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Bay Roberts adding new name to war memorial

Bay Roberts Deputy Mayor Walter Yetman laying a wreath by the cenotaph during the 2015 Memorial Day ceremony.
Bay Roberts Deputy Mayor Walter Yetman laying a wreath by the cenotaph during the 2015 Memorial Day ceremony.

Thomas Copley was a Bay Roberts resident when he enlisted in the Royal Navy Reserve on Jan. 5, 1914.

However, when Bay Roberts erected its memorial, dedicated to First World War veterans, Copley’s name was not included with the others.

Copley lived on what is now known as Country Road, called Country Path at the time of his enlistment. About a year after enlisting, on March 11, 1915, Copley died at the age of 24 on the HMS Bayano, which was originally a banana boat before being drafted into the Royal Navy as an armed merchant auxiliary cruiser.

Bay Roberts resident Gordon Mercer, Copley’s great-nephew, originally brought Copley’s name to the town’s attention. Mercer said he and his cousin knew about Copley for quite some time.

“The last time we spoke about him was about five years ago when we were at the Legion,” Mercer explained. “My cousin told me ‘I might not be around for much longer, so if anything happens to me, get Tom’s name put on the cenotaph’. I think it was about a week later he died, and that’s when I started the process.”

However, when Bay Roberts erected its memorial, dedicated to First World War veterans, Copley’s name was not included with the others.

Copley lived on what is now known as Country Road, called Country Path at the time of his enlistment. About a year after enlisting, on March 11, 1915, Copley died at the age of 24 on the HMS Bayano, which was originally a banana boat before being drafted into the Royal Navy as an armed merchant auxiliary cruiser.

Bay Roberts resident Gordon Mercer, Copley’s great-nephew, originally brought Copley’s name to the town’s attention. Mercer said he and his cousin knew about Copley for quite some time.

“The last time we spoke about him was about five years ago when we were at the Legion,” Mercer explained. “My cousin told me ‘I might not be around for much longer, so if anything happens to me, get Tom’s name put on the cenotaph’. I think it was about a week later he died, and that’s when I started the process.”

Mercer’s research started with a simple Google search, and soon came upon a family tree. Through this, Mercer was able to find out his great-great-grandfather, George Copley, had married a second time after Mercer’s great-great-grandmother passed away. George’s second wife was Jane Harriet from South River, and Thomas Copley was the older of their two sons.

With this information in hand, Mercer went about searching the South River cemetery, where he found Copley’s brother, Edward’s headstone, with an addition by his mother that mentions Thomas’ loss aboard the Bayano during the First World War.

Documents confirming Thomas Copley’s enlistment in Bay Roberts.

Mercer then passed along all the information he’d found to Philip Wood, mayor of Bay Roberts, who began his own research process.

“I got Thomas Copley’s records, and the information I found through my research was where he was from, where his next of kin was, and where he enlisted. Thomas Copley’s records clearly indicate that he signed up in Bay Roberts,” said Wood.

Branch 32 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Bay Roberts voted unanimously to have Copley’s name added to the war memorial, and when Wood brought it to the council in Tuesday night’s meeting, the idea was met with the same enthusiasm.

“I honestly don’t know how Copley’s name was missed,” Wood said, “and the only thing I can think is that it was an honest mistake. Copley paid the supreme sacrifice, and he will get the recognition he’s worthy of.”

The Town of Bay Roberts has taken the first steps toward inscribing Copley’s name into the memorial, and Wood wants to make sure it’s done right, with the same amount of respect as every other name on the memorial. Wood suspects the addition to be made before Memorial Day on July 1st.

When asked how he felt now that Copley’s name would be added to memorial, Mercer said, “It’s honestly such a big sigh of relief. Finally, he’s going to be remembered the way he should be.”

chris.lewis@tc.tc

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