Shortly after the 1918 Armistice brought an end to the First World War, communities all across Canada began raising funds to build memorials to those who had given their lives in the “War to end wars”. The Cobble Hill area was no exception and the Ancient Order of Foresters – Court Shawnigan began a subscription to erect a cenotaph that would forever remember the sacrifice made by local young people.
Of the three sites initially considered for the location of the memorial, Cobble Hill was selected as at the time, the village was considered to be the centre of the South Cowichan community.
Depending upon which newspaper articles from the time are accurate, the monument was to cost either $650.00 or $920.00 and the Vancouver firm of Peterson, Chandler and Stephens was engaged to design and erect it. Work began in late 1919 and was completed in early 1920. It was dedicated on Sunday, February 15th, 1920 by Premier John Oliver, standing in for Lieutenant Governor Colonel The Honourable E.C. Prior who was ill with influenza.
Following a luncheon the dedication commenced with a parade to the Cenotaph led by the Premier and greeting committee of local dignitaries, the Honor Guard, the Ancient Order of Foresters and forty returned veterans. Premier Oliver unveiled the Union Jack covered monument followed by hymns, a bible reading and the laying of many wreaths. It was reported that a list of donors was placed under the obelisk.
Over the years a number of modifications were made to the Cenotaph surroundings: The Foresters added a wrought iron fence and gates and a German artillery piece and a machine gun were placed just outside the fence. Persons unknown apparently stole the machine gun and the larger piece was removed during the Second World War in a drive for scrap iron.
Following World War ll the names of those lost in that conflict were inscribed on the monument and later the resident Dutch Community added Liberation Park with a monument to recognize the liberation of Holland by Canadian Forces in 1945.
By the turn of the 21st century, the changes that inevitably occur over time had taken their toll on the Cenotaph. The roads on both sides had been widened, so much so that Heigh Street came to within seven feet of the fence that was struck more than once by motorists. The structure itself had settled by about six inches and the entire area was surrounded by uneven and broken asphalt. The lettering on the obelisk had deteriorated and it was found that two names had been missed from the memorial when it was first erected.
After several years of consultation with the Malahat and Cobble Hill Branches of the Royal Canadian Legion, the Cowichan Valley Regional District, Veterans Affairs Canada and the Dutch Community, a new Memorial Park was developed from the old site in 2009 giving the Cenotaph the place of honour it deserves in South Cowichan.
When the obelisk was moved a short distance to its new location, it was discovered that the list of donors reported to be under it was one of Cobble Hill’s own “urban legends”. During the renovation a time capsule was placed under the structure before attachment to its new base.
The Cobble Hill Historical Society meets on the second Tuesday of the month at 7:00 pm in the Youth Hall at 3665 Watson Avenue in Cobble Hill.
Cobble Hill Historical Society
c/o Brenda Krug
785 Red Oak Drive
Cobble Hill, BC V0R 1L4