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Didsbury veterans memorialized in banner project

Ten more local and Didsbury-area veterans recognized and honoured this year
MVT Didsbury banners
Dawn Stewart, left, and Town of Didsbury Mayor Rhonda Hunter pictured with one of the banners, in front of the Didsbury Museum. File photo/MVP Staff

DIDSBURY — The Didsbury Veterans Banner Project has recognized and honoured 10 more local and area veterans in 2021, including one from Canada’s First World War army, one who took part in the famous Dieppe Raid in August 1942, and several who fought at Normandy.

Now in its third year, the project involves displaying large, streetlight-mounted banners around town that feature veteran portraits with their service history.

The project is co-sponsored by the Didsbury Museum, the Royal Canadian Legion, and the Town of Didsbury. 

Each year, the families and descendants of the veterans purchase the banners, which are displayed on the light standards from early October to Remembrance Day.

Each banner is topped with Canadian and British flags as well as the words Lest We Forget.

Biographies of the veterans have been submitted by their families and compiled by Didsbury’s Grant Hemming. The histories are kept on display year-round at the Didsbury Museum.

Veterans recognized this year are D. Crosby Archer, Lewis Brinson, Stan Baptist, Len Berscht, Joe Freeman, James M. Hooper, Henry George Johnston, Donald Pfleger, Florence Slipp and Sid Wilkins.

Archer enlisted in early 1916 in Calgary’s 137th Battalion. He fought at the Battle of the Somme before being transferred to the 50th Battalion and fighting at the Battle Vimy Ridge. He was twice wounded during his service. Archer died in 1994.

Baptist enlisted in the Canadian Army in November 1942. He landed with the 81st Brigade in Normandy on June 7, 1944 at the height of the D-Day battle. He died in 2010.

Berscht joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943 and served until the end of the war, being released with the rank of corporal. He passed away in 2002.

Brinson enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1939. His Calgary Highlanders regiment landed in France in July 1944 and took part in the Battle of Verrières Ridge. He saw action in Normandy, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. He died in 1990.

Freeman enlisted in the Calgary Regiment in 1941 at the age of 31. His regiment took part in the Aug. 19, 1942 Operation Jubilee, also known as the Dieppe Raid. He also participated in the Sicilian campaign, the Italian campaign and in the Netherlands. He died in 1953.

Hooper joined the Canadian Army in 1942. Trained as a Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineer, he took part in battles in France and Belgium. He died in 1994.

Pfleger enlisted in the Calgary Highlanders in 1939. On Aug. 26, 1944 he was wounded in battle near Bourgtheroulde, France and served until the of the war. He died in 1972.

Slipp was a corporal in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, performing communications duties including wireless telephonic and telegraphic operations. She was stationed in London and on several occasions had to take shelter in the city’s underground during bombing raids. She died in 2008. Her husband Len Slipp was honoured with a banner in 2020.

Wilkins enlisted in the Calgary Highlanders in 1940, later the Canadian Scottish Regiment. He landed on Juno Beach on June 6, 1944. Three days later, he was hit in the leg by machine gun fire while rescuing a wounded comrade and subsequently evacuated from the battle front. He died in 1992.

A biography for Henry George Johnston was not immediately available.

There are now 39 veteran banners installed in town, including for brothers Sid, George and Amos Wilkins, who all served in the Second World War.

In 2020, the veterans honoured were Joseph Bainbridge, Harold Burns, Elisha Cogswell, W. Neil Gochee, Art Gooding, John Holub, Michael Holub, Frank Kohut, Frederick Luft, Scotty MacNair, Ed McNeil, W.H.T. Morgan, Christina Nicol, Len Slipp, John Tittsworth and Moss Wilkins.