Sunday, October 24, 2010

Nominal Rolls

My Stat Counter  lists of recent keyword activity shows a number of people using “nominal rolls” as a keyword search term. Nominal Rolls of the Canadian Expeditionary Force can be found in two places. Library and Archives Canada  have put the nominal rolls on microfilm. My library in London, Ontario, has a complete set, and I expect that many of the larger libraries throughout Canada would have them as well. For those outside of Canada they can be found  on “The  Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group: ‘The Matrix Project’.

One word of warning for genealogists. The nominal rolls are in many ways a boarding list for the troops that were making their way to England for training prior to their posting to France. Do not assume that because they are listed with a particular battalion that that means that they served with that battalion in the trenches. (too many that’s. Must be a term for that!) There were transfers while training, sickness, accidents, and other adjustments for various reasons (lets not forget politics - eh!). After 1916 chances were that the battalion was broken up in England after training, and the men used as reinforcements to keep existing battalions up to strength. If nothing else, and if your ancestor was not an officer, the nominal rolls will give you his regimental number which is very useful for further research.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sock It To E’m Boys

Knitting socks was one of the moral boosters that the ladies on the home front provided the front line troops -  thousands of socks. Soldiers were very happy to get them. Some even put them on their feet! Little did the ladies know that they had many uses - mittens, covering for rifles, stowing away trinkets picked up here and there.

A veteran in Library and Archives Canada‘s “Oral Histories of the First World War” outlined how much the men appreciated these treasures from home:

“I got two or three pairs of socks sent to me by a lady in a church organization. I wrote back and thanked her and explained what it meant to have dry socks and that the issue was only two pairs of socks per man. It was impossible to dry the socks out and get back up again and I'd be awfully glad if we could get about three hundred pairs of socks. To my utter amazement along about November, to my utter amazement, along came a shipment of socks from that lady and her organization - about 300 pairs. We got them each winter, I got those socks. So that when [you had] wet ones, alright you picked them up, issued a pair of dry socks and that meant an awful lot for comfort, amongst other things. You [were] issued dry socks and you got your wet socks dried out properly and there was a second pair of dry socks ready so that you always had dry socks. That made a whale of a difference.”
Lady in Red Cross uniform from Whitby, Ontario shows off socks she made. Whitby Public Library.
Wool was supplied by the Daughters of the Empire to all who would knit away. These are directions for making socks that appeared in the “Dutton Advance“, January 13th, 1916:

Cast on 68 stitches: 4 ½ in. 2 plain, 2 purl; knit plain 7 ½ in. (12 in. in all)

Heel-Knit plain 34 stitches on to one needle; turn, purl back these 84 stitches; slip 1, knit 1 to end of row, turn, repeat these two rows (always slipping the first stitch) 16 times, 17 in all. With the inside of the heal towards you, purl 19 stitches, purl 2 together, purl 1.

Turn, knit 6 stitches, slip 1, knit 1,pull slipped stich over, knit 1, turn, purl 7 stitches, purl 2 together, purl 1.
Turn, knit 8 stitches, slip 1, knit 1,pull slipped stich over, knit 1 turn, purl 9 stitches, purl 2 together, purl 1.
Turn, knit 10 stitches, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit 1, turn, purl 11 stitches, purl 2 together, purl 1.
Turn, knit 12 stitches, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit 1, turn, purl 13 stitches, purl 2 together, purl 1.
Turn, knit 14 stitches, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit 1, turn, purl 15 stitches, purl 2 together, purl 1.
Turn, knit 16 stitches, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit 1, turn, purl 17 stitches, purl 2 together, purl 1.
Turn, knit 18 stitches, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit 1.

Pick up and knit 18 stitches down the side of the heel piece.
Kit the 34 stitches of the front needles on to one needle. Pick up and knit the 18 stitches at the other side of the heel piece. Divide the heel stitches on the two side needles, and knit right round again to the center heel.

First needle: knit to within three stitches of the front end of side needle, knit 2 together, knit 1.
Front needle plain.
Third needle: knit 1, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit plain to end of needle.
This reducing to be done every other row until there are 68 stitches on the needles (front needles 34, side needles 17 each).
Knit plain until the foot (from the back of the heel) measures 2 ¼ in. less than the full length required, 8 ¾ for No. 3 and 9 ¼ for No. 4 sock.
To decrease toe begin at front needle: knit 1, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit plain to within 3 stitches of the end needle, knit 2 together, knit 1.
Second needle: knit 1, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit plain to end of needle. Third needle: knit plain to within 8 stitches of the cud, knit 2 together, knit 1. Knit three plain rounds, then decrease as before; knit another 3 plain rounds, then decrease as above. Knit 2 rounds and decrease  ; 2 more decrease; 2 more and decrease.
Knit 3 plain rows, decreasing each row and decrease as above in each of the next 3 rows, which leaves you with 24 stitches on 2 needles.
Intake of toe; Thread a wool needle. Begin on front needle, put needle in as if to knit, pull wool through and take off stich. Put needle in next stich as if to purl, pull wool through, but leave stich on. Go back to needle, put needle in next stich as if to knit, pull wool through but leave stich on. Come to front needle and repeat.

There you have socks! I have no idea what all the above means. Hopefully knitters do!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The 1st. Battalion

Yes I have been researching the 1st. Battalion with the idea of writing a history of this unit. Why? Perhaps the simplest reason is that no history of the 1st. Battalion has ever been written. Mind you, the 18th. Battalion which was recruited from Southwestern Ontario as well also does not have a published history. This somewhat makes them unique of all the other 48 Battalions (1) that saw active service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Great War. One Battalion at a time.

There is more documentation available now than ever before.We will see the 100th. Anniversary of the end of the First World War on November 11, 2018. Library and Archives Canada has released a huge amount of material from attestation papers to unit diaries. There is a great deal more that needs to be made available. John Babcock was the last man standing from all who served in the C.E.F. There are no more remaining.
1st. Battalion, Salisbury, England, 1915. Library and Archives Canada.
Canadian memory of the Great War over the last 90 odd years has been shaped then re-evaluated, and re-evaluated again. Once again historians are looking at the war. Opinions on how the battles changed, and defined Canadian nationalism, has been hotly debated over the last few years.The debate goes on.

What is known is that Canada, and particularly the 1st. Battalion, paid a butcher’s bill from 1915 until November 11, 1918. In a country of 7 to 8 million people Canada enlisted around 620,000 men and women into the Canadian Corps. That figure does not count those who served in Imperial services. The highest percentage of casualties were of course “the poor bloody infantry”.  There was no more dangerous spot to be in than in the infantry.

The 1st. Battalion holds the dubious distinction of being the single most devastated battalion in the Corps. From the spring of 1915 to 1918 6,449 of the rank and file passed through the battalion.(2) If we take battalion strength as 1,000 men that means that the 1st. Battalion was destroyed six times through the war. Of course, a statement like this is not always accurate as the battalion was not ever wiped out in one battle as were the Newfoundlanders. Instead this represents a constant bleeding of manpower as the war dragged on.

When you read an outline of the battalion you can understand why kids tend to fall asleep during history class. There must be more to it than that!

(1) There were many more than 50 battalions recruited; however, Currie resisted  re-organizing the Corps into an Army with more and smaller divisions in favour of larger divisions within the existing Corps. So newer battalions were broken up as reinforcements for the 50 active frontline battalions.
(2) Tim Cook, “Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting The Great War 1917-1918”, Viking Canada 2008, p. 614.
Flags of the 1st. & 18th. Battalions in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, Ontario.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mutt and Jeff Go To War

With the entry of the United States in the Great War Mutt and Jeff get into the act.
"The London Advertiser", May 4, 1917.
"The London Advertiser, May 30, 1917.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lest We Forget

"The London Advertiser, May 4, 1917"
From left to right:

Annie Henderson Henry, b. July 6, 1889 (Whitechurch, Bruce County).
Vera Edith Sotheran, b. Oct. 2, 1893 (Fordwich, Ontario).
Annie Isabel Elliot, b. Aug.15, 1888 (Wingham, Ontario).
Annie May Ferguson, b. April 15, 1890 (Wingham, Ontario).
Mary Evelyn Wood, b. Jan. 29, 1891 (Iderton, Ontario).
Helen Abel, b. Jan. 27, 1882 (Fergus, Ontario).

All of the above nursing sisters in the photo survived the war.

At the beginning of the Great War Canada had five Permanent Force nursing sisters, and  fifty-seven listed in reserve. By the end of the war  3,141  nurses had volunteered . Because of their blue dresses and white veils they were nicknamed the “bluebirds”. Approximately 45 gave their lives. The most famous tragedy was the sinking of the hospital ship “Llandovery Castle” on  June 27, 1918. All 14 nursing sisters aboard the ship lost their lives. There is a Nursing Sister’s Memorial in the Hall Of Honour in the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.

Mabel B. Clint wrote an account of  her experiences as a nursing sister titled, “Our Bit: Memories of War Service By a Canadian Nursing Sister” (Barwick Ltd. 1934).