Lighthouse Now: Remembering the forgotten

By November 5, 2016Remember
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The names of Queens County’s war dead are cast in bronze on a cenotaph, topped with a statue of a First World War soldier, in the centre of town – but not all of the names are there.

For the last several years, Chris Mansfield, a researcher from Milton, has been documenting all of the names on the cenotaph, and those that aren’t there too.

His quest began with curiosity over the names his father read during Remembrance Day services. He wanted to know the people behind the names.

“I think it was mid-2013 when I got this crazy idea,” he chuckled.

In 2014, Mansfield released a book with details about the 80 armed forces members who served and died in the First World War, along with 14 additional names he discovered by looking through old newspaper stories, talking to older people in the community and speaking to locals through his Facebook page Queens County Nova Scotia War Dead and Returned Veterans.

He discovered that people’s names were left out for various reasons, including succumbing to injury or tuberculosis contracted overseas after the cenotaph was created. Some names were lost due to census issues, and one member of the Canadian Army Nursing Service from South Brookfield died at the age of 29.

“I think Lenna was missed because her dad moved away,” he said.

After roughly 1,000 hours of research, Mansfield released his book. It sold over 140 copies and made $2,800 for the Queens County Museum, which publishes, prints and sells it. He says he was “gobsmacked” by the book’s popularity.

But Mansfield wasn’t satisfied with his work just yet. He moved on to the Second World War and the Korean War, telling the stories of those on the cenotaph, and again finding more — this time four more — who were undocumented.

Some of those four were in the Merchant Marines and were lost at sea, something that wasn’t always well documented or appreciated, said Mansfield.

“This is my own opinion… it’s because they were merchant marines and the merchant marines did not get a lot of respect for years,” said Mansfield. “Some of the merchant marines did get included but some of them didn’t.”

He says it’s also possible that there were confusions over county lines as two of the merchant marines were from East Port Medway, which sits on the border of Lunenburg and Queens.

He also found one man who was discharged from training due to a heart attack. Despite originally living in New Brunswick, he wound up living in Queens and died a couple months after the war from another heart attack.

“Even though it was because of a heart attack, he was considered to have died during service,” he said.

Mansfield’s research took him to all of the cemeteries in Queens, where he photographed the tombstones of those soldiers whose bodies were sent home.

Some were harder to find than others. The body of Wilfred Lloyd, who died in the First World War was buried on someone’s property in the woods in East Port l’Hebert, and would have been all but invisible if Mansfield hadn’t found a tiny picket fence in the shape of a coffin.

“I went to find where the cemetery was and I found a lump of concrete with a post on it, pointing into the woods,” he said. “I followed it a couple hundred feet into the woods and if you didn’t look carefully, all you’d see is woods.”

During his research, Mansfield found an obituary from one of the two men who died in Korea, in which the conflict was referred to as World War III. It has since been called “the forgotten war,” or a police or UN conflict, highlighting the difference between how that war is viewed now and how it was viewed back then.

Despite finding new information, Mansfield was unable to paint as detailed a picture of the soldiers from WWII as he was of the first. That’s because Canada has regulations around releasing census information or service records until 92 years later.

“The information that’s not available for the Second World War are the attestation forms, every man had one of them filled out,” he said. “Circumstances of war were not available and other hospitalization records are still under lock and key.”

The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 38 in Liverpool has purchased several copies of the book to donate to schools to use for programming.

Bill Cox, chairman of the Liverpool legion, says Mansfield’s initiative is wonderful.

“I think it takes a special sort of person to undertake such a thing,” he said.

When asked whether anyone had thought of or proposed updating the Liverpool cenotaph, he said no one had but that the endeavour would be very expensive.

“Some day they will probably have to refurbish the cenotaph again,” said Mansfield. “It might be nice if they could recast it but they’d probably have to find some sort of additional source of funding because Queens County doesn’t have a lot of money right now.”

There are 62 names in Mansfield’s book, with four not appearing on the cenotaph.

Mansfield sees the book as a physical documentation of the four men who were left off the Second World War portion of the cenotaph, calling the book a “mobile cenotaph.” Even if the cenotaph isn’t updated, he says at least he knows his book will always be there.

Mansfield believes there could be other Queens County war dead who aren’t documented, but until the 42,000 names of Canadians who served and died in the Second World War are digitized, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.

“As it stands, I can only play the ball where it lies,” he said.

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