By Collin Gallant on February 14, 2017.
A new push is on to remember local First World War military units with a permanent monument in Medicine Hat.
The 175th Battalion and Third Canadian Mounted Rifles both recruited heavily in the city in 1915 and 1916 before leaving for the conflict in Europe.
Both units were eventually folded into other battalions as causalities mounted, but were reformed before troops were shipped home, said Scott Payne, a major with the South Alberta Light Horse, the locally-based army reserve.
“There are likely a number of their descendants still living in the area,” Payne told the city’s public service committee on Monday.
“We’d like to put the unit numbers on the hillside. It will be a testament to what Medicine Hat contributed to the First World War.”
Payne spoke for the Royal United Services Institute — a non-profit group sponsored by military groups, the Legion and defence industries, — that aims to increase awareness and interaction with civilian groups.
After several years of planning, the proposal is to write out unit numbers “3CMR” and “175” in white rocks on the hillside between Third Street NE and Saamis Drive. The display, planned for 130 feet long and 100 feet wide, would face the Trans-Canada Highway bridge.
The area would be known in future as Robertson Hill — noting the sacrifice and valour of Pte. James Peter Robertson, who won the Victoria Cross for his actions at the Battle of Passchendaele. This year marks the 100th anniversary of that battle as well as Vimy Ridge.
The city’s public services committee heard Monday that plans are to raise $97,000 to fully pay for the project that would be positioned on city-owned land.
Committee members said the proposal is well thought out and a fitting tribute at essentially zero cost to the city.
“It is really heartwarming to hear your group’s passion and dedication,” said chair Coun. Julie Friesen. “That’s not surprising considering the heritage aspects and how we have benefited from those people serving our country.”
The RUSI chapter would also deposit money to cover utility bills at the sight — it would be lit up at night — and also either pay to keep the site mowed or do maintenance themselves on a volunteer basis.
Payne noted that with a military base nearby, a locally-based reserve unit, three cadet organizations and an active branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, future maintenance should not be an issue.
“We want to donate the monument, donate the money to pay to maintain it, but we don’t want to own it,” said Payne.
“It’s not very difficult to maintain and I don’t think it would ever need to be torn down.”
Eventually the group hopes to add a maple leaf and poppy to the site. It would be similar in appearance to those in Battalion Park in west Calgary.
Construction could begin in July ahead of a grand opening and dedication planned for September.
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