Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How Will You Remember?

Dennis Peter Hepburn

Every day people walk past and drive by the Chilliwack War Memorial.

Covered with the names of soldiers from both the First and Second World Wars the memorial is a silent beacon of remembrance. These are not just lines of horizontal, lead lettering; they are Chilliwack, its people, recalling days when the world’s shadows hung over the landscape, all the while in anticipation of a peace that finally came on a November 11th day in 1918.

Each one of us remembers in our own way. For the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, we are fortunate to be the keepers of photographs, letters, telegrams, diaries, newspaper clippings and even some artefacts that family have chosen us, as permanent custodians. The context, in which these documents and artefacts rest, at the Museum and Archives, ensures that for many future generations these items will be preserved with the utmost care and respect.

For one Chilliwack soldier, Lieutenant Dennis Peter Hepburn, his pocket watch with protective covering is held by the museum. What does this object represent to us or to you? Does it remind us of officers in anticipation of going over the top, waiting for the minute and the resultant whistle that signals the troops to cross over the parapet and venture into no man’s land?

Dennis Hepburn, aged 21 years, lost his life while serving with the 47th Canadian Infantry Battalion on November 3, 1918. He is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery in France, located 27 kilometres south of Boulogne. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website tells us that the cemetery at Etaples was in an area where “eleven general, one stationary, four Red Cross hospitals and a convalescent depot” operated and with the capacity to “deal with 22,000 wounded or sick.” Lieutenant Hepburn died of his wounds at the 20th General Hospital, Dames Camiers, France having been wounded on September 28, 1918.

How will you remember on this November 11th?

Pocket watch and cover carried by Lieutenant Dennis Peter Hepburn.
Portrait of Lieutenant Hepburn, Chilliwack Progress, November 21, 1918, page 1.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission Website

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