Archives immortalizes Saanich grads’ sacrifice

Binder captures story of 300 School District 61 grads who died while serving

School District 61 trustee Ann Whitaker and Saanich Coun. Vicki Sanders appreciate the SD61 binder of students who died while in service during the Second World War.

Cadboro Bay’s John Lukey was a 25-year-old pilot when he died flying a night attack about 23 miles southwest of Bremen, Germany.

It was April 3, 1945, and the Mount Douglas secondary grad of RCAF squadron 613 was flying in support of Field Marshall Bernard “Monty” Montgomery. His plane never returned to base.

Lukey left behind a one-year-old daughter, Susan Anne, and wife Margaret. His story is among those of 300 men and women (mostly men) who came through the School District 61 system and enlisted with the Canadian Forces for the Second World War. The compilation, SD61 Remembers, is a binder produced by volunteer SD61 archivist Judi Stevenson, who is based out of Central Middle School.

“There’s only one stipulation for all the former SD 61 students to be in the binder, that they died in someway related to the war,” said SD61 trustee Ann Whitaker. “Stevenson and her team did an incredible amount of research to tell even a parcel of these stories. These were our students who grew up but didn’t come back.”

What’s remarkable about the deaths, is that they’re often unrelated to action. Teddy Blenkinsop was another 25-year-old pilot in the book. An Oak Bay High grad who started school at Craigflower elementary, Blenkinsop survived a crash behind enemy lines in Belgium in 1944. However, as a member of the Belgian resistance, he fell ill to tuberculosis. Many other pilots died on friendly soil during training accidents.

A copy of the binder, which captures the sad tale of hundreds of students from Victoria, Esquimalt, Saanich and Oak Bay, has been made available to Saanich Archives and to Oak Bay Archives. One copy is also being supplied to each school in the district along with curriculum suggestions to help students engage with the tragedy of war.

In some cases, the research team was able to find descriptions of the soldier’s death, either through old news articles or from their brief burial reports, which are now archived online.

 

“I’m just so pleased we were able to get a copy of this binder in Saanich Archives,” said Saanich Coun. Vicki Sanders. “It’s an excellent record of fighting for the country.”

 

 

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