Canada was part of the British Empire when Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August
1914. This meant that Canada was automatically at war as well, and British Columbia quickly sprang into action. Beginning in Vernon, squadrons formed throughout the Okanagan Valley, including Kelowna. On 1 April 1911, the units amalgamated to form the 30th British Columbia Horse. In 1912 the unit was renamed as the 30th Regiment, British Columbia Horse. Training took place in Vernon and Kamloops. A Primary Reserve infantry regiment from Kamloops called The Rocky Mountain Rangers (RMR’s) slept, ate, and trained for battle at the Vernon base camp in 1916.
The S.S. Sicamous—now located in Penticton—was used a handful of times as a means of transportation during World War II. This five decked sternwheeler commissioned by the Canadian Pacific Railway launched in 1914 and was operational until 1937. Launching from Kelowna and Westbank Wharfs, men and women travelled to base camps in preparation for mobilization.
Many men and women from Westbank served in this war including W. Ball, A.R.S. Campbell, F. Core, J.C. Davidson, A. Davidson, W. Davidson, F. A. Dobbin, C. Gay, S.B. Robinson, L.C. Fetherstonhaugh, C. Hewlett, E. Hewlett, S.J. Hewlett, W. Hewlett, C. Marren, D. McDougall, E. McDougall, M. Moffat. G. Roberts, R. Thacker, A. Thompson, C.J. Tolhurst, Henry Richmond, Cyril Gore, Walter d'Aeth lost their lives.
World War II
During the interwar years in 1920, the 30th British Columbia Horse was renamed to The British Columbia Mounted Rifles and renamed again in 1929 to The British Columbia Dragoons. Beginning in 1939, Okanagan citizens left to fight against the Axis powers. The Dragoons mobilized to serve and protect Canada and the allied forces. Many brave men and women saw battle during World War II. Westbank men such as George Pringle, a minister across Westbank and Peachland community churches in the late 1930s and early '40s, lost his life in the line of duty. George flew as an observer with 58 Squadron, Royal Air Force in Coastal Command. George Pringle Elementary opened on 5 December 1949 to memorialize his dedication and service to Canada. Other brave men who lost their lives include Leonard Hoskins, Vernon Yeulett, Frank Browne, TR Clough, and Fred Ewer. A plaque honouring these men is located outside the Westbank Community Hall at the Westbank Cenotaph.
With the mobilization of men and women, those who stayed behind had to work extra hard to keep industries such as lumber mills, orchards, and packinghouses afloat—all while recovering from the Great Depression in the 1930’s.
At the end of World War II, land and houses were made available to the veterans returning from overseas. A Resettlement Committee was formed under Premier, W.A.C. Bennett.