The Town of Shelburne has unveiled a memorial plaque in honour of Canada’s only black military unit.
Shelburne Mayor Wade Mills and Deputy Mayor Steve Anderson unveiled the plaque dedicated to the No. 2 Construction Battalion in the Reflection Garden at the Shelburne Community Garden, last Friday (Nov. 26).
“It’s a very significant day. We’ve said all along that Black history is Canadian history and these men that belong to the No. 2 Construction Battalion, like every other soldier sacrificed for us to have the freedoms that we have today, so what a great privilege to be able to honour these men and honour their history,” said Deputy Mayor Anderson, who spearheaded the project with the support of Town Council.
The No. 2 Battalion, also known as the Black Battalion, was a non-combatant battalion formed in 1916 when many of the members at the outset of the First World War were turned away from joining the Canadian Expeditionary Force because to the color of their skin.
More than 600 joined the battalion and were deployed overseas and to France, where they helped to construct and maintain roads, bridges, and railways to ensure needed lumber was transported to the Front.
“These men conducted themselves with honour and professionalism in the face of prejudice, hate, and unwillingness of other Canadians to serve shoulder to shoulder with them against a common enemy,” reads a part of the plaque.
In March of 2021, the Government of Canada apologized for the treatment that members of the No. 2 Construction Battalion endured before, during, and after their service to Canada during the First World War.
“In Town of Shelburne we hold dear our soldiers and the sacrifices that they make, think about the Remembrance Day ceremony we had not too long ago and the turn out from the community,” said Anderson. “This is significant because it shows that we are once again an inclusive and diverse community, and we celebrate the contributions of everybody.”
Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shelburne Free Press