The Albert County Museum's 100th Anniversary Commemoration of the Sailing of the 26th Battalion on June 13, 1915 took place this past Saturday (June 13th, 2015) - 100 years to the day the Battalion sailed to England and war.
The two day event started on Friday, June 12th, with a Commemoration Dinner following the 26th Battalion Over Seas Club 1960 – 45th Anniversary Dinner Menu and Program. The Sold-out event featured a seven (7) course dinner, and followed the military traditions of the Veterans of the 26th Battalion. The exciting program also included violinist Mrs. Sara Liptay performing a selection of period pieces from the Great War, followed by Mrs. Dawne McLean and Mrs. Connie Sarchfield singing a selection of popular wartime songs. Mr. Stuart Liptay, President of the Historical Society, gave a lively presentation titled, “The Most Significant Cannon in Canada”, a talk on why the K14 10 CM World War One German cannon that sits in the square in Hopewell Cape is probably the most storied and important cannon in Canada.
The funds raised from the Commemoration Dinner will go to the Museum's Victory Cannon Campaign project to restore the two WW1 cannons. The highlight of the evening was the rolling in of two of the completed cannon wheels, which arrived from the wheelwright that very day. These magnificent wheels were completely rebuilt from the hub-out by a professional wheelwright in Nova Scotia. Mr. Liptay went on to say that the wheelwright was able to use two of the original spokes in each of the wheels, and that it was a small miracle for them to be there that night, with thanks to The Great Northern Auction (a public auto auction in Moncton) driving the 10 hour round trip to pick them up that very day.
The second day, the 100th Anniversary-to-the-day that the 26th Battalion set sail for England, on June 13, 1915, started with the museum's weekly market (every Saturday 9am-1pm), which offered a soldier's dream breakfast of bacon, eggs and all the trimmings, and followed with hand-made pizzas in the wood fired cob oven.
The day's main events started at 2pm with a General Call to Assembly, followed by introductions of the dignitaries and the Veterans from the Royal Canadian Legion Hillsborough Branch 32, and the Riverview Veterans Association, along with the members of the Royal New Brunswick Regiment, who perpetuate and hold the battle honours for the 26th New Brunswick Battalion, C.E.F.. Mr. Brian Keirstead, M.L.A. Albert, gave a brief history on the County and brought greetings from the Province. Followed by Brigadier General (ret.) Peter Atkinson, the Parade Reviewing Officer, who brought home the message that the people of Albert County have played a very important role in Canada's Military History.
Mrs. Dawne McLean gave a young soldier's personal account on the sailing of the 26th Battalion from Saint John by reading a letter written by her Great-Uncle Hugh Wright that very day on June 13, 1915, 100 years ago aboard the ship Caledonia The audience appreciated viewing his original photographs taken during WWI, and the reading of his descriptive letters, which shared feelings and experiences during the training in St. John, sailing overseas, training at Candling Camp in England, and then to the trenches in Belgium and France. His letters revealed a young man's journey to the Great War after enlisting in the 26th. To complement this, original video footage of the 26th Battalion training and parading through the streets of Saint John in the spring of 1915 was shown.
The Commanding Officer of The Royal New Brunswick Regiment, Lt. Col. Ronald Bertin provided a lively history on the Regiment, which dates back to the 18th century, and most recently has been granted battle honours for the War of 1812 as Defenders of Canada. The RNBR now holds and perpetuates the 18 battle honours awarded to the 26th New Brunswick Battalion.
Mr. Brent Wilson, Director of the Gregg Centre at the University of New Brunswick, gave an update on the centre's upcoming Victoria Cross program, and the importance of educating people on Canada's role in the two World Wars, and subsequent conflicts. Then Mr. Donald Alward presented on Lt. Colonel Cyrus Peck, a Victoria Cross recipient born in Hopewell Hill, Albert County, NB, a legendary Canadian who was the only sitting Member of Parliament (MP) to ever win the Victoria Cross in the Commonwealth. Lastly, Mr. Stuart Liptay, President of the Albert County Historical Society, gave a quick update on the Victory Cannon Campaign, and the significance of the cannons to the people of Albert County.
The grand finale of the day began promptly at 4:15 pm with the roar of a RCAF C-130 Hercules flying over the Museum at 500ft, signalling the start of the colour parade. The colour parade, led by RCMP Pipes and Drums J. Division, featured The Royal New Brunswick Regiment followed by 560 RCACC Moncton, Royal Canadian Legion Hillsborough, Br. 32, Riverview Veterans' Association and the Canadian Army Veterans' Riding Unit. As the parade marched up the hill to the steps of the 1904 Court House, a halt was called before the reviewing stand. Retired Brigadier General Peter Atkinson then “inspected the troops”. Immediately following the inspection a “moment of silence” was observed in honour and remembrance of those who fought to protect our freedoms. The parade then continued around the Court House and ended by the Museum County Jail.
For further enjoyment for the many spectators, the RCMP Pipes and Drums provided a concert on the Court House steps, followed by period refreshments in the Community Hall.