Historian Warren Sommer at the launch of a war-themed “Sacrifice and Sorrow” exhibit at Langley Centennial Museum last April. (Black Press file photo)

Historian Warren Sommer at the launch of a war-themed “Sacrifice and Sorrow” exhibit at Langley Centennial Museum last April. (Black Press file photo)

‘Fraser Valley Goes to War’ talk in Surrey features local historian

‘Canucks in Khaki’ book author at Cloverdale rec centre on Nov. 18

SURREY — The impact of the First World War on communities throughout the Fraser Valley, including Surrey, is the topic of a special event here this month.

Local historian Warren Sommer is the guest speaker during a “Fraser Valley Goes to War” event at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Saturday, Nov. 18, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The illustrated talk, based on Sommer’s book, “Canucks in Khaki: Langley, the Lower Mainland and the Great War of 1914 to 1918,” will highlight firsthand stories of local men as they enlisted, trained, travelled overseas and eventually fought in the war.

Sommer will also talk about the women and children who remained at home, helping to secure victory in their own way. Personal snapshots in history will be featured, such as this excerpt from a letter written to the Surrey Gazette by two local soldiers stationed in France: “The B.C. boys are in great spirits and ready for anything that will get the Hun cleaned up this fall. We will be back for a swim in Semiahmoo Bay, in Khaki bathing suits, in no time.”

Admission is free at the Nov. 18 event, presented by Surrey Archives. To reserve a seat, call 604-502-6459.

• READ MORE: Tracing Langley’s legacy of the Great War, from Langley Advance, March 2017.

The topic of his book has been a passion of Sommer’s for decades, starting when he first worked at Langley Centennial Museum in 1979.

“I was struck by how a small community had been so severely impacted by the war,” Sommer told the Langley Advance earlier this year.

He started working on the book “seriously” 20 years ago, he said. Tracking down information on as many Langley soldiers as possible led him to tracing descendants, visiting Ottawa’s National Archives a dozen times, not to mention the archives of the University of Toronto and the British Library.

Langley sent a lot of men compared to some parts of Canada, but it was similar to its neighbouring communities at the time.

“British Columbia had the highest rate of enlistment in the Dominion,” Sommer said.

with file from Matthew Claxton, Langley Advance