary at the time.

Many veterans and their families are remembered by street names in W.L., such as Bass, Blair, Cameron, Coxon, Cornwall, Collier, Blackwell, Denny, Dodwell, Pigeon, Woodland, Isnardy, Jacobson, Huckvale.

The Canadian Legion of the BESL (British Empire Services League) formed in 1926. In 1960, with the Queen’s consent, it became the Royal Canadian Legion.

Branch 139 of the Royal Canadian Legion received its charter Sept. 6, 1934. Charter members were E.G. Woodland, T.C. Denny, R.M. Blair, W. Walker, T.G. Harvey, F.W. Gallagher, H.C. Richardson, G.S. Woodland, J.W.H. Fawcett, D.B. Melville, W. Nicholson, J.J. Beesley, R.K. Wylie, W. Tomlinson and C. Barber.

In looking back, the Legion has been a major influence on the welfare of veterans and communities across Canada, dealing directly with the Federal Government, lobbying for better pensions, housing and health care.

Looking forward, the Legion continues to support Canada’s military personnel at home and in overseas peace keeping assignments. With Legion support, there are now facilities in B.C. to address post traumatic stress disorders to our Canadian Forces. In the past, only physical rehabilitation was available. The Legion’s work is never done.

The Legion is having its 85th birthday celebration on Saturday, Sept. 21. Tickets are $15 at the door.

Cake will be provided, as will cocktails, a lasagna dinner and music by the Markabillies.

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