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Orpington man hoping to twin town with Canadian city

PUBLISHED: 12:49 16 May 2016 | UPDATED: 12:49 16 May 2016

John Pateman (right) with Canadian brigadier general Overton at All Saints

John Pateman (right) with Canadian brigadier general Overton at All Saints

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The towns have connections dating back to the First World War

An Orpington man who now lives in Thunder Bay, Canada, is campaigning for the towns to be twinned to due to historical links between them dating back to World War One.

As a child, John Pateman was fascinated by the graves in All Saints’ Churchyard, which face westwards towards Canada, and this fascination deepened as he grew older.

The Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery contains the bodies of 88 Canadians who served in the First World War, including two individuals who lived in Thunder Bay, Victor Lillia and Tom Stanworth.

The city, in Ontario, was the place where the Canadian Legion decided to adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance for the fallen, at the Prince Arthur Hotel in 1921.

Mr Pateman, who is now chief librarian in Thunder Bay, said: “When I was a very young child I remember walking past the graves and saying to my mother, ‘why are they facing west?’ and it caught my imagination, and I have got more involved since.

“I did my research on the soldiers in Canadian Corder while studying history and politics at the University of Kent, and wrote a book in 1980. When I had the chance to come here and live in Thunder Bay, I knew I could develop the project.

“When the job came up at the library, I remembered there was a guy from Canadian Corner. Most Canadians came from Ontario, so it wasn’t unusual that there was a connection.”

Mr Pateman attended an event held at Orpington’s All Saints Church on April 30 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Canadian Corner, which was also attended by the Bishop of Rochester and the mayor of Bromley.

While he was there, he unveiled a new information panel featuring details based on the book that he wrote about the site.

“As it is the 100th anniversary of the Great War, it is a good time to remember these historical connections,” he said. “Every November 11th they have a ceremony, but this will be the first time they have made a link with another city in Canada.

“One of the reasons I wanted to come over for the event on the 30th was to make connections with local people face to face.”

Mr Pateman has forged a link between Bromley Council and the Canadian city, and councillor Kim Botting has pledged to work on the project once her tenure as mayor is over.

Connections have also been established between the boy scout groups in Thunder Bay and Orpington, and Mr Pateman hopes other individuals and organisations will get involved.

“We are hoping to arrange an exchange visit so people can come and see for themselves,” he said. “We want to involve schools and colleges and do some work on the hospital, which is where the soldiers were treated.

“The vicar of All Saints is coming out here next May. It is a very person-to-person link, and it will be the next step.”

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