Gaza Commonwealth Cemetery, Canadian section
Trooper RJ Wiley, Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), served as part of the Canadian commitment to UNEF. On 7 September 1961, while attending a squadron-run junior NCO course, he inexplicably collapsed after a morning run. Despite the best efforts of the medics and the DANOR hospital staff, he could not be revived. Trooper Wiley was 21 years old. Wiley was a young but highly regarded and popular member of the Squadron and clearly was destined for a successful career. His loss was a considerable blow to the morale of the entire unit.
Government policy at the time directed that service members were to be buried in overseas cemeteries, and thus Trooper Wiley was laid to rest in the Canadian section of the Gaza Commonwealth Cemetery.
In early March 2009, members of Op PROTEUS, Canada's commitment to the United States Security Coordinator for Peace in the Middle East, travelled to Gaza to visit the cemetery for a belated Remembrance Day Ceremony. Trooper Wiley's grave site was chosen to represent the 22 fallen Canadians buried there. After laying the wreath and reflecting on the sacrifice of our troops around the world, the members walked around the immaculately tended site to contemplate the other graves.
The Arab family that has cared for the cemetery for several generations came and spoke with team. To them, it was an honour to ensure that the site was properly looked after, and for the Op Proteus team it was an honour to meet the family and thank them for their unflinching dedication to their work in very difficult conditions.
It is hoped that those who made the ultimate sacrifice buried here and in other remote cemeteries will never be forgotten.
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.
Editor’s note: We are grateful to LCol Paul Peyton for forwarding the article and photos, and to Col (Ret’d) Jim Ellard, who was deployed with Tpr Wiley, for providing additional historical information.