A makeshift cenotaph was created for the ceremony. Wreaths were set at the foot of it. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Sergeant (Ret’d) John Henshaw laid a wreath on behalf of the Eastern Ontario Gunners Association during the annual memorial service commemorating the tragic Canoe River train collision 67 years ago that claimed the lives of 17 soldiers and four civilians. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
The memorial cairn for the Canoe River train wreck in Artillery Park was blessed by Padre Judson Bridgewater on Nov. 21. From left, 2 RCHA Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) Chief Warrant Officer Rodney Gallant, donor Dave Marshall, 2 RCHA Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Hampton, Padre Bridgewater, donor and former RSM Chief Warrant Officer Wayne Lundrigan and donor Sergeant Chris Leblanc. Missing from photo is donor Warrant Officer Jack Moloughney. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
2 RCHA marks 67 years since Canoe River tragedy
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday, November 30, 2017
2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (2 RCHA) erected a memorial cairn at Artillery Park to commemorate the train wreck at Canoe River, B.C., where 17 soldiers lost their lives.
It has been an annual tradition for the past 67 years for members of the regiment to get together and remember those who lost their lives in the tragic accident.
“The Canoe River Memorial and what happens after reflects the very best elements of our regimental heritage,” 2 RCHA Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Hampton said. “No matter how busy and how hectic our lives or operations get, we must take the time to remember lest we lose contact with our past.”
On Nov. 21, 1950, a westbound train carrying members of 2 RCHA on their way to deploy to Korea collided with an eastbound Vancouver-Montreal passenger train just east of Canoe River in BC. The force of the crash launched the military train down an embankment. An oil fire broke out, making recovery of the injured and the dead extremely difficult.
There were 21 fatalities, including four soldiers whose bodies were never recovered.
Despite best efforts, Gunner Arden Joseph Atchison, Gunner Weldon Eugene Barkhouse, Gunner Norman William Carroll, Gunner Frederick William Conway, Gunner Robert Arthur Craig, Gunner Austin Emery George, Gunner Urbain Joseph Levesque, Gunner Robert William Manley, Gunner Basil Patrick McKeown, Gunner Albert George Stroud, Gunner Joseph Thistle, Gunner James Milo Wenkert, Gunner James Joseph White, and Gunner William David Wright lost their lives as did four civilians.
A memorial cairn was erected at Camp Shilo soon after and a roadside marker was erected and dedicated in Valemont, B.C. in 1998. But it wasn’t until now, that members of 2 RCHA had one nearby.
“Ironically, we’ve never created a permanent memorial to the event as was done in British Colombia and Manitoba,” said LCol Hampton. “This year, we set about to remedy that.”
Padre Judson Bridgewater blessed the local cairn after the traditional indoor memorial ceremony concluded. During the service, surviving veterans, loved ones, distinguished guests as well as past and present members of 2 RCHA paid tribute to those who lost their lives in this tragedy, laying wreaths at the foot of a cenotaph.
“It is a bloodletting we should not have had to endure, but it happened,” said LCol Hampton.
“But it is not whether we get knocked down but that we get back up,” he added. “2 RCHA suffered casualties at Canoe River, but we emerged from the riverbed, buried our dead and continued on to fire over a million rounds in support of UN operations in Korea.”
The cairn was paid for by donors, composed mainly of current and retired members of 2 RCHA.