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History lesson in Occupy the Trench in Port Moody

A living history experience is being created by volunteers just in time for Canada Day. From left, Carey Price, Guy Black and Markus Fahrner, with Virginia, Sean and Cameron, are digging a trench and filling sandbags to simulate the living conditions of First World War soldiers. Black and Price will spend the night in the McKnight trench (named for a Port Moody WWI engineer who was killed in the conflict). They will wear replica First and Second World War uniforms, and cook and eat their meals and sleep in the trench in an effort to better understand McKnight
A living history experience is being created by volunteers just in time for Canada Day. From left, Carey Price, Guy Black and Markus Fahrner, with Virginia, Sean and Cameron, are digging a trench and filling sandbags to simulate the living conditions of First World War soldiers. Black and Price will spend the night in the McKnight trench (named for a Port Moody WWI engineer who was killed in the conflict). They will wear replica First and Second World War uniforms, and cook and eat their meals and sleep in the trench in an effort to better understand McKnight's wartime experience. On Canada Day Tuesday, you can visit the trench at Port Moody Station Museum and take part in activities and celebrations to honour the military from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with opening ceremonies at 11:30 a.m.
— image credit: DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS

There will be no gunfire. And the promise of a warm bed and a hot meal await at the end of it all. But friends Cary Price and Guy Black hope that by living in a trench dug at the Port Moody Station Museum for three days and two nights, they'll experience some of what it's like to be a First World War soldier.

But most of all, as Canada marks the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, they hope others will be reminded of the sacrifice of the country's veterans who have fought in all international conflicts.

"I'm proud to be a Canadian and this is as as close as I can get to the understanding of what it was like," explained Price, who with Port Moody resident and event organizer Black will don uniforms and eat and sleep and work like WWI soldiers for three days and two nights between June 29 and July 1 — Canada Day.

Their event is called Occupy the Trench and it's Black's idea for honouring a Port Moody citizen who was a member of the 4th Field Company, Divisional Engineers, before he was killed in Belgium in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. WWI officially started July 28, 1914, so it's fitting they pay homage now.

Black has spent months negotiating with the city of PoMo for a plaque to remember the former city engineer. The plaque will eventually be installed at the Port Moody Arts Centre, the old city hall, where McKnight worked prior to leaving Port Moody in 1914 to enlist with the Canadian Engineers in North Vancouver.

• More information about the event is available here.

In honour of McKnight, Black and Price are prepared to live like soldiers, without any conveniences or tarps — even if it rains. They'll also dig the trench and fill sandbags to build their "shelter." For food, they'll eat plain meals cooked over a charcoal brazier made of bricks, and for entertainment they'll play cards or tell jokes. They will also take turns doing patrol duty.

"It's a real life lesson of what happened 100 years ago," Black said of the simulation experience. "It's not to glorify war. It's not a video game, it's living history."

Price, who has a jovial sense of humour, promises to keep things light. "If you want to keep it authentic, you need a rum ration," he joked, as he wondered why he volunteered for such a potentially damp and hunger-filled experience.

But Price, who is interested in military history, is a member of a military vehicle club and owns a Canadian-made Korean war ambulance as well as a replica wool WWI uniform — complete with actual WWI military buttons, patches and a mesh bag for ammunition, which alone ways 14 lb. — said it's a task he must do.

A first aid attendant, Price said he is the right guy for the job in case the two suffer any mishaps during their "sojourn" in the trenches.

As for Black, the commemoration of the First World War and the sacrifice of McKnight and others is part of his ongoing efforts to recognize Canadian war veterans. Last year, he organized a 24-hour walk from Coquitlam to Burnaby via Mt. Seymour to recognize Korean War veterans.

They will be supported by Jim Millar, the Port Moody Station Museum curator, who will help them build their trench and provide other help.

All three men have ancestors who fought in WWI but they say they never heard much about the experience from their relatives.

And now, said price, "There's no veterans around to tell us."

If through their shared experience they can tell the vets' story to younger generations of Canadians, they feel they will have helped the country understand the importance of peace.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

 

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