Everyday History: Veterans’ Week in Lunenburg

(Illustration: Jessie McLaughlin)

Someone from northern France or Belgium might be shocked to hear that the place names Ypres, Somme, Vimy and Passchendaele can be found in almost every town in Canada. It’s akin to saying Mill Village, Wileville and Martins River are known names to every Frenchman. Yet these towns are chosen representatives of the horrific battles of the First World War and are carved into war memorials across the country so we won’t forget.

If you look around, there are marks of remembrance around many corners, and Veterans’ Week is a great time to learn more about these everyday parts of our towns.

The Lunenburg War Memorial is hard to miss as it is centre stage. These memorials mark the First and Second World Wars as well as the Korean War. The grey granite semi-circle with four columns that sits higher up the hill is inscribed “THEIR NAME LIVETH FOREVER MORE”. The inscription and austere grey are familiar to anyone who has toured the battlefields of the western front. 

Commemorations of commonwealth countries’ efforts during the world wars are coordinated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and thus most cemeteries and official memorials have a unifying look. Interestingly, it was Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book, who recommended the inscription, a biblical text from the Book of Ecclesiasticus.

Next to the columns is another granite memorial donning the Norwegian flag. For a town with Germanic roots, it might seem out of place to see Norway so prominently featured. In 1940 when the Nazis invaded Norway, thousands of Norwegian whalers were out at sea. With nowhere to go, when they arrived off our coast, a deal was made to construct a camp in Lunenburg. 

The crew from 17 whaling vessels made their way into our harbour and overnight these Norwegian whalers became a part of our town. Their ships were refitted and the men retrained to participate in the war effort. After the war most men returned home but some stayed, married and became Lunenburgers. The town maintains strong ties to Norway. In 2002 King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway made an official visit to the Camp Norway site.

A final notable marker of global conflict used to stand, somewhat confusedly, outside the Lunenburg Foundry. In the late nineties James Kinley bought and installed a piece of the Berlin Wall next to his family’s business. In 2020 the wall found a new home next to the Lunenburg Legion where it sits in better relation to the rest of the town’s memorial sites.


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