A Living Memorial: The 49 Blue Hydrangeas

On April 4, 1941, the Chilliwack Branch of the Women's Auxiliary to the Air Services [CAAS] was organized when they met at the Chilliwack Women's Institute building. The membership consisted of the mothers and wives of Chilliwack District air force personnel. The objectives of the society included maintaining written communication with local airmen and women, providing comforts for them and to create an honour roll of local enlistments. One idea that the branch conceived was the creation of a living memorial to Chilliwack district airmen killed during the Second World War. This living memorial remains in place today, although replanted, at Chilliwack Middle School.

In May 1942, the CAAS honoured six local airmen killed since the outbreak of the war in September 1939. Pilot Officer George Green, Sergeant John Lockwood, Pilot Officer Tom Holden and Flight Sergeant Vincent Brice had hydrangea plants sent to their homes. However two plants, in memory of Leading Aircraftman William Murray and Pilot Officer Max Stewart, required temporary homes and were planted at the school. The school site was at first considered to be only a temporary location until a permanent plot could be found. Photo: First Blue Hydrangea Ceremony, Chilliwack High School. P2003 20 1 Chilliwack Museum and Archives

At the time of the first planting, the High School Band provided music for the assembly of 100 persons that included members of the school's cadet corps. Reverend H.P. Barton gave an address, followed by a short silence after which CAAS President Edna Grace Coulter led the assembly in the "Airman's Prayer". Members of the CAAS then set the two plants in place while spring flower bouquets were presented to the mothers of Green, Lockwood, Holden and Brice.

The memorial service, complete with additional plantings was continued through to 1946. By that time 49 hydrangeas had been planted. Not all of the original hydrangeas remain today. Another plaque was dedicated May 30, 2000 that re-focused attention on this important local memorial.



Chilliwack Museum and Archives 45820 Spadina Avenue, Chilliwack, BC, Canada V20 1T3 [604.795.5210]