Imagine if every person in your town donated an average of $195 to the Canadian Armed Forces and 5 per cent of your town’s population enlisted into the Canadian Army in one day.
This is what happened in Hedley in the late summer of 1915 – just into the second year of the First World War.
In August and September of 1915, with a population of less than 400 people, Hedley’s citizens raised $3,500 to support the war effort. Specifically, $3,000 was allocated to the purchase of machine guns and $500 to the Red Cross. Accounting for inflation, the amount raised translates to $75,850 today.
Additionally, on Aug. 24, 1915, 17 Hedley men all enlisted together into the 54th Kootenay Battalion out of Vernon. Two more volunteers shortly followed this group, for a total of 19 men departing Hedley to serve their country, and like that five per cent of the town’s population was gone.
Six men from this group of 19 never came home. They are buried in military cemeteries in France, Belgium, England and for one an unknown grave. Their names are all memorialized on the Hedley cenotaph, along with the names of five more WWI “Hedley Boys.”
Directors at the Hedley Museum, Andy English and Jennifer Douglass, have been researching and uncovering new information about the eleven WWI names on the town’s cenotaph. As well as finding information about an additional 39 men (as known at this time) whom enlisted from Hedley and survived the war.
English and Douglass have created a new exhibit at the Hedley Museum to honour these men’s service and sacrifice for their country.
The “WWI Hedley Boys” exhibit features four Hedley soldiers – three of whom were killed in France, and a fourth who returned to Hedley to marry and raise his family – in photos, biographies and artifacts. The 54th Kootenay Battalion is featured in a wall display with a map of their troop movements in France and a panoramic photo of the entire battalion.
And, the Cenotaph Roll of Honour and historical text provides details of newly discovered information about Hedley’s eleven “fallen.”
There will be two local lectures in August when English and Douglass will present the findings of their WWI “Hedley Boys” research thus far. The first presentation will be at 10 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 4 at the Hedley Seniors' Centre. This is a free event.
The second lecture will be at 1:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 17 at the Keremeos Grist Mill. Admission price to the Grist Mill will gain complimentary admission to the WWI “Hedley Boys” lecture on the grounds.
English and Douglass are also seeking relatives of these 50 WWI enlisted men from Hedley in their quest to uncover more information, photos and artifacts. Thus far it is known that three of these men had connections to Keremeos and one, known so far, resided in Princeton after the war.
People with information to contribute to this research effort, can reach English and Douglass at the museum at (250) 292-8787 or by email at [email protected]
This WWI exhibit at the Hedley Museum will be on display for the entire four years commemorating the centennial of the First World War, 2014-2018.
As new research is further discovered, the “WWI Hedley Boys” exhibit will also be evolving.