Cornwall ceremony for local family remembers POWs, end of Pacific War

Perry Coughlan helps his aunt, Gloria Coughlan, lay a wreath at the Cornwall cenotaph on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020 to remember Peter Gordon Coughlan, who was a prisoner of war in the Pacific War. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – A local family with a deep military background held a ceremony at the Cornwall cenotaph Saturday morning to remember the liberation of prisoners of war during the Pacific War.

This is the 75th anniversary end of war and the liberation of Canadian prisoners of war at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army. The war between December 1941 and September 1945 saw a victory for allied forces against Japan.

Perry Coughlan’s grandfather, Peter Gordon Coughlan, was a POW in Hong Kong along with Peter’s brother-in-law, Albert Rose. Peter Coughlan died at the age of 26, leaving behind three children and a wife.

One of those children – Gloria Coughlan – was at Saturday’s ceremony. She was two-and-a-half years old when her father (Perry’s grandfather) died.

Due to coronavirus, the Coughlan family decided not to attend a ceremony in Ottawa but to hold a small gathering in Cornwall.

“This is what it’s all about. Just paying respects to my personal family members and we’re a very military oriented family,” Coughlan told Cornwall Newswatch. “My dad was in the military, he’s passed away. Of course my grandfather. My grandfather’s brother was also in the Hong Kong War and, of course, his brother-in-law. There’s a long family line and I guess it’s deep into me (and) what I do.”

The service included a minute of silence, a bagpipe lament, followed by the laying of four wreathes at the foot of cenotaph for the two fallen family members, the Hong Kong Veterans Association and the Royal Canadian Regiment.

“For a man we’ve never met, we have a deep emotion to him. My grandmother went to Hong Kong to visit the grave site. Aunt Gloria went to Hong Kong with her at that time. My uncle took his daughter so I told him it’s my turn for him to take me,” Coughlan said.

“For a man we don’t know, we honour him deeply because we are his legacy.”

Click on a thumbnail below to see other pictures from the service.