Veteran pushes Esquimalt for memorial

Merchant Navy remembrance project slowly working through channels

A merchant navy veteran is not giving up on his mission to create the Island’s first Battle of the Atlantic memorial in Esquimalt.

Bill Emberly, who presented his case to the township’s heritage advisory committee again last week, said the memorial is long overdue.

“I feel pretty sure (the committee) will go for it. There’s a lot of people there who are sympathetic, but they’re worried about money,” he said.

Emberly spent six years making the harrowing three-week crossings from Canada to the United Kingdom, the longest single battle of the Second World War.

“Any time you get an opportunity to more formally and officially create a memorial to recognize (people), it’s a good thing to do,” said Coun. Dave Hodgins, a council liaison on the heritage advisory committee.

“The issue that I did hear was where it should be.”

Approximately 1,600 Canadian merchant seamen lost their lives providing crucial supplies to Europe during the

Second World War, but they faced discrimination for more than a half-century from the Canadian government.

“We fought like the devil for 25 years just to get recognition and it was 63 years before they gave me a pension,” Emberly said.

It was only in 2000 that then federal veterans affairs minister George Baker made merchant mariners eligible to receive benefits and pensions, and only in 2003 did Canada formally designate Sept. 3 as Merchant Navy Veterans Day.

Hodgins said the committee will speak with Esquimalt parks and recreation about the placement of the memorial, and will look at any existing regulations before moving forward.

Emberly said the delay is frustrating, but expected.

“That’s normal for me, I’ve been going through that for 67 years,” he said.

dpalmer@vicnews.com