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REMEMBRANCE DAY: Banners program to highlight Banff veterans

“There’s a lot of real and neat interesting connections to Banff through the military. Banff has quite a history. There’s a great history in the town.”

BANFF – Banff Avenue will be adorned with banners recognizing and remembering military veterans who called the mountain town home.

Twenty-four banners have been posted along the busy stretch of roadway from Wolf Street to the Banff Legion, just before the Bow River Bridge.

Each banner will have local military veterans on either side, highlighting 48 past and present locals for residents and visitors to learn about.

“There’s a lot of real and neat interesting connections to Banff through the military,” said Bruce McTrowe, the Col. Moore Banff Legion No. 26 poppy campaign chairperson.

“Banff has quite a history. There’s a great history in the town.”

McTrowe said the idea came from Invermere, B.C., where the legion had an Honour your Veterans Banner program.

The work began in the spring and they reached out to families to gauge interest in supporting the project.

McTrowe said the response to recognize local veterans was overwhelming to allow the greater community to learn more about the history.

McTrowe said they used primary sources, research done at the library and personal documents in collecting the information for the banners and a booklet with each person’s biography to go to people who purchased the banners.

“It’s been quite a thing to source all these people who want to sponsor a banner. … It’s a labour of love.”

Town staff put the banners Tuesday (Nov. 9) and they are set to stay up for about a week. The plan is to continue to do it in the coming years, McTrowe said.

Among the people recognized are Bill Peyto, Bill Neish, Ed Carleton, Dorothy Carleton, Bill Waterworth, Ken McTrowe and Arnie McTrowe.

Peyto served in Lord Strathcona’s Horse during the Boer War and the First World War, while Waterworth flew 33 missions in a Wellington bomber during the Second World War. He was shot down in 1942 and spent three years as a prisoner of war.

Neish served in the First World War as an engineer and joined the Royal North-West Mounted Police when he returned to Canada. He worked for Banff National Park and later served in the Second World War as a guard at a POW camp in Lethbridge.

Ed Carleton joined the Calgary Highlanders in 1939 and was part of a mortar platoon in the Dieppe Raid. He fought in the Normandy campaign and was wounded in July 1944 near Caen, France. Following the war, he joined the Banff National Park warden service.

His wife, Dorothy Carleton, served with England’s civil defence service as an air raid patrol warden from 1940-45, including patrolling the streets of London during the blitz in 1940.

Ken McTrowe joined the Canadian Army in 1941 in the artillery and served in England, Italy and North Africa. After the war, he joined Parks Canada. Arnie McTrowe was in the Royal Canadian Air Force and flew 32 missions as a mid-upper gunner in a Lancaster bomber.

Jimmy Simpson Jr. was a lifelong Banff resident and joined the RCAF in 1941, flying on Beaufort and Halifax bombers until the end of the war. He played semi-professional hockey and became a businessman.

“There’s quite a few characters,” McTrowe said.

Remembrance Day ceremonies will have a different appearance for a second consecutive year in the Bow Valley because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three Royal Canadian Legion branches in the area – Banff, Canmore and Exshaw – will each have more low-key versions to recognize Canadian veterans.

“We’re not encouraging people to come to the ceremony because we just don’t have the capacity. We have to keep it pretty small,” said Bruce McTrowe, the Col. Moore Banff Legion No. 26 poppy campaign chairperson.

The public health guidelines have led all three valley legions to have smaller ceremonies.

McTrowe said the legion’s executive command will hold its at the cenotaph and livestream the service on its Facebook page.

Following the Banff service, they will go to the cenotaph at Bankhead, just north of Banff, and lay a wreath there, which is outside of Lake Minnewanka.

The Banff Legion will be open in the early afternoon for lunch, McTrowe said.

“We can only have limited capacity and COVID protocols you need someone to check all the proof of vaccination.”

The Exshaw Legion No. 179 will hold an afternoon service at 2 p.m.

Kim Salekin, a volunteer with the legion, said the service will be similar to 2020 and be a short outdoor service with no invited speakers due to limited space. Wreaths will also be pre-laid at the cenotaph.

However, she said the traditional ham supper at 5 p.m. will take place and a pre-purchase of tickets is recommended. The dinner will also be takeout and will cost $13.

“Fingers-crossed we’ll be back to normal services next year,” she said.

The Canmore Legion will have an outdoor ceremony at 10:50 a.m., with anyone attending asked to follow masking and distancing recommendations. The ceremony will also be streamed on their Facebook page and wreaths will be pre-laid and remain out during the day.

The Canmore cemetery has two Fields of Honour where local veterans have been buried. The space is open to the public all year.

The Old Banff Cemetery will also allow for people to do a drive-thru.

Paulette Zarkos, a Banff resident who is leading a group of volunteers cleaning headstones, said they have found more than 300 veteran gravestones in the cemetery.

She said students from Banff Elementary School are setting up mason jars with candles and a mini Canadian flag on each veteran grave.

The drive-thru will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday (Nov. 10) and again Thursday (Nov. 11) from the late morning throughout the afternoon.

“It’s evolved and we’ve got a lot of support from people,” Zarkos said of the headstone cleaning project.