Remembering Rupert: A historical report on Prince Rupert during the Second World War

UPDATED: Only solider to die in Prince Rupert during WWII gets permanent memorial

To honour all those who bravely fought defending our country, The Northern View launched Remembering Rupert: A historical report on Prince Rupert during the Second World War on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy. We hope to update this historical account of Rupertites who fought in the war ever Remembrance Day.

Private Allan Olsen, the only soldier who died in Prince Rupert during World War II, will have a permanent place to be remembered in the city, following a bronze plaque placed in his honour on the east side of Prince Rupert’s cenotaph along the path in the courthouse.

The first memorial in Prince Rupert honouring Pte. Olsen was unveiled on Dec. 28, 1943 in the presence of an Ontario Unit. Pte. Olsen’s comrades made a cairn in his memory, resting 30 metres from Highway 16 across from the Industrial Park.

Private Allan Olsen had died a year prior, on Nov. 5, as he was on patrol driving a Bren gun carrier along the newly constructed road.

When Pte. Olsen, 22, turned on a bridge the light armoured tracked vehicle hit a patch of ice and rolled over, pinning him to the muddy earth under the vehicle.

As a member of the Midland Regiment of Ontario that was stationed in Prince Rupert, Pte. Olsen’s body was returned to his home province to be buried in Coboconk Cemetery, in a town approximately two hours northeast of Toronto.

Rupertites stood out in the pouring rain on Monday, remembering those who never returned to their warm homes and their families. The Canadian Border Guard, Prince Rupert RCMP, the Royal Canadian Legion, fire department, MLA Jennifer Rice, Mayors Lee Brain and Knut Bjorndal, among many others placed wreaths and paid their respects at the cenotaph. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

The new memorial in the city all started with an inquiry to the Prince Rupert library approximately five years ago from someone who was looking for information about Lieutenant Colonel Cyrus ‘Cy’ Wesley Peck, a World War I veteran.

Deputy librarian Kathleen Larkin happened to answer the call and found that it’s customary to recognize a Victoria Cross recipient with a plaque, so she reached out to the director of B.C. Veterans Commemorative Association for assistance.

READ MORE: Victoria Cross recipient remembered with stone memorial

Rupertites stood out in the pouring rain on Monday, remembering those who never returned to their warm homes and their families. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View))

“From there I learned more about what B.C. Veterans Commemorative Association does. They want to make sure that contributions of Canada’s servicemen and women are never forgotten through memorial plaques in various cities. And we thought [Pte. Olsen] should have something permanent in his memory in town,” Larkin said.

Over the year’s the cairn has been found and forgotten. Most recently in 2017 Mark Taylor, who served in the Canadian Armed Forces for eight years, located the cairn once more and decided to clean it up with the Canadian Rangers.

The Port Simpson Canadian Rangers don’t have any intention of moving the monument and are building a clearer path to the cairn and plan to polish it off.

Pte. Olsen’s $2,800 plaque was made possible by financial support provided by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 27, Ladies Auxiliary Branch No. 27 Royal Canadian Legion, Islander Hall Society, Prince Rupert Lions Club and Government of British Columbia Ministry of Citizens’ Services.

Now Pte. Olsen will have a permanent place to rest, his memory never left to fade in the wilderness again.

READ AND WATCH MORE: Lax Kxeen Elementary students learn what it means to remember

🌺Thank you to all those that served and continue to keep our country safe today. 🌺
Remembrance Day ceremony 2019 at Prince Rupert’s cenotaph. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

Remembering Rupert


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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