Byers Bay, Moloski Lake, Rupert Lake. These bodies of water in Northern Saskatchewan do not bear the names of the explorers that discovered them, but rather the names of three young men from Churchill River, Esterhazy, and Melfort, Saskatchewan, who gave their lives during World War II.
There are more than 3,800 of these lakes, islands, rivers and rapids in remote areas of the province. They were named after fallen Saskatchewan servicemen by the provincial government in the 1950s and ‘60s.
Not everyone can make the trip to see these memorial sites. However, projects at the Naicam and Melfort branches have helped bring the memory of these men and the sites named after them closer to their communities. Earlier this year, both branches created photo displays featuring the work of photographer and pilot Doug Chisholm.
Over the past few years, Chisholm has taken aerial photographs of more than 2,000 of what he calls geo-memorial sites. His framed tributes combine the aerial shots with service photos of the individual it was named after, the exact geographic location of the site and biographical information he gleans from provincial records and by writing to Saskatchewan Legion branches.
It was through such a fact-finding appeal that Chisholm gained the attention of Rosco Long, treasurer of the branch in Naicam, about 200 kilometres west of Saskatoon. Long, himself a WW II veteran, knew many of the local men who
didn’t return home personally. He approached the branch with the idea of creating a Wall of Honour displaying Chisholm’s memorials. Over the past few years Long has even assisted Chisholm in obtaining service photos. He recently contacted a woman in Wyoming to obtain a photo for a yet to be unveiled addition to the wall. “She sent me a letter with a photo and thanked me for remembering him and doing this,” recounted Long. “It’s been very worthwhile,” he said summing up the project.
The unveiling of the wall at the branch coincided with a Naicam homecoming celebration last summer and was very well attended. More than 150 people signed the register and “our branch was packed to standing room only,” said President Gordon Christianson. “There was a terrific response.” However, Long is quick to point out that this project will have a more lasting impact. Their branch facilities are rented out quite often, exposing a steady stream of people to the sacrifices of the Saskatchewan servicemen.
Nearby Melfort Branch had a similar aim in mind when they chose to install their Wall of Valour at the Melfort Hospital last spring. “(The photos) are right by the elevator,” explained President James Cooper. “You can hardly go into the hospital and up the elevator without seeing them.”
The wall consists of 15 of Chisholm’s photos. Their branch also appealed to family members for service photos and as was the case in Naicam, sometimes received donations to help cover the cost of the project in the process. Among the places pictured is Rupert Lake, named after Royal Canadian Air Force Flight Sergeant Kenneth Rupert, of Melfort, who died April 26, 1945 at age 20.
Chisholm, an aircraft mechanic with the provincial water bomber fleet at La Ronge, works on the photos in his spare time. He became interested in the geo-memorials when he was asked to photograph an island on Lac La Ronge for a friend of a friend who was not well and had always wanted to visit Souter Island, named after a brother who died in WW II.
He is currently working on projects with Fertile Valley Branch in Govan, Hudson Bay Branch and the Watson Branch.