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Maple Ridge historian helps scouts remember local honoured active servicemen of the world wars

One solider who died during WWI, four who passed away during WWII interred at Maple Ridge Cemetery
Maple Ridge Cemetery. (THE NEWS/files)

Soldiers who died in battle, or who succumbed to their wounds in overseas hospitals during the world wars of the 20th century were often not returned home for burial, so the Maple Ridge Cemetery does not have quite the representation of the community’s loss that one might expect.

While doing research for a local scout troop, Maple Ridge Museum curator Shea Henry said she discovered the active servicemen and veterans who are interred there are, for the most part, those soldiers who died of war wounds after returning home, those who died prior to shipping out, or those who died outside of wartime while still in active military service.

“The leader of the scout group called and asked if we had any info on these five soldiers that were buried at the cemetery,” Henry said.

“She wanted to bring her troop there for Remembrance Day, and tell them these stories, and make sure the soldiers are not forgotten.”

The curator thought it was a great idea, so dug into the museum’s archives, as well as fallen soldiers and ancestry websites to see what she could find.

Henry discovered Wilfred MacKreath is the sole active duty soldier from the first great war buried in the cemetery.

He was wounded in Europe - most likely in Belgium or France - in 1916 while serving in the 54th Battalion.

After a recovery period in England, he was transferred home to BC, but died of secondary meningitis in the New Westminster Hospital in April of 1918.

“Sadly, disease and infections as a result of war wounds was a very deadly part of the First World War,” said Henry.

READ MORE: Maple Ridge students plant metal poppies at legion ahead of Remembrance Day

The earliest death of a Second World War vet occurred in December, 1942.

Edward Harris died in a Royal Canadian Air Force flight training accident in Vulcan, Alberta.

An article in the local Gazette paper said ‘full military honours were accorded’ him. His funeral service was held in St. George’s Anglican Church, which was on Selkirk St, and was well attended by a ‘large crowd of friends and acquaintances.’

William George Bend also passed away on Canadian soil in June, 1944.

The 19-year-old soldier was a new enlist, who had just graduated high school. He succumbed to an infection, the results of general peritonitis gangrenous appendicitis.

“It was an unfortunate death of someone so young,” Henry said.

A Vancouver newspaper reporting on war wounded and causalities lists him as a war casualty of ‘natural causes’. He died in a hospital in New Westminster.

Albert George Eden died in August, 1946.

He was a member of the RCAF during the Second World War, and received many awards including the 1939-1945 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-1945, and the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal.

Also serving with the RCAF was Maurice Leonard Sims. He died of heart failure in a Vancouver military hospital in December, 1946 at the age of 48.

Sims was a carpenter by by trade, and served overseas while in his 40s.

Henry said one of the things she noticed when performing the research was how varied in age the veterans were.

“One of these soldiers was 19 when he dies, and one of them was 48,” she said.

“That’s two different generations fighting in the same war, so that was surprising.”

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A clipping from the April 6, 1918 edition of the Vancouver Daily World talks about the military funeral of Pte. MacKreath. (
Clipping from Dec 13, 1942 Haney Gazette describin Jim Harris’ funeral. (Maple Ridge Museum files)
Sergeant Pilot Edward James Harris shipping out from Haney Station, 1940. (Maple Ridge Museum files)