About 200 people attended a special event for the unveiling of a new headstone on the grave of Victoria Cross recipient Alex Brereton in the farming community of Elnora, Alta.
The headstone, supplied by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on behalf of Veterans Affairs Canada, is part of a program to recognize those recipients who survived the war and are buried in civilian cemeteries. André Michaud, the CWGC’s program manager for agency services, said about 30 markers have been erected for Victoria Cross recipients in Canada.
The events in Elnora, 170 kilometres northeast of Calgary, were organized by Alex Brereton VC Branch of The Royal Canadian Legion. President Kerry Cheshire said she received a call from the CWGC’s Canadian Agency in Ottawa in March about the intention to replace the headstone.
Branch member Rod Taylor set about organizing the event held in June at the Elnora Cemetery. “Seeing probably about 65 people from the Brereton family was great,” said Taylor. “Other highlights were the flypast and participation of other groups such as the Red Deer Legion colour party.”
The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, which perpetuates the First World War’s 8th Battalion, got involved in the ceremony. Major Richard Desjardins and Warrant Officer Shaun Spence brought greetings and read Brereton’s Victoria Cross citation.
Other participants included the WW II First Special Force Military Re-enactors Group and the Military Vehicles Restoration Society. The Yellow Thunder Harvard demonstration team also performed the flypast.
Brereton was born in Oak River, Man., on Nov. 13, 1892. He worked on a farm before he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War.
On Aug. 9, 1918, near Warvillers in France, Corporal Brereton’s platoon came under fire from six German machine guns while in an exposed area. Acting alone, he charged one of the machine-gun posts where he shot the man operating the gun and bayonetted the next one who tried to reach it. Nine others then surrendered to him. “Cpl. Brereton’s action was a splendid example of resource and bravery, and not only undoubtedly saved many of his comrades’ lives but also inspired his platoon to charge and capture the five remaining posts,” concludes his citation.
After the war he acquired 220-hectares of land around Elnora where he took up farming. During the Second World War, Brereton served as company quartermaster sergeant with a unit at Red Deer.
“He moved to Elnora after the First World War to farm. His wife was from Central Alberta. He was an active member in the Legion and the Elnora Legion was renamed in his honour in 1970,” said Cheshire.
Brereton died in Calgary in 1976.