Moncton building honours memory of son killed during WW II
Former home of Legion branch No. 6 was built in honour of soldier Leslie Ambrose Wheeler
There are more memorials to fallen soldiers in Moncton than many residents might realize.
One of the city's iconic buildings is actually a monument to a fallen Second World War soldier, says James Upham, director of public programming at Resurgo Place.
Lt. Leslie Ambrose Wheeler was killed in action on Aug. 16, 1940, just two weeks after arriving in England. He was serving with the Carleton and York Regiment, R.C.I.C., and he was the first Moncton officer to sign up for overseas duty, Upham said.
"It's kind of a tear-jerker," he said.
Wheeler was the son of Ambrose Wheeler, a former mayor of Moncton and well-known contractor responsible for many of the city's best-known historical properties.
His buildings include the former Moncton High School, the Masonic Temple, St. George's Anglican Church, Théâtre Capitol Theatre, and Cathédrale Notre-Dame de l'Assomption.
"One of the perhaps better-known buildings that he built is what's now known as Théatre l'Escaouette," Upham said. "A lot of people don't know that it used to be No. 6 legion."
"At the end of the war, when people were building these legions, Wheeler built that building at cost," he said. "They paid for the materials, but as far as the entire construction and everything else, he paid for that. He built that building as a memorial for his son."
Ambrose Wheeler moved to the province as a young man from Newfoundland.
"He's listed in the 1911 census as living in a boarding house on Main Street, working odd jobs," Upham recounted. "That's his stated occupation. He's got a one-year-old daughter, and his wife and daughter are living in Jolicure, at her parents' house. He's working odd jobs, he's doing whatever, scraping by by the skin of his teeth, if that."
Fifteen years later, Wheeler was mayor and already working on building many of the buildings that are iconically Moncton, Upham said.
"I just find it's this really poignant thing that there's this building that I drive past everyday going to work that was built specifically by Wheeler in memory of his son," Upham said.
In a story Aug. 2018, 1940, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported the death of Leslie Ambrose Wheeler and two fellow soldiers in a German bombing raid over Britain.
"Lieut. Wheeler died a hero's death," the story said. "He was marching a group of soldiers to barracks when danger approached. He ordered the men to take shelter 'on the double' and was directing them to safety when he was struck down."