All Sappers Memorial Park is Restored

Nov 07
All Sappers' Cenotaph 1946
All Sappers' Cenotaph Rededication Nov 2009

The All Sappers Memorial Park in Vedder Crossing, BC was conceived by Lt-Col Coulson Norman Mitchell, VC, MC in 1945 when he was Commander of Camp Chilliwack. He also took a personal part in supervising its construction.  After a year of design and intense labour by Sappers, it was dedicated for Sappers ‘Everywhere’ on 14 July 1946 by His Excellency, Viscount Alexander of Tunis, Governor General of Canada.

All Sappers Memorial in Vedder Crossing near the main entrance to Camp Chilliwack became the focal point of remembrance for the Canadian Military Engineer Family. Some 52 years later, upon the closure of Canadian Forces Base Chilliwack in 1998, Canada Lands Company was charged with disposing of the surplus DND property. The Department of National Defence retained ownership of All Sappers Memorial Park and the Cenotaph and All Sappers Memorial Park continued to be the focus of local memorial activities. 
Sappers had concerns, however, about DND's ability to maintain the Cenotaph in a condition that would ensure that it properly honoured the sacrifices of all Canadian and British Commonwealth Sappers. The challenge became even greater in 2004 when developers proposed to enlarge the adjacent road intersection that could result in encroaching into All Sappers' Memorial Park. 

The CFB Chilliwack Historical Society, a strong and constant defender and advocate for our Military Engineering heritage, organised a committee that advised Canada Lands Company of its concerns on behalf of all Sappers. Canada Lands’ most supportive response included a proposal to not disturb the cenotaph, to increase the land area, to beautify the grounds, and to respect the soil where ashes have been spread.

Canada Lands worked hard to revitalise and refurbish the All Sappers Memorial site and return it to its former glory. Mr. Greg Smallenberg, renowned for his work at the Vimy Monument in France among his high-profile works, was selected as the designer. The work included a major re-design and a comprehensive re-landscaping of the surrounding park in order to vastly improve the visibility and to focus on the Cenotaph itself. 

Ground was broken in June 2009 and the intention was to have the Cenotaph ready for rededication during Remembrance Week 2009. The work included stripping away the concealing cedar hedge, elevating the centre island, beautifying the landscape, adding soft lighting and signage, redirecting sidewalks into the site, and adding numerous seats to invite visitors to sit and reflect. GEMCO, the construction company that was given this trust, delivered the project on-time and with high-quality workmanship that ensured the glory and integrity of the site well into the future.

Relatives of Lt-Col Mitchell were present to witness the re-dedication of the Cenotaph. Mrs. Frances Bailie (Mitchell’s daughter) and her son Philip Beck and Mitchell’s great-grandson, Liam Gleeson in his cadet uniform, did Colonel Mitchell proudly. Mrs Bailie’s speech held the spectators spellbound and the silence was maintained as the family laid a wreath in memory of their renowned relative.

Our All Sappers Memorial site was given a new life. All Sappers Memorial Park will live and be respected in perpetuity as our national monument to ‘Sappers Everywhere’ who have paid the supreme sacrifice.