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Final preparations falling into place for Amherst internment camp commemoration

Curator Ray Coulson gives MP Bill Casey and officials from the German embassy a tour of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum several months ago. Embassy officials and the 42-piece German Luftwaffe Band will be at the Col. James Layton Ralston Armoury in Amherst on July 2 to help commemorate the 100th anniversary of the camp closing in 1919.

German Luftwaffe band to perform at Col. James Layton Ralston Armoury on July 2

AMHERST, N.S. —

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of articles leading up to the July 2 commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the closing of Amherst’s First World War internment camp on Park Street.

I have enjoyed doing this series of articles around the Amherst Prisoner of War Camp and I hope you enjoyed reading them. I would just like to leave you with two more stories that I find uplifting. Given what I have learned about the lives of both prisoners and guards during this time in history these stories are a fit ending.

While talking with Russell Clarke about his father who was a guard at the camp he showed me a picture of the guard’s hockey team which included his father. He told me the man that was not in hockey uniform was Lieutenant Keistead the Sports Officer and Manager of the team. He went on to tell me that Lieutenant Keristead married a Ms. MacIvor who was a school teacher here. After the war he did different things that in the end made him a very wealthy man. On a return visit to Amherst he donated money for a school award. This award was for a young woman who best represented the spirit of the school. It was called the Ethel Jean MacIver Kierstead Award. I checked it out and that award still exists.

Shortly after the first article appeared in this newspaper I had a call from Brian Hatfield of Linden, a retired Chief Warrant Officer with the military. He told me how he had been stationed just outside Lahr, Germany between 1977-81. He had become friendly with his landlord and at times would have an evening drink with him. On one such occasion Brian was introduced to an elderly gentleman. With quite good English the gentleman asked where in Canada Brian was from and Brian told him the Amherst area. To his surprise the gentleman told him he had been in Amherst during World War I, as a prisoner of war at the camp. At that time Brian had had no idea that Amherst had such a camp and was quite surprised. He asked the gentleman how that had been for him. You will be happy to hear, for this man, that he felt he was well treated while at the camp. He learned some English and worked on a farm as a daily labourer. To him it was better than being in the trenches.

Here's the schedule for July 2:

10:30 a.m. – German Luftwaffe Band arrives from Halifax.

11 a.m. – Armoury opens to public with viewing of displays and artifacts.

11-11:30 a.m. – Dignitaries go to Amherst Cemetery for commemoration ceremony and laying of wreaths at internment camp momument

11:30 to 1 p.m. – Welcome and introductions. Concert begins.

1 to 2:30 p.m. – Reception and viewing of artifacts and displays

2:30 p.m. – German band departs for Halifax

For more information on the Amherst Prisoner of War Camp and this event please go to our website: amsherstpowcamp.ca

Marjorie MacLean is the co-ordinator of the 100th anniversary of the Amherst Prisoner of War Camp commemoration scheduled for July 2 at the Col. James Layton Ralston Armoury.

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