The village of Norwood, on Highway 7 east of Peterborough, honoured those who died in WW1 with the usual cenotaph, unveiled on 6 July 1924. It stands at the head of Colborne St, where it meets Ridge St.
The granite stele is topped by a lantern held by a maple leaf in each corner and a sword on each side. On the front: “Through sacrifice they gave their today for our tomorrow – our honoured dead … perpetuating their memory and in honour of all those who carried on in the Great Wars from the Village of Norwood.” Eight names from WW2 were added afterwards (as I suspect was the S on Wars, as that line is not centred like the others). On the back, the years of WW1. On the base, eight WW1 battles: Ypres, St Eloi, The Somme, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Amiens, Cambrai, Mons.
On either side, 27 names: William Starkey, Sidney White, Russell Pearce, Eric Alley, Henry Murphy, Herbert J Stuart, Walter Brett, Thomas E Cross, Louis G Beckett, John F Rathwell, T Arthur Searight, Elias Cross, Robert A Leeper, Geo Townsend, Robert Chamberlain, Russell Scriver, Ezeric Aboud, Karn Hendren, A Theodore Burgess, David Brooks, Joseph Kelly, Arthur Parcels, William J Whyte, Edward Grout, Michael Noyes, Jacob Quackenbush.
The local chapter of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) spearheaded the project.
So what’s with the stone cairns in the park to the left of the cenotaph? “This park is dedicated in honoured memory of Lt Walter T Robus 1927” and “Lt Walter T Robus served with the 2nd Batt from 1914 to 1919. Died in Toronto in his 32nd year 1926.”
Walter Thomas Robus – Tommie – was born in Shoreditch, England. He immigrated to Canada in 1911, where he worked as a farmhand in Norwood. He enlisted within days of the declaration of war in August 1914. He was wounded four times during his time on the Western Front. “I belong to that bunch of fellows known as the ‘Suicide Club.’ The name is given because the boys consider it (bomb-thrower) the most dangerous business there is to do out here.” (Letter, 18 Aug 1915)
Robus returned to Canada – and to Norwood – in December 1918. He moved to Toronto shortly after and got a job at the Brunswick Hotel. He became a trusted friend and employee of hotel owner Kathleen Davidson. He died suddenly in January 1926 of complications due to appendicitis.
The following year, Davidson purchased the lot next to the Norwood cenotaph. The Lt Walter T Robus Memorial Park and two stone cairns were dedicated in August 1927, on what would have been his 33rd birthday. When Davidson died in 1964, her papers revealed that she and Robus had secretly married.
Read wartime letters and postcards from Robus at The Canadian Letters and Images Project.
Read about Robus and Davidson in Remembered in Stone: The Norwood Memorial Park, The Community Press, 8 December 2020.