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About Branch 197, Acton ON
Our History

Even before the Legion was formed

When the war began in 1914, government pensions for military personnel were very uncommon and virtually non-existent. Private charities, such as the Patriotic Fund, assisted soldiers and their families if they were considered worthy of support. Unfortunately most of the private charities lacked the resources and funds necessary to  deal with the numbers or injured soldiers returning from the war, and consequently the issue of how to deal with returning veterans became a matter of great public concern long before the war ended.

In 1915 the federal government created the Military Hospitals Commission (the MHC) to look after injured soldiers, and purchased a large number of builings and facilites and coverted these into hospitals or convalescent homes. The MHC began producing artificial limbs in a Toronto factory to accomodate those who'd lost arms, legs, or hands or feet as the result of wartime injury. While the MHC tried to help soldiers with illnesses like tuberculosis or "shell shock", they were poorly equipped to do so, and began to build institutions to deal with these problems.

As many of the able bodied veterans returned, to a country economically decimated by the war, the government introduced pensions and training programs to help our veterans re-inegrate into Canadian life again. The Soldier Settlement Act of 1917 provided land for physically fit veterans who were serious about farming.
However, Women in the nursing services and the disabled, were not included in the act's provisions, and were left to fend for themselves.

The Department of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment (DSCR), formed in 1918, administered hospital and medical care for the sick and wounded, set pensions, selected training programs, and approved loans for soldiers settling on farms. The goal of these measures was, as the Canadian government promised in the 1917 election campaign, the "full re-establishment" of Canadian veterans.

Our veterans and soldiers were to be reintegrated into their home communities and returned to economic self-sufficiency. Government assistance was designed as only a temporary measure. And the effort failed miserably for our veterans.

In response, to the lack of support, and needed services, the returning soldiers began to create their own organizations. The most powerful of these was "the Great War Veterans' Association." Through these organizations, particularly the Great War Veterans Association, (GWA) the soldiers pressured the government to give preference to veterans when hiring and to increase pensions for common soldiers, widows, and the disabled.


The Original Acton Soldiers' Memorial Home

(now the McKinnon Funeral Home on Mill St.)

After a strong start, the GWVA had gone into decline in the early 1920s. It had been re-energized when Field Marshal Earl Haig visited Canada and encouraged the veterans to come together and form one strong organization.

As a result, they founded the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League in 1926. The Legion grew rapidly and became of great assistance in the re-establishment of veterans back home and in providing advice about pensions and other benefits.

In 1960, the organization would be renamed the Royal Canadian Legion.

The First Memorial Honouring our War Dead from WW I

In 1920, monument dealer John Nicol donated the original Soldiers' Memorial honouring and commemorating those who gave their lives during the Great War, and the memorial stone was placed by members of the Great War Veterans Association in front of what was then the Acton Soldiers Memorial Home.

In May, 1920, the monument was unveiled and beautiful wreaths were laid by the G.W.V.A., the Ladies Auxilliary, the Sons of England and the Roman Catholic friends.

This stone was moved to Fairview cemetery in 1923, to the G.W.V.A. plot after the present centopath was in place in front of Trinity United church.

The Beginnings of the Legion Branch 197, Acton

The Original "Bunkhouse" Branch Building

Late in 1930, at a rally in Burlington, support for the formation of a Canadian Legion branch was received from Zone 13, and an application was made to Provincial Command to organize a branch.  On March 27, 1931 a charter, numbered 197 was granted for the Acton Legion.  

Immediate pledges of support came from the whole community, with many offers of practical and valued assistance. Foremost of those offers was the granting, lease free, of the former arena clubhouse owned by Beardmore and Company. This was arranged through the benevolence of Col. A. O. T. Beardmore, that perennial friend of Acton veterans, and was negotiated by Comrade J.M. McDonald, the manager of the firm.

"Bud" became Legion President after the first year and held that position for the period of nine years. He continued to help and give advice to the branch until the time of his death.

The Charter Night banquet was held in the Legion Clubhouse on the evening of April 21, 1931. Col. Beardmore, who was to have been an honoured guest, was unable to attend as he had been summoned to Ottawa to be invested as the Honorary Aide-de-camp to the Governor General of Canada, the Earl of Bessborough.
However, he was given three rousing cheers and a lusty, if not very musical, "for he's a jolly good fella."

Col. Picking, the Provincial Secretary, Capt. W. C. Innes, Commander of Zone 13, and Comrade A.A. Robinson, Senior Pension Officer of the Provincial Commrade Service Bureau were present to install the officers and initiate the charter and the other new members.

A delicious dinner, prepared in their homes and served by the wives of the members, with settings for one hundred and twenty, was followed by toasts, short speeches from visiting the local dignitaries, and a lively sing-song.

It was a very significant occasion for Acton veterans; the Golden Years of Branch 197 were under way!

The Original Cenotaph Stele (tower) unveiled 
November 1920 Commemorating our WW I Veterans.

The Present Day Cenotaph in its original location in front of the Methodist Church

The Present Day Cenotaph with its two additional stele commemorating those who served in WW II and Korea, in front of Trinity United Church.

The original cenotaph was unveiled and dedicated November 11, 1920, on land donated by the Methodist Church in Acton.  The unveiling saw a rousing march of about 400 children accompanied by the Acton Citizens' Band  and well attended by Acton citizens and veterans. Later, the cenotaph was moved to its present location in front of Trinity United Church on Mill St. where it stands today.

The Second Branch - Opened July 1945

As Legion membership grew, and the branch became increasingly active in Acton community activities, the branch soon outgrew the Bunkhouse building, and Beardmore's needed the clubhouse space for housing. 

In July 1945, the Legion members bought the Lantz home, which was originally the telephone exchange, on the east side of Main St. (Across from where Giant Tiger plaza is located today).  The branch and membership continued to grow, and in 1952 twenty feet were added to the first floor and the second floor was expanded to cover all the first floor. A new kitchen and auditorium were added and the property behind the building was purchased for parking.
With  the new auditiorium, attendance at banquets and dances increased and revenues improved, and the branch continued to grow and serve the veterans for the two great wars, and the Acton community.

In 1945, the Ladies Auxilliary for Branch 197 was granted its charter, with 16 charter members, and the members immediately started their well known fundraising and catering. Initially cooking was done at home but with the additions added to the building in 1956 and 1957 the ladies found themselves right at home in the Branch's new kitchen and auditiorium expanding their dedicated service to the Branch , the veterans and the community.

In 1967 the mortgage was paid off  and the Branch continued to grow and serve.

The Acton Soldiers' Memorial on Mill St. 
in front of Trinity United Church

Honoring those who gave their lives that we might live in freedom!

The Cenotaph - with 2 pillars added in 1949 to commemorate the veterans of WWII.
Rememberance Day Service 1949.

The Cenotaph today, following the annual Candlelight Parade.

Since the tablets were added in 1949, the names of those lost in the Korean War (1950 - 1953) were added to the main stele (tower).

The Cenotaph sits in front of the Trinity United Church on Mill St., and is the center of our Rememberance Day services each November. The original stele (or tower) had two large tablets added in 1949, dedicated by the Lieutenant-Governor Ray Lawson, to honour those who died during the Second World War.  Each May the Legion organizes and leads a candlelight parade to the Cenotaph, encouraging the local Acton children to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us, for them and for future generations who live in freedom.

A legion Colour Party leads a march to the Cenotaph, accompanied by the veterans still living in the community, Legion members, community members and dignitaries and local community service groups such as the Lion's Club, Rotary Club, Scout and Guide troops, Air and Sea Cadets. The laying of wreaths follows our service remembering and honouring those who gave their lives, and the playing of the Last Post.

Fairview Cemetery Grave Markers

The markers below are for some of the veterans who gave their lives during the first and second World War. Fairview cemetery, off Cobblehill, houses the original cenotaph and the graves of many of the veterans who gave their lives during the two Great Wars.

Every June  Branch 197 plants geraniums at the grave sites of the veterans buried at Fairview Cemetery.

Flight Lieutenant D. G. Morriss

Gnr. G.A. Smethurst

Staff Sgt, N. L. McNabb

Sgt. Wilfred McCron

Lance Corporal A. E. Perryman

Sgt. E. A. Anderson

Sgt. G. K. McLellan

Pte. J. Gibbons

They shall not grow old,
As we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them !

Pictures were donated by Nora Sweeney, widow of Gunner J. P. Sweeney, KIA June 10, 1944.

  We will remember them!  









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