Visiting Latchford, Ontario: Remembering Sergeant Aubrey Cosens, Recipient of the Victoria Cross
Remembering sanguinary events in World War Two
At Latchford in Northern Ontario, Highway 11 crosses the Montreal River over the Sergeant Aubrey Cosens Memorial Bridge.
The bridge, executed in steel, dates from 1960.
The naming of the Bridge refers to a posthumous winner of the Victoria Cross, who fell towards the end of World War Two in Germany in 1945. Born in 1921, Aubry Cousens served in The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada and subsequently in The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. Promoted to Corporal, he was subsequently promoted to Sergeant and it was in Germany after he had assumed command of his platoon that during heavy fighting he successfully captured a farm building stronghold, near Uedem (1), in the Lower Rhine region, where Nazi German troops were in a defensive position. He was, however, killed by sniper fire shortly after this success, for which he was awarded the VC. He was aged 23.
Interestingly, Sergeant Cosens was buried neither in Germany, nor in his native Canada, but in The Netherlands, at Groesbeek, in the province of Gelderland where there is a Canadian Military Cemetery.
Aubry Cosens was born in Latchford and prior to his military service he worked for the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway. The Bridge at Latchford has been named for Segeant Cosens since 1986.
In more recent years, the Bridge has not been without incident; in January 2003, while a truck was crossing it, rivets and support cables failed, causing a partial collapse of the structure. The driver of the truck happily escaped unharmed, but long detours via neighbouring Quebec ensued before a temporary bridge enabled Highway 11 — part of the Trans-Canada Highway — to be reopened. The Sergeant Aubrey Cousens Memorial Bridge itself was eventually reopened in 2005, after it was repaired and after its design was somewhat modified with extra cables, a report having found that metal fatigue and unsatisfactory inspection procedures had been responsible for the Bridge's failure.
In 2021 the birth centenary of Latchford's Victoria Cross holder will occur.
The small municipality of Latchford was thus named in 1905, in honour of Ontario's former Commissioner for Public Works: Aylmer, Quebec-born Francis Robert Latchford, QC, (1856-1938), who had retired from this position in 1904 (2).
Previously, Latchford was known as Montreal River Station. (The former name of the town and of the river which crosses its territory is not connected with the large city of that name in Quebec.)
Mining and forestry have been activities historically linked with Latchford. In more recent years, tourism became increasingly important. Latchford is situated in Northern Ontario's Timiskaming District.
April 16, 2020
(1) At Weeze, near Uedem, Germany. is a former military air base (Laarbruch, formerly B100 Goch), which was used for a while by the Royal Canadian Air Force. Canadian squadrons based there included No. 403 (Wolf) Squadron RCAF, No 416 (City of Oshawa) Squadron RACF, No 421 (Red Indian) Squadron RCAF, No 443 (Hornet) Squadron RCAF: all these Canadian squadrons were equipped with Spitfires. The facility is now a commercial airport, known as Airport Weeze.(I myself have visited this area.) Thus the area of Germany where Sergeant Cosens lost his life, earning the VC, proved to be strategically important for the Canadian military contribution in 1945 towards the end of World War Two.
(2) Francis Robert Latchford also served as Member of the Provincial Parliament for Renfrew South from 1899 until 1904; and as Attorney General of Ontario from 1904 until 1905 and as a long-serving Judge in the Supreme Court of Ontario from 1908 until his death in 1938.
Some sourcing: Wikipedia
Also worth seeing
In Cobalt (distance: 13 kilometres), the Cobalt Mining District is designated a National Historic Site of Canada; its former railway station dates from 1910.
In New Liskeard (distance: approx. 16.3 kilometres), the Little Claybelt Homesteaders' Museum has family history research facilities and various artifacts recalling local, pioneer days. A scenic waterfront at New Liskeard lies along the shore of Lake Temiskaming.
Devil's Rock , near Haileybury, Ontario (distance: approx. 22 kilometres) is an awe-inspiring rock outcrop, which overlooks Lake Temiskaming.
Notre-Dame-du-Nord , Quebec (distance: approx. 50.8 kilometres); another vacation spot on Lake Temiskaming, with a fossil centre museum and an annual Truck Rodeo (French: Rodéo du camion).
How to get there: Air Canada flies from Toronto Pearson Airport to North Bay Airport (distance from Latchford: 133.9 kilometres), where car rental is available. From North Bay, take Highway 11 north to Latchford. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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