Remembering a fallen grandfather

Terrace resident sees First World War memorial in France to honour grandfather

Carol Schmidt and her brother Bryan McConachy hold up their grandfather’s beret and identification tags above his name carved into the Vimy Ridge Monument in France. (Photo submitted by Carol Schmidt)

For Terrace resident Carol Schmidt, seeing her grandfather’s name at the Canadian National Vimy Ridge memorial in France was a poignant reminder of the tragedy of war.

“It really was a very striking, emotional feeling to be standing there,” Schmidt says.

Schmidt and her brother, Bryan McConachy, visited the Canadian war memorial near Arras, France to see the name of their grandfather, Private Alfred Brodie Swanston, inscribed on the outside of the monument’s enclosing walls. The memorial was built in 1936 as a tribute to the more than 66,000 Canadian men who gave their lives fighting in the First World War.

READ MORE: Remembering Northern B.C.’s Flying Tigers

The pair decided to go on the same year as the 100-year anniversary of Armistice Day this Nov. 11. Schmidt says they are the first members of their family to visit.

“You’re just overcome by the enormity of it…I don’t think you can get a grasp until you’ve actually seen it,” Schmidt says.

“I was always brought up with a lot of respect for Remembrance Day because of my grandfather… to me, it’s a reminder to people to please, never do it again.”

Swanston had enlisted in 1915 when he was 26-years old and signed up with the 43rd Battalion Cameron Highlanders of Canada in 1917. He was injured the same year from a bullet in the right shoulder, but he recovered and rejoined the regiment to fight in France.

Then on August 27, 1918, just months before the armistice, Swanston was killed in battle near Vimy Ridge when he was 29-years old. His body does not have an identified grave market to his name, and he joined the names of 11,285 Canadian soldiers on the memorial who were posted as missing or presumed dead in France.

Together, Schmidt and McConachy scanned the list of names in alphabetical order until they found his. They carried Swanston’s beret and identification tags with them, artifacts passed down through the family for the last century.

READ MORE: 97-year-old B.C. veteran proudly displays 100-year-old Union Jack

“My grandmother would have had them when I was a youngster, then they were in my mother’s cedar chest. Now my brother’s had it in a plastic bag at the bottom of a filing cabinet,” she says with some humour.

Along with the beret and dog tags, the family had also kept an eight-inch brass shell casing from the war, laden with inscriptions of battles including Ypres and Vimy Ridge. There are also two brass Christmas boxes received in the years following Swanton’s death, and a soldier’s ‘death penny’ — a First World War memorial plaque given by the British Government to next of kin.

They are now looking at for a permanent home for these artifacts.

Schmidt says it was important for them to visit the National Memorial because their grandfather’s untimely death had affected the family so deeply. Suddenly her grandmother was widowed and left to care for three children — Schmidt’s mother was just 4-years-old at the time.

“Even though my mother has little memory of her father, she had a big attachment. She always talked about him as a playful Dad,” Schmidt says.

Looking at all the names etched on the memorial alongside Swanston’s also held the reminder for Schmidt of the importance of Remembrance Day, and to honour all men and women who lost their lives fighting for what they believed would be a better life for future generations.

“It’s pretty hard for a five-year-old or 12-year-old now to be thinking about the effects of a World War,” she says. “But I think we do a good job of telling them to respect and honour the people who have died to give us our good life.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Carol Schmidt and her brother Bryan McConachy hold up their grandfather’s beret and identification tags above his name carved into the Vimy Ridge Monument in France. (Photo submitted by Carol Schmidt)

Private Alfred Brodie Swanston’s identification tags from his service in the First World War, kept within the family for the last century. (Photo submitted by Carol Schmidt)

A soldier’s ‘death penny’ received by the family after Private Alfred Brodie Swanston was killed in battle near Vimy Ridge on August 27, 1918. The commemorative memorial plaque was given to the relatives of men and women who died in the First World War. (Photo submitted by Carol Schmidt)

A 100-year old hand-engraved brass shell casing with inscriptions of Canada and various battles, including Ypres, Vimy Ridge, Cambrai and Amiens. (Photo submitted by Carol Schmidt)

Just Posted

Terrace Legion Branch 13 celebrates 100 years

The branch was awarded its Great War Veterans Association Charter in 1919

Second dump site of Dungeness crab discovered

DFO confident new site related to April 2 dump of 250 more crab

BC Bus North service extended to September

Transportation ministers have extended the service, which was set to expire at the end of May

Council briefs: City creates new zone to allow for smaller, affordable homes

Key discussions from city council meeting April 23

Nisga’a leader named UNBC chancellor

Dr. Joseph Arthur Gosnell is the first Indigenous leader to assume the role

VIDEO: Killer whales hunt for seals in Vancouver harbour

Bigg’s killer whales feed on marine mammals like seals, sea lions, dolphins and even other whales

VIDEO: B.C.’s waving granny gets incredible send-off from school kids

Tinney Davidson has been waving at students on their way to school for over 11 years, but is moving in a month

Struggling B.C. adoption agency elects new board that intends to keep it open

The previous board announced that Choices would close May 31

Vancouver man, 19, charged in human trafficking case involving teen girl

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing and later discovered in Vancouver

Blaine, Wash. inn owner, charged with smuggling people into B.C., granted bail

Robert Joseph Boule ordered to turn away anyone indicating a plan to enter Canada illegally

RCMP arrest B.C. man following threatening Vaisakhi Facebook post

Post made reference to pressure cooker bomb at massive Surrey parade

Northern B.C. high school student reaches 100,000 followers on YouTube

Voice actor, animator, Jericho Fortune has more than 30-million views on his channel GTAGAMER222

University mourns student who died in B.C. canoeing accident

Andrew Milner, 19, was in his second year with the University of Calgary’s basketball program

Most Read