Canadian war vets visit Cayman

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A delegation of Canadian war veterans, on their first trip to Cayman, joined local veterans to honor the war dead at a remembrance ceremony at the Elmslie Memorial Church on Wednesday. 

The visiting group of 115, along with Cayman Islands veterans, laid wreaths at the War Memorial Cross outside the church in George Town. 

“It is indeed a pleasure to be in the Cayman Islands and pay respects to the men and women of these islands who made the supreme sacrifice,” said Tom Eagles, president of the Royal Canadian Legion. 

He brought greetings, he said, on behalf of the 300,000 members of the Canadian legion.  

Governor Helen Kilpatrick also attended the ceremony, greeting the visitors, who arrived by cruise ship Wednesday morning, and the Cayman veterans. 

“It means a great deal to be here today because we are joining with veterans from another country,” said Dora Hocken, visiting with her husband, war veteran Ken Hocken. “It was a long time ago – it is 70 years since we were fighting for our country and Cayman veterans were fighting for us too.”  

Her husband fought in Germany, France and Holland during World War II. “The war left me with very lingering memories of the ones that have gone and each episode that took place, but we followed through with it,” said Mr. Hocken, who served as a heavy duty mechanic during the war. “The memories all come back from all the things we went through and from the three-and-a-half years I was involved in the war.” 

The first governor of the Cayman Islands, Athel Long, 96, who was a prisoner of war at a Japanese prison camp for three-and-a-half years, was among the veterans living in Cayman who took part in the ceremony. Mr. Long was governor in 1971 and 1972. 

His son Roland explained that his father was among the prisoners of war who built the infamous Thai-Burma railway, on which the movie “Bridge over the River Kwai” was based.  

For Andrew McLaughlin, president of the Cayman Veterans Association, said it was a wonderful sight to see members of the Royal Canadian Legion in Cayman. 

“The Canadian Legion is one of history and dedication to their nation by individuals who served and believed that when country calls, its citizens must respond. They responded by air, land and sea in both World Wars, the Korean War, the war in the Persian Gulf; and Canadians today continue to take part in peacekeeping mission around the world,” Mr. McLaughlin said. 

Three years ago, members of the Royal Canadian Legion first began making Caribbean cruise trips. “It is very important for us as a national organization to be able to come down. The Royal Canadian Legion looks after 16 countries within the Commonwealth and veterans in those countries,” Mr. Eagles said. 

Pastor John MacMillan of the Elmslie Memorial Church prayed for all and wreaths were laid at the memorial on behalf of veterans. 

Next stop for the Canadian group is Belize. 

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Governor Helen Kilpatrick greets Cayman’s first governor and war veteran Athel Long outside the Elmslie Memorial Church on Wednesday, as Canadian veteran Ken Hocken looks on. The present and former governors were among those who took part in a remembrance ceremony with visiting Canadian war veterans who arrived by cruise ship in Cayman. – Photo: Jewel Levy

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Tom Eagles, president of the Royal Canadian Legion, left, and Andrew McLaughlin, vice president of Cayman Islands Veterans Association lay wreaths at the War Memorial Cross in memory of fallen soldiers. -Photo: Jewel Levy

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Members of the Royal Canadian Legion with Cayman Islands veterans and officers of the Cayman Islands Fire Service pose in front of the War Memorial Cross at Elmslie Memorial Church. – Photo: Jewel Levy
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