Chapter 6: The War Years
| It was in 1914 that a
group of military minded horsemen got together for
organized evenings and Sunday morning rides in response
to rumours that the world would soon be at war. The
originators were Dr. Marr and Arthur T.
Johnston. Some of the others were George I. Blair, George Sellars, David Latimer, George Medd, and R. Archibald
Payne. Their headquarters were established in the
community hall at Murrayville (previously called Murray's
On August 4 Britain declared war on Germany. This declaration brought Canada into the First World War. By September the Langley Volunteers were gazetted under the Reserve Forces Act as "C" Squadron, 31st B.C. Horse (Mounted Rifles), with headquarters at Langley Prairie. Military training was immediately stepped up with outdoor parades and indoor drilling in the new hall. The squadron was fortunate in acquiring the services of Harry Witcome, a former non-commissioned officer of the permanent force. While he was an excellent drill instructor and disciplinarian; he was not an outstanding horseman.
Dr. Marr was the first Langley man to offer his services and enlist in August of 1914. He continued training in the Mounted (212) Rifles and subsequently passed all examinations to the rank of Field Officer in the Cavalry Training School and was posted overseas. It was in England in 1916 that it was finally realized that the day of horses was at an end. As a result the doctor's unit was reassigned and he transferred to the medical corps.
It was while overseas in a hospital in France that Dr. Marr and Archie Payne decided that if either returned they would attempt to have streets in Langley named for their fallen comrades. Both made it back to carry out this project.
When the war finally did come to an end in 1918, 34 of the 280 men from Langley that had joined up had paid the supreme sacrifice. Two of three sons of Jason Allard to serve overseas paid with their lives. Eugene Allard had originally enlisted in the 31st B.C. Horse but afterwards transferred to the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles. He was killed at Ypres in 1917 at the age of 30. His older brother Alexaxnder Jason was gassed and died in a Kamloops Hospital in 1924. The third Allard to serve was William Jason. The youngest of the three brothers, Billy had joined up in the fall of 1914 with 27 other men from the fort. He enlisted with the 104th Battalion and served at the battles of Ypres, Vimy, and on the Somme. He was wounded four times during these fights. It was at Vimy Ridge that he went out into no man's land after a Montreal Crater explosion and pulled two men to the allied lines. One turned out to be from his own unit and the other was German. At Buckingham Palace he was awarded the Military Cross for bravery. He died in 1962 at the age of 73.
While Dr. Marr was overseas the vacancy in Langley was filled by Dr. Albert McBurney, who moved into the Marr house in Fort Langley. When Dr. Marr returned from overseas in 1919 to again take up his practice in and about Fort Langley, Dr. McBurney moved to Langley Prairie to administer to the needs of the rapidly expanding population of that area.
On the 4 August, 1919, in celebration of the fifth anniversary of the Declaration of War, the Langley Municipal Council and its Citizens gave an air festival and grand ball welcoming home the returned soldiers.
Six year later Langley Municipality celebrated 100 years since the founding of the first Fort Langley in 1827. The Native Sons from Post #2 had a small celebration at Derby in commemoration of the event. It took another 19 years before Langley Reeve Noel Booth, together with historian Bruce A. McKelvie and Alexander Houston, unveiled a plaque upon the site of the original fort. The event took place on November 19, 1946, 88 years later to the day since the inauguration of British Columbia. In 1954 the Fort Langley Restoration Committee, chaired by Alexander C. Hope, former M.L.A. for Delta and the only son of Charles E. Hope, was formed and began plans to reconstruct the Fort Langley of the 1840s. This project was not finished until 1958. The official ceremony to commemorate the reconstruction of this fort was attended by her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, sister of the Queen. She did the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the first act in 100 years to eclipse the birthday of the Province of British Columbia, fittingly enough flanked by two sons of the pioneers -- Alex Hope and D.W. 'Bill' Poppy Jr.
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Copyright © Donald E. Waite / Lisa M. Peppan