Published Tuesday, 25 September 2018
The Mayor of Waverley, Councillor Denise Le Gal welcomed dignitaries and servicemen from Canada and across Britain to unveil a new memorial at Milford Common to commemorate Cananadian servicemen
The unveiling of the memorial, a beautiful Portland stone piece carved by Simon Keeley, took place during a special remembrance and wreath laying service at the common, which was attended by Canadian Major Daniel Martinbeault, Michelle Cassidy from the Canadian High Commission, Deputy Lieutenant Susan Lochner and Foreign Secretary and local MP, Jeremy Hunt, as well as British and Canadian soldiers and representatives from Waverley Borough Council, Surrey County Council and town and parish councils. The event was part of a series of commemorations funded and supported by Waverley Borough Council, to mark 100 years since the end of WWI.
Councillor Le Gal, who was part of the project group that organised the procurement of the memorial and the remembrance service, said: “In 1915 a training camp was set up on Witley Common, extending to Milford Common, where many British and Canadian soldiers trained together before being sent to France. One hundred years on, the special bond between the two countries is still going strong.
“Being able to commemorate the sacrifice made by the Canadian soldiers was truly special. It was a day we will all remember forever and as a citizen of both countries I felt hugely proud to be a part of it.
“I’d like to thank my colleagues and councillors at Waverley Borough Council, who did an amazing job of organising the service and memorial, to the National Trust for allowing us to have this special honorary stone on the common and to Councillor Peter Martin from Surrey County Council who helped to secure funding towards the project.”
The service included live music from the Godalming Band and readings from Rev Clive Potter of St John the Evangelist, Milford and Canadian Chaplain Lesley Fox.
Lt(N) Fox from CFSU(E) Detachment London, said: "One of the lessons our soldiers learned by living and training together was the lesson of gratitude. Our soldiers became strongly aware of the connections they had to each other and how they built on those connections. They discovered in each other their God given humanity, and we remember what they gave in order to build a better world."
Notes to editors
The memorial stone’s inscription reads: ‘In gratitude to all Canadian soldiers based in the area during WWI and WWII. We will remember them.’
Photo caption: (From L-R) Sergeant Peter Jones from the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, Rev Clive Potter of St Johns in Milford, Michelle Cassidy of the High Commission of Canada, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Major Daniel Martimbeault of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Mayor of Waverley, Cllr Denise Le Gal, Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey, Commander Susan Lochner, the High Sheriff of Surrey, Jim Glover, Cllr Peter Martin of Surrey County Council, Cllr Julia Potts, Leader of Waverley Borough Council.
A brief history
Canadians had an integral role alongside the British and the Allies during the Great War. Throughout 1914-1918, about 7 percent of the Canadian population served in the Great War. The Canadian Army entered and fought in the war as part of the British Empire’s dominions and colonies.
The camp at Witley Common straddled the Portsmouth and Haslemere roads, extending into Milford Common and beyond to Bowlhead Green. The Surrey countryside provided an ideal landscape for artillery training, with rolling hills and sandy soil, as well as good roads and villages. The camp provided the soldiers with housing, medical attention, recreation facilities, and shops, also known as ‘Tin-Towns,’ found on the edge of the camp. Part of Milford Common was also used as a baseball pitch for the troops and one of baseball's most famous players, Babe Ruth, played there.
Today, Witley Camp is the site of archaeological digs, where exciting finds are revealing more about the life of soldiers during the war, including items such as Canadian hockey pucks. During WWI the Canadian solders played hockey on the lake at Broadwater Park.
During the Second World War the camp was purely for the training and housing of Canadian Troops. The camp was rebuilt on Rodborough Common in WWII and expanded to the size of a small village, where it contained a chapel, hospital, parade ground, garrison theatre and brick buildings for living quarters.