Most area residents are familiar with the Orléans war memorial, or cenotaph, located next to the Orléans Legion on Taylor Creek Drive. But there are three other cenotaphs in the area that pay tribute to the mostly young men who served in the First and Second World Wars and never returned home.
They are located in Cumberland Village, Vars and Navan and bear the names of men who answered the call to serve their communities, their neighbours and their country.
The cenotaph in Cumberland Village was erected outside St. Andrew’s Church in 1919 to commemorate the first anniversary of the end of the First World War and honour the seven local men who never came back. They are Charles McKenzie, Cheswell Allan, Robert Leslie Taylor, Peter MacLaren, William Spratt, John McKenzie and Thomas Foy.
Two additional names were added to the memorial at the end of the Second World War – Carleton “Tot” Kennedy and William H. Lough.
The tenth name on the cenotaph is that of Robert Victor Arnott who was killed in the Korean War.
William Spratt and Leslie Taylor were cousins who served in the First World War, along with a third cousin from Cumberland Village – Robert James Kennedy.
Spratt and Taylor were both killed in action. Sprat was 27 and Taylor was 33. Kennedy survived the war, including the Battle of Vimy Ridge and went on to serve as the township’s clerk and treasurer for 37 years. The R.J. Kennedy Arena is named in his honour.
After the war, he married Eva Farmer and the couple had six children, three of whom served in the Second World War. Dr. I.F. “Bus” Kennedy flew spitfires over North Africa and Europe and was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Older brother Al Kennedy served with RCAF Wireless Communication in Bomber Command.
Younger brother “Tot” Kennedy was not so lucky. He died while on a training mission in England when the bomber he was assign-ed to crashed just short of the runway. He was only 21 years old.
The cenotaph in Navan has 23 names on it including the name of Oliver Burns who was killed in the Boer War in 1902 and Gary Vaillancourt, who served as a peacekeeper with NATO missions in Cyprus and Bosnia.
Fifteen of the men whose names appear on the cenotaph were killed in the First World War. Most had experience working teams of horses on their family’s farms and ended up serving in the Royal Artillery handling the heavy horse teams which transported the big guns from position to position.
Six of the men on the cenotaph were killed in the Second World War, including Cecil McFadden and David Irwin.
Cecil joined the Canadian Army in September 1942 – he went overseas in June 1944 and didn’t see action until December of the same year. He was killed two months later on Feb. 13, 1945, when the armoured personnel carrier he was driving was hit by anti-tank fire.
David Irwin was killed when the Halifax bomber he was flying was shot down during a bombing mission over Germany on the night of June 22-23, 1944. He was 23 years old.
Of the three war memorials in the former township of Cumberland, arguably the most poignant is the one in Vars which was erected in September 1931 through the efforts of the Vars Women’s Institute.
In more recent years, 12 pedestals have been installed in front of the memorial with the names and likenesses of the 12 men who died in the two World Wars on them.
Ten of the men – Matthew Barkley, Wesley Simpson, Robert McElroy, Charlie Ward, Ernest Bonsall, Warren Dunning, Frank Cormack, Roy Brownlee, Fred Buckland
and Arthur Buckland died in the First World War. Clayton Walsh and Stanley Hill were both killed in the Second World War.
Warren Dunning was among the first med from Cumberland to serve in Europe during the First World War. He also one of the first to die – killed in Battle of Festubert in May 1915).
Arthur Buckland was killed at Vimy Ridge in 1917 when he was 22. Roy Brownlee was 23 when he was killed during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Ernest Bonsall was killed at Paschendale in 1917. He was 22. Matthew Barley, 18, and Wesley Simpson, 23, were both killed during the German Spring Offensive in 1918.
How the other men died is not known, but at least we have their names and a place to honour their sacrifice every Remembrance Day.