If you’re thinking of war monuments to visit in Edmonton to honour the memories of our veterans this Remembrance Day, a downtown bank is probably not the first thing on your list.
But, at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s downtown branch at Jasper Avenue and 101st Street, right across from the elevators, there’s a plaque honouring the men who worked at the bank and served in the Great War.
There are 34 names on the plaque, six of them killed in action.
Second Lieutenant Edmund De Wind doesn’t get any special designation. He’s simply listed in alphabetical order, the 12th soldier on the list. A V.C. (Victoria Cross) designation for bravery at the end of his name is the only thing that sets him apart.
De Wind, who came to Canada from Northern Ireland, enlisted in Edmonton in 1914, and was killed, aged 34, on March 21, 1918 at Race Course Redoubt in France. His heroic story is the stuff of movies.
According to Veterans Canada, “For seven hours he held this most important post, and though twice wounded and practically single-handed, he maintained his position until another section could be got to his help. On two occasions, with two N.C.O.’s only, he got out on top under heavy machine gun and rifle fire, and cleared the enemy out of the trench, killing many. He continued to repel attack after attack until he was mortally wounded and collapsed.”
On that plaque, you’ll also find the name “Lt. E.C. Mee.” That’s Ernest Campbell Mee, who was killed in action on Sept. 3, 1916. His body wasn’t returned to Edmonton; he was buried at a Mee family plot in Derry, Northern Ireland.
There’s Gunner James Desmond McNulty, who was born in North Dakota but moved northwest to Edmonton before serving in the war. He was 25 when he died on May 25, 1917 and is buried in Kent, England.
These were people who were born outside of Canada, came to Edmonton to make their fortunes, and then enlisted. Not only is it important to remember these soldiers, it’s important to remember that these are the stories of immigrants, as well.
This article appears in the November 2020 issue of Edify