Added on: 22nd October, 2018 by O1
Following Orpington town centre’s Armistice Centenary commemoration on Sunday 11th November, Orpington Cllr. And Mayor of Bromley Kim Botting will sign a Friendship Agreement between Bromley and Thunder Bay Canada.
The agreement officialises over 100 years of shared history and remembrance between the London Borough and the Canadian City, and celebrates a citizen driven relationship which focuses on educational and cultural links and exchanges.
During World War 1 thousands of Canadian troops passed through Bromley, Southborough, West Wickham, Shortlands and Orpington, with many in VAD, military and convalescent hospitals. In 1915, Orpington was selected as the site for Ontario hospital due to water and transport links. Ontario Military Hospital had become one of the best of its kind in the world by 2016, and by 1917 had doubled in size. In 1919, when the hospital closed, over 30,000 soldiers had been treated.
A delegation from Thunder Bay will include the Mayor of Thunder Bay, as well as former Orpington resident and author, John Pateman. John, who moved to Canada six years ago becoming CEO Thundar Bay Public Library, has been pivotal in driving the agreement. John described to us the moment his interest in the subject was kindled.
“Walking from the Ramsden Estate to Orpington High Street with my mother in 1962, aged 5, I asked her what the white stones were in All Saints churchyard, and she explained that they were gravestones. I asked her why they were lined up like soldiers and she replied that they were indeed the graves of soldiers. I asked her why they were pointing in a different direction to the other gravestones and she said that they were facing west towards Canada. This started my lifelong interest in Canadian Corner and my first book on the subject was published in 1980.”
John Pateman, CEO Thunderbay Public Library
Alongside the graves of British, New Zealand and Australian soldiers, 88 gravestones in Canadian Corner at All Saints parish church face west, towards Canada.
“Imagine my surprise when I moved to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, in 2012 and discovered that one of the men buried at Canadian Corner, Victor Lilia, came from Fort William (which amalgamated with Port Arthur in 1970 to become Thunder Bay). This was a one in 60,000 chance because that is how many Canadians were killed in the Great War.”
John began working with the City Clerk in Thunder Bay and Orpington Councillor Kim Botting to develop a Friendship Agreement between the City of Thunder Bay and the London Borough of Bromley.
Mayor of Bromley, Cllr. Kim Botting at the planting of the tree and plaque installation in memory of Victor Lilia at Canadian Corner
Following exchange visits between the Bromley borough and the Canadian City, a tree was planted and a plaque installed in memory of Victor Lilia at Canadian Corner, All Saints, Orpington in 2016, and on Remembrance Sunday 2018 an official agreement will be signed celebrating and commemorating these historic transatlantic links.
Photo from Orpington History