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Ceremony honours North Shore’s only soldier killed in Korean War
Arriving by helicopter on Sunday afternoon, a group gathered deep in Mount Seymour’s backcountry to honour the North Shore’s only soldier to die in the “forgotten war.”
A plaque was placed beside Hastings Lake, a secluded body of water dedicated to Pte. Donald Hastings who was killed in South Korea on Oct. 15, 1952.
“At the cenotaph in North Van, I would see names listed for World War I and II, but only one name for the Korean War,” says Guy Black, a former Blueridge resident and military history buff who spearheaded renaming “The Lake with No Name” after Hastings.
After discovering the small lake on the east side of Mount Seymour Provincial Park didn’t have an official title, Black sent for Hastings’ military file and made an application to honour the North Van soldier.
“Talking with historians, they told me the Korean War is in the shadow of World War II,” says Black, who hopes permanently commemorating Hastings will help people remember the “forgotten war” this year — the 60th anniversary of ceasefire — and in years after.
Pte. Hastings grew up in Lower Lonsdale and later moved to Calgary, where he married, joined the army and served in the merchant navy during the Second World War. When war broke out in Korea in 1950, he joined 26,000 other Canadians in battle.
He was fatally wounded while on patrol with the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry at Tombstone Ridge.
“His body was never found,” says Black, who sought out Hastings’ relatives for more historical information, including his sister-in-law in Parksville.
With the help of North Shore Rescue, Black visited Mount Seymour to have a plaque honouring “North Vancouver’s Korean War Hero” set in a large rock overlooking the lake.
A week later, another group including Deacon Gordon Barrett and Chief Warrant Officer Tom Holland, who represents Hastings’ regiment, flew three kilometres from the mountain’s parking lot for a formal ceremony, where flags for Canada, British Columbia and Hastings’ regiment were placed beside the plaque.
“Last year [Black] contacted the team about how ‘The Lake with No Name’ was renamed,” says Tim Jones, North Shore Rescue’s team leader, who organized the helicopter transportation. Earlier this week, four team members cleared a larger area for a second helicopter to land.
Often overlooked in high school textbooks, the Korean War was significant, explains Black as he waits for the helicopters to arrive. Canada sent eight destroyers to Korea on the side of the United Nations. From 1950 to 1953, 516 Canadians died, including 38 British Columbians.
“It’s the third highest casualty wise in Canada,” adds Black, who works for ICBC and now lives in Port Moody.
In late June Black travelled on foot from Coquitlam to Simon Fraser University and over the Second Narrows Bridge to meet Korean War veterans, dignitaries and others along the way. He collected stones to use for a “Gapyeong ceremony,” an offering of stones as a memorial to the nearly 20,000 South Korean and allied soldiers who died in battle.
Concerned the Korean War could be overlooked, B.C. Senator Yonah Martin worked to have a national day of remembrance enacted into law. July 27, the 60th anniversary of the armistice, marked the first year Korean War Veterans Day was held in Canada.
“It had been on that day for years, but it wasn’t a law,” Martin told The Outlook at the top of Mount Seymour. “We have national days for other wars and I had the feeling that everyone thought it was about time to have one for Korea too.”