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THE LAST POST FUND
Serving Veterans since 1909

 


“To honour and protect in death seems but a small return to those who have protected their country in life.” - Arthur Hair


The Last Post Fund originated in 1909 from an act of pure compassion. For 100 years, this non-profit national organization has ensured that no eligible Veteran is deprived of a dignified funeral, burial and headstone for lack of financial resources. It is supported financially by Veterans Affairs Canada and by private donations.

A History of Service and Dedication
In December 1908, an elderly man was found in a downtown doorway and taken to the Montreal General Hospital by two policemen, supposedly drunk according to the doctor. The head orderly, a British immigrant named Arthur Hair, happened to notice a blue envelope sticking out of the man’s pocket. Himself a British Veteran from the Boers war in South Africa, Hair recognized the envelope as the type issued to soldiers on discharge from the British Army. He opened it and found the honourable discharge and good conduct certificate of one Trooper James Daly, 2nd Dragoon Guards (the Queen’s Bays). Daly had served 21 years in the British army. This certificate was his sole possession.

Another doctor was called in and he confirmed that Daly was rather suffering from exposure and starvation. He died two days later. His body being unclaimed, Daly’s remains would either be removed to the city morgue for disposal or be used for anatomical study, according to the custom of the day.

Hair was shocked that Daly might not receive a dignified burial, so he raised money from friends and fellow hospital employees to do so, mainly out of a sense of “sympathetic camaraderie of one soldier for another”. This encounter changed the course of his life and would lead to the establishment of the “Last Post Imperial Navy and Military Contingency Fund”, officially founded in Montreal on April 19, 1909. Hair later recalled the first meeting of the Fund’s trustees as “a little gathering with patriotic ideas and fervour, and no money”. They launched a crusade to ensure that no Veteran would go to a pauper’s field and that Daly’s sad fate would never happen again.

The early work of the Fund was exclusively supported by private donations. In 1921, however, it was federally incorporated as the Last Post Fund and began to receive regular government financial support. The organization then expanded its operations to cover the entire country.

"The Last Post Fund is not a charity, it is a duty”, said Arthur Hair. Since 1909, dedicated men and women have ensured that Veterans receive the respectful recognition at the end of their lives that they have earned with their service and sacrifice. Consequently, they would ensure that impoverished Veterans be buried, preferably alongside their comrades, with the dignity they fully deserve.

Yesterday and Today
The Last Post Fund has evolved greatly since its inception in Montreal, Québec in 1909. Branches can now be found throughout the country as well as the United Kingdom. In 1995, it was mandated to administer the Funeral and Burial Program on behalf of Veterans Affairs Canada.

Throughout the course of its 100 years of history, the Fund has arranged funerals and, where necessary, burial and grave markers for more than 145,000 Veterans from Canada, Britain, Australia, Belgium, France, Poland, South Africa and other allied countries.

In addition to delivering the Funeral and Burial Program, the Last Post Fund has several other initiatives that support the commemoration of Canadian Veterans. These include the Fund’s own military cemetery, the National Field of Honour in Pointe-Claire, Québec, where more than 20,000 burials have occurred and military markers now identify unmarked Veterans’ graves.

The Last Post Fund recognizes the importance of honouring those who served our country and keeping their memory alive for future generations. Every year in June, the Fund organizes commemorative ceremonies on the St. Lawrence River, at the National Field of Honour in Pointe-Claire and at the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges and Mount-Royal cemeteries in Montreal.

In 2000, Serge Durflinger wrote the history of the first 90 years of the Last Post Fund. His book entitled “Lest we Forget - A History of the Last Post Fund” sensitively places the Last Post Fund within the context of Canada's unfolding social and military history. The book is available through the Fund’s Web site at www.lastpostfund.ca