Museum Research Leads to New Plaques on the St. Albert Cenotaph

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Many decades have passed… They died in a war that started over a century ago and their names were recognized at memorials and cemeteries in France and Belgium where they fell, but their names were forgotten in their own hometown.

 

In the First World War, ten local men fell in battle in the muddy, bloody trenches, yet surprisingly, only five of their names were included on the local cenotaph. But, as of the end of February 2016 this changed and the names of all ten men are now included on the St. Albert cenotaph.

 

The local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion did not realize the names were missing, but once they were informed by the Musée Héritage Museum curator they began to work diligently to have new plaques made to include the missing names. Privates Moise Beausoleil, Wilfred Chevigny, Hector Duroche, Daniel Flynn, and William Laurence have been added to the new cenotaph panel, joining their fellow St. Albert fallen: Albert Goodman, Daniel and John Kennedy, and Clarence and Harry Maloney.

 

As a person who studies military history and whose family has had a history of World War military service, I was honoured to be involved in the research project that led to this important discovery, along with Joanne our curator.

 

In 2014, for the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, the Musee Heritage Museum had an exhibit about the wartime service of St. Albert residents. We included an honour wall of plaques giving information about every known soldier from St. Albert who served in the war. This was a huge project, and took many long hours of research in the years leading up to 2014.

 

While poring over various documents, we determined that the names of five men from St. Albert were missing from the cenotaph. In 2013, I made a trip to the World War I battlefields and cemeteries of France and Belgium. While overseas, I even located and photographed the names of our St. Albert dead, if I could find them. If you’re interested in reading more about my trip, check out my blog postings from 2013 on this site!

 

How these men were missed way back when the cenotaph was first built is still a mystery, but it is likely due to the scarcity of, and limited access to, the pertinent government documents at that time. What puzzles me is that some of the missing names were men who were related to some of the most important families of the time. Moise Beausoleil was the stepson of Octave Chevigny, while Wilfred Chevigny was the son of Alfred Chevigny. The Chevignys were a prominent family in St. Albert yet both of these men’s names were not included on the original cenotaph panels.

 

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Regardless of the reasons, the five missing names are now included on the St. Albert cenotaph, thanks to museum researchers and the Legion, and their sacrifice for King and Country will not be forgotten. Having been so heavily involved in the research that brought about this change to the cenotaph is definitely one of my proudest moments!

 

Roy Toomey, Education Programmer