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Veterans Cemetery expands in Esquimalt, BC

Nestled between the 12th and 17th holes of the Gorge Vale Golf Course sits “God’s Acre”—a beautiful hidden cemetery serving as an honoured resting place for Canada’s Veterans and those who gave their life in service.

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I was pretty close to retirement and I wasn't sure what to do.

And I heard about the opportunity, that a position might be open here.

I was hoping my son could take the position and I would be able to pop in now and then to help him out.

My father, he was a musician for the Forces. He's been in the Army, the Air Force and the Navy.

It’s one of two cemeteries in Canada under Veterans Affairs.

It's a very unique area. It's surrounded by a golf course. I imagine most people in Victoria don't even know it's here,

but it also gives it that little bit of extra sanctuary, where it's very serene and peaceful.

The history spans over 150 years. It's one year younger than Canada itself.

There's various number of people that are interred here. There's children and there's many spouses, of course,

of serving military members.

There's a Japanese sailor interred here. There's also a few Australians and Americans.

There actually is an Afghan Veteran laid to rest here in the middle of the cemetery,

alongside his grandparents and they also served themselves.

This cemetery is also a national historic site.

So when you combine all those together, it adds up to quite a bit of history.

The green zone is implemented behind the cemetery.

The golf course was kind enough to sell the land, a bit more land to the Veterans Affairs,

so they could place a more treed area, which gives a bit more of a great feel to the place.

They put in about 12 columbariums as well, which are more high volume places

which were needed as this place was filling up just recently, about a year ago.

The new office is absolutely great. They've been working on it for the past about half year and

it's just great. They did a wonderful job over there.

Now we have an actual meeting room,

which makes the families more comfortable because that's essentially what our main goal is.

Families, they're all very kind. They come from all across Canada.

Regardless of your rank, regardless of which service you are in, Army, Navy or Air Force.

Regardless of your trade, all Veterans, of course, are able to be interred here.

As long as you were a member of the military, this can be your final resting place.

It's just an absolute honour and a privilege to be able to work here and

see the history firsthand, and hear about it from these families.

A message from the Government of Canada.

Just a stone's throw away from the heart of Victoria, British Columbia, Veterans Cemetery lies cradled between lush green hills of Esquimalt. It is one of only two cemeteries owned and operated by Veterans Affairs Canada. Since 1868, it has been a final resting place for those who served at sea. Today, it's a designated National Historic Site and burial option for all Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP Veterans.

Among the cemetery's many historic features is its chapel: more than a century old and built from Commonwealth woods, it contains plaques commemorating past Royal Navy crew members, and it is still used for ceremonies today. Grave markers dating back to the cemetery's inception can also be found on the grounds—from simple iron and wooden crosses to ornate stone monuments.

Big or small, old and new, all grave markers are honoured equally by the cemetery and its caretaker, Dean Savich. Preservation and maintenance of the grounds are essential to remembering Canada’s Veterans, and Dean takes great pride in the work he is doing.

“It’s an absolute honour and a privilege to be able to work here and see the history first hand.”
Michael and Dean Savich

As a military dependent, Dean spent his childhood living and travelling all across Canada. After several years of masonry and landscaping work in Victoria, he was encouraged to bid on the contract for the position of caretaker by his father, Michael Savich, himself a 41 year Veteran. Dean is happy to honour both his father and other Veterans by caring for the cemetery.

“I was hoping my son could take the position and I would be able to pop in now and then to help him out.”

In 2015, with the cemetery nearing capacity, Veterans Affairs Canada acquired more land from the neighboring golf course. This was used to expand the cemetery with 21 columbarium units as well as forested plots for ground burials and the scattering of ashes. New infrastructure was also added, with cobblestone footpaths and a new building for office work and equipment storage.

God’s Acre

After an investment close to $4 million, the expansion and improvements were completed in March 2020. Interment spaces increased from 3,000 to approximately 4,500, ensuring that the cemetery will remain a burial option for Veterans and their families for years to come.

“As long as you were a member of the military, this can be your final resting place.”

Veterans Affairs Canada—through the Grave Marker Maintenance Program—will continue to preserve the grave markers at Veterans Cemetery and across the country. If you know of a Veteran gravesite that is maintained by the Department and requires maintenance, or you need more information about this program, please contact vac.cm-mc.acc@canada.ca or call 1-866-522-2122.

Date published: 2021-01-26


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