Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hong Kong vets saluted

Lasting honour for Arden Seven

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George  Peterson (centre), the sole surviving member of the Arden Seven, receives a hug from Christine Melnick, MLA for Riel, during the dedication of a new park plaza in honour of seven comrades who grew up on Arden Ave. in Winnipeg. They volunteered, fought and were captured during the Battle of Hong Kong during the Second World War in 1941. The Arden Seven Interpretive Plaza, to be located in Jules Mager Park in St. Vital, was announced at the Viscount Gort Hotel today by Premier Greg Selinger (right) and Mayor Sam Katz. It commemorates comrades Fred Abrahams, twins Morris and George Peterson, and brothers Alfred, Edward and Harry Shayler, and Bill Lancaster, all of whom survived the battle of Hong Kong. Friday, August 16, 2013.  (OLIVER SACHGAU) (JESSICA BURTNICK/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

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George Peterson (centre), the sole surviving member of the Arden Seven, receives a hug from Christine Melnick, MLA for Riel, during the dedication of a new park plaza in honour of seven comrades who grew up on Arden Ave. in Winnipeg. They volunteered, fought and were captured during the Battle of Hong Kong during the Second World War in 1941. The Arden Seven Interpretive Plaza, to be located in Jules Mager Park in St. Vital, was announced at the Viscount Gort Hotel today by Premier Greg Selinger (right) and Mayor Sam Katz. It commemorates comrades Fred Abrahams, twins Morris and George Peterson, and brothers Alfred, Edward and Harry Shayler, and Bill Lancaster, all of whom survived the battle of Hong Kong. Friday, August 16, 2013. (OLIVER SACHGAU) (JESSICA BURTNICK/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

A memorial honouring seven veterans who grew up on the same Winnipeg street and fought at the Battle of Hong Kong was unveiled by the city and the province on Friday.

The memorial honours the Arden Seven, all of whom grew up on Arden Avenue in St. Vital and served in the Winnipeg Grenadiers. All seven men survived the December 1941 battle, but were taken prisoner by Japanese forces and spent four years in captivity. Two-hundred-ninety Canadians were killed in the battle, which was one of the first Pacific battles of the Second World War.

Of the seven men, only one, George Peterson, is still alive. Peterson, 92, was the first of the seven to join the Grenadiers and was at the unveiling. Premier Greg Selinger and Mayor Sam Katz thanked him for his service at the announcement in the Viscount Gort Hotel on Friday.

'Not too many people get honoured like this, and I really appreciate what they've done to remember us by'

-- George Peterson, 92

"I'm in the legislature debating every day, and in some places that's not possible. It's because of you folks that we have the opportunity to represent you and do it in a democratic way," Selinger said to Peterson and the other veterans who attended.

The memorial will be in Jules Mager Park in St. Vital, and consist of seven chairs, one for each of the Arden Seven, along with plaques telling their stories.

Christine Melnick, the MLA for Riel, came up with the idea for the memorial. She said she wanted to create it after she came upon some local newspaper clippings of the Arden Seven. She said their story "really struck" her.

"Here were seven young men from Arden in a street that I was proud to now represent who had done so much for all of us," she said.

Melnick said she started looking at a suitable way to honour the soldiers, and came up with the idea for the memorial. They visited Peterson at his home to ask for his permission.

"It was a really wonderful visit... When we were there he actually put on the jacket that he wore, his uniform," she said.

The park that will house the memorial was a good fit, Melnick said.

"It's an area that is a green space that people have not taken full advantage of, but I think with this they will come more," she said, adding it will also educate youth about the soldiers' efforts.

Peterson thanked everybody for the honour on his behalf and on behalf of all the other Arden men, and choked back tears while addressing the audience. He said if the other six Arden men could be there, they would be just as thankful.

"Not too many people get honoured like this, and I really appreciate what they've done to remember us by."

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 17, 2013 A14

History

Updated on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 10:46 AM CDT: added Bill Lancaster to list of Hong Kong vets.

11:02 AM: added name to second photo

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