Monday, February 28, 2011

Pt. Thomas Lawless (April 11, 1888-June 9, 1917)

This is a fascinating story about the identification of the remains of Pt. Lawless found near Vimy Ridge in 2003. The story can be read here and here.

Photo - Edmonton, February 25, 2001

Library & Archives Canada

Monday, February 21, 2011

February Keywords

As I have mentioned in previous posts I keep a close eye on keyword search terms to see what people are looking for when they reach this blog. Overall the google search terms seem to make sense - with an occasional exception. I suspect that a good deal of this is for school research papers considering the generality of the questions. Today I will look at a few.

1. Air raid shelters Ontario Canada
Pretty rare in Ontario. Most, I believe, date to the Cold War The most famous would be the “Diefenbunkers”. Called “Emergency Government Headquarters” over 50 of these shelters were authorized by the then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1961. The one outside of Ottawa is now a historic site, and Cold War Museum. I know that some individuals built their own. My Dad couldn’t be bothered.
2. Canadian Boer War nominal roll

They are online. All you need is a name.
3. Danny Hugh Plunkett

No idea how this led to my blog ? From what I can see he is a preacher. I suspect that google zeroed in on “Hugh”.

4. Sir Sam Hughes attestation paper
He joined the South African War as a civilian, and badgered his way into a command. For the First World War there is an attestation paper; but not online. RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 4598 - 1, Library and Archives Canada.

5. Duchess of Connaught Canadian Red Cross Hospital
Apparently the Astor family invited the Canadian Red Cross to build a hospital on their estate next to Taplow Lodge , Taplow, Maidenhead, Berkshire, England. It was named “The Duchess of Connaught Red Cross Hospital” after Louise Margarete wife of the Duke of Connaught (Governor General of Canada 1911-1916). Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert (May 1, 1850 - January 15, 1942) Duke of Connaught and Strathearn was the third son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Colburg.

During the Second World War the hospital was expanded and renamed “The Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital”. The building was apparently demolished in 2006.
6. London Newspapers

I assume it means London, Ontario, papers. Here they are:

The London Advertiser 1863-1868: The London Weekly Advertiser & The London Evening Advertiser 1868: The London Evening Advertiser 1869-1869; The London Advertiser 1869-1936 (on microfilm)
The Canadian Free Press 1849-1851; The London Free Press 1851- present (on microfilm)
The Farmer’s Advocate 1866-1936 (on microfilm).
After the 1950’s the numbers increase. For my research papers that published up to the Second World War are the important ones.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Bombing of No. 1 General Hospital

While surfing (I think that is what it’s called) I came across the lyrics to a song titled: No.1 Canadian General Hospital Nursing Sisters’ Theme Song”.

“In my sweet little Alice Blue gown,
When I first came to Birmingham town.
I had had a bad trip, in a nasty old ship
And the cold in my billet, just gave me the pip.
We came out to nurse our own troops,
But were greeted with measles and whoops.
Now I'll be a granny, and sit on my fanny,
And keep warm with turpentine stupes.

In my sweet little Alice Blue gown,
When I return to my home town
They will bring out the band, give the girls a big hand,
Being a nurse in the force, I'll be quite renowned.
And I'll never forget all the fun,
That I had, since I joined Number One
I was happy and gay, to have served with MacRae
In my sweet little Alice Blue gown.”

I have no idea what tune they used to sing this ditty. One thing leads to another, and a story emerges.

I won’t go into a long dissertation on the differences between general hospitals, stationary hospitals, casualty clearing stations, etc. Suffice it to say that the general hospitals (there were 16 by 1918) went from 520 beds to anywhere up to 2,300 beds. In May 1918 the No. 1 Canadian General Hospital was located at Etaples, France. On May 19, 1918 it was bombed, and included in the dead were 4 nursing sisters. One was a girl from Southwestern Ontario.

Gladys Maude Mary Wake was born on December 13, 1883 in Esquimault, British Columbia. She died of her wounds on May 21, 1918.
Gladys Wake, Library and Archives Canada
`Funeral of Gladys Wake. Library and Archives Canada

Dorothy Mary Yarwood Baldwin was born October 11, 1891 in Toronto, Ontario. She died of her wounds on May 30. 1918. She was a graduate of the Victoria Hospital School of Nursing, London, Ontario.

Dorothy Baldwin, "The London Advertiser", June 3, 1918.

Dorothy Baldwin, Library and Archives Canada

Katherine Maude Macdonald was born January 18, 1898 in Brantford, Ontario. She was killed in the bombing raid on May 19, 1918. Her tragic story was told in a letter by Dr. Edwin Seaborn:
“As it happened we had two N/S Macdonald [sic], and when we were ordered to send a sister to another hospital I gave the name McDonald, thinking that the last one sent to us here would be sent. By mistake in the first name the wrong one was sent. She came to me with tears in her eyes. I telephoned the Assistant Director of Medical Services that I wished the other one substituted. He would not allow this but said that he would recall her as soon as possible. She was to be sent to us on a certain date, but was killed in the raid. She had crept under the bed, as I was told. Was wounded in the thigh but had bled to death before she was discovered”. (1)

Katherine Macdonald, Library and Archives Canada
Margaret Lowe was born on January 26, 1888 in Morayshire, Scotland. She joined the nursing staff of the Canadian Expeditionary Corps in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She died of her wounds May 28, 1918.
Margaret Lowe, Library and Archives Canada

Funeral of Margaret Lowe. Library and Archives Canada.

Service records for Margaret Lowe and Gladys Wake are on online in PDF form from Library and Archives Canada.

(1) A.M. Jack Hyatt and Nancy Geddes Poole, “Battle for Life: The History of No. 10 Canadian Stationary Hospital and No. 10 General Hospital in Two World Wars”. The Laurier Center for Militay Stragegic and Disarmament Studies, Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo. 2004. p. 35.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Mother The Nurse

You may have noticed that I am blogging quite a bit on the nursing sisters of the Great War. I expect that, in time, I will be getting to their experiences in the Second World War.

The reason is the influence of one woman - my mother. Audrey June Steele (1921-1989) was born in London, Ontario. She graduated from the Victoria Hospital School of Nursing in 1942, and joined the army shortly after. She was posted, for the most part, in military hospitals in Ontario. It was while she was at Westminster Hospital (now the London Heath Sciences Center) that she met my father. He was there for treatment, and physiotherapy, of injuries he received during a train accident in July of 1945.

And the rest as they say was History!
Audrey Steele is on the right. Needless to say, mother was not big on either putting dates or writing names on the back of photos. So I do not know who the other nurse is. She was also not big on keeping pictures of herself so I am surprised that I have this one. At a guess I would put it at either 1943 or 1944.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hospitals in the Great War

Here is an interesting link. It's titled:
 "Location of Hospitals and Casualty Clearing Stations of the British Expeditionary Force in the Great War".
A good reference for anyone interested in the medical services during the war. A note of thanks to Sue Light in her blog “This Intrepid Band” for pointing it out.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Documenting Southwestern Ontario’s War Dead, 1885-1918

Individuals from this area served in the Northwest Rebellion 1885, the Boer War 1899-1902, and the First World War 1914-1918. There is a huge mass of material out there on these conflicts. Unfortunately there is little online. Some is on microfilm through the National Archives, and the Ontario Archives; and a smattering her and there in local libraries, military museums, and university archives . A great deal  is still in paper form. I find a tremendous amount has yet to be catalogued. This is just a brief description of what is available - a complete list would fill a book. Speaking of books I am going to largely ignore them - check out the library folks!

The Northwest Rebellion:

Soldiers of the Midland Regiment, 1885, Library and Archives Canada
Newspapers are the best place to begin. Assuming that you know where a man was from he would get front page coverage in his local newspaper. Most of the local newspapers have been microfilmed.
Library and Archives Canada : List of Officers and Men Killed and Wounded in the North West Rebellion, 1885.

Library and Archives Canada: Royal Canadian Mounted Police data base.

The South African War:
2nd. Canadian Mounted Rifles, 1902, Library and Archives Canada.
Newspapers are again a good place to begin.
As mentioned in a previous post Library and Archives Canada has “Soldiers of the South African War (1899-1902)” data base. The Canadian Virtual War Memorial lists the Canadian dead of the South African War. Also the collections include Medal registers, records of active service, and other documents from the Ministry of Militia.
Local communities such as London erected memorials to the local men who died in the war.

Face of London's Memorial Listing Men killed in South Africa. Personal Collection.

The First World War:

N.C.O.'s 1st. Battalion, 1919, Library and Archives Canada
If it is one thing that an army is it is a paper producing machine. I would need another life time to become familiar with everything.
Ministry of Militia’s “Official List of Casualties to Members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force“. This is a multi volume compilation. The most complete collection that I have found so far is in the London Room of the London Public Library, London, Ontario. There are volumes missing.
“The Circumstances of Death Registers” are a key source for information on the war dead. If the soldier was killed in action, presumed dead, or missing in action a form was completed and placed in his file to document the circumstances of his death (if known). Later the form was removed from the service files so it is rare to find them within individual service files. They are at Library and Archives Canada.
As with the Boer War the Canadian Virtual War Memorial lists the dead of the C.E.F. I have found some names missing so it is not 100%. If a veteran died due to his wounds after 1918 his file should be there as the Ministry of Militia often contributed to his or her tombstone.
Cities, towns, villages, churches, and universities erected memorials, or memorial plaques, to their local dead after 1919.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintains a data base “Debt Of Honour” listing over 1,700,000 men and women from throughout the British Commonwealth. Just to check, I searched for my uncle Bruce Ivan Hillman who died in 1945. Yep, he is there, and it’s accurate.

Library and Archives Canada “War graves registers and other documents” are textual documents grouped into six series depending on the circumstances of the serviceman or woman’s death. They include World War 2 documents.

I have yet to check out the British Archives. For all of this period Canadians served in Imperial forces, and a great deal of documentation is there. Library and Archives Canada has copies of some of the nominal rolls, pay sheets, medal rolls, etc. I do not think though that their collection is exhaustive.
Lastly individuals, communities, and societies (historical and genealogical) have researched and published volumes on servicemen, and women. There are literally hundreds. Many might be in your library - few are online.


Friday, February 11, 2011

The Oxford Rifles to 1902

A company of Oxford Militia was active during the War of 1812. At that time Oxford County was part of York County. As such, the Oxford companies served with the York Militia. To find names it is to the York militia nominal rolls you must go.

I found an interesting reference to a skirmish involving an Oxford company that occured after the Battle of Moraviantown in 1813. (1) From the description, I suspect, but can not prove that the skirmish occured at what we call today “Snake Hill”. Snake Hill is located within modern London. It appears that the American troops looked at the steepness of the hill, the trees, the rocks, the muskets pointed at them, and said: “Nuts to this”, and left. They must have been veterans.

The Oxford Rifles proper were organized by a general order issued August 1, 1863. Their first Commanding Officer was Lt. Colonel W.S. Light with headquarters in Woodstock, Ontario.

No.1 Company officered by Captain Hugh Richardson based in Woodstock organized May 8, 1855.

Hugh Richarson from "A Story of the Oxford Rifles 1798-1954".

No.2. Company officered by Captain Isaac Wallace based in Embro organized 22 Jan. 1862. Apparently this was a highland company. Which is not surprising considering the Embro area was largely settled by Scots. No mention of a kilt though.

No..3 Company officered by Captain George Grey based in Beachville organized Dec. 28, 1862.

No.4 Company officered by Captain Louis Cole based in Wolverton organized Jan. 16, 1863.

No. 5 Company officered by Captain John Henderson based in North Oxford organized Jan. 23, 1863.

No. 6 Company officered by Captain Thomas Coulter based in Princeton organized Jan. 23, 1863.
Sample of Nominal Roll for Oxford Rifles, Library and Archives Canada.
When Lt. Colonel Light died in 1864 the regiment was taken over by Hugh Richardson (more in the next post about Lt. Colonel Richardson as he become quite well known in the 1880’s). The Oxford Rifles were called to serve during the Fenian Raids. They were sent to the Niagara region in June, 1866 - but arrived late. So they were not a part of the engagement at Ridgeway.

The uniform was a big concern for all militia regiments. After all one must look the part. It seems that the decision was to mimic the uniform worn by British rifle regiments. The photo of Hugh Richardson gives you an idea of what it looked like. In a letter from Prentice, Moat & Co., military outfitters from Montreal, to Lt. Colonel Richardson:

“We have forwarded to Toronto suit of the Uniform just imported by the Montreal Rifle Regiment and have requested them to be forwarded to you for inspection. Please be careful as they belong to the Regiment and are only loaned.”(2)

There remained two independent companies in Ingersoll and Thamesford. The reason, it appears, is that when  they saw the dark green uniforms they decided that they would rather keep their smart red jerseys. Thank you very much ! 
The Oxford Rifles sent the following volunteers to the South African War. I have added what I could to each name: however, the database “Soldiers of the South African War” will only give you an index to the service files and medal rolls. Where there is more I have added it.

James Murray Ross
His service files are at Library and Archives Canada.
J. Smith
There is a J. Smith in the Library and Archives database; but no way to tell if it is indeed our man without requesting a copy of the files. I looked at the First World War database. Do you know how many J. Smith’s there are? Yikes !
A. Edwards
Same problem except here. There is only a medals register.
George William Leonard #7208
Died at Sand River, South Africa, while with the Royal Canadian Regiment.

Memorial to Canada's war dead in South Africa. Canadian Virtual War Memorial.
Service files in Library and Archives Canada. Also included in the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.
H. Lane
He might be Harry Goldney Lane from the service files.
A. Marshall
More research needed here.
Victor Wentworth Oldlum
Fought with the Royal Canadian Regiment in South Africa. During the First World War he rose to the rank of Brigadier General. Known to his troops as “Old Lime Juice”. I mentioned him in an earlier post.
H.R. Wilson
No information.
M. Davidson
There is a nominal roll for a M. Davidson who served with the South African Constabulary. Apparently he died of enteric fever in 1902. (3)
G. Campbell
Apparently served with the First Contingent (4), and there is a medal roll for a G. Campbell but little else. For me Campbell rates right up there with Smith - lots of luck !

(1)History of the County of Middlesex, Canada, 1889. Reprinted in 1972. Daniel Brock (ed.)
(2) Hubert Moore, “A Story of the Oxford Rifles 1798-1954:, Oxford Museum Bulletin No.5, 1974.
(3) Ibid.
(4) Ibid.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Surprise London - It’s Uncle Sam !

Londoners were Agog ! “The London Advertiser” thrilled. All when units of a U.S. battalion staged an impromptu parade down main street London (that would be Dundas Street) September 2, 1918.

                              “SAMMIES THRILL LONDONERS

                                    WHEN THEY PAY VISIT

Labour Day groups stood about the sidewalks at noon yesterday discussing the war. There was not much stirring, and most people were storing up energy and sunshine against the coming of a hard winter.

Then the notes of a tune from a brass band came through the air. It was a band that sent forth volume and melody stronger than any local band since the ranks of musicians have been so much decimated by the war.

People looked toward Richmond Street. Suddenly a formation of men in khaki swung round the corner onto Dundas Street. Most men thought a party of returned soldiers was being escorted home.

But there was something distinctive, something different, about these men from the thousands of Canadians who have paraded the familiar streets of this town on route marches, on cerimonial parades, going overseas and coming back in more irregular order.

                                WORE STETSON HATS

These troops wore Stetson hats. They wore no tunics. They were great big fellows.

“Americans !” The word ran down the street. Everybody got stirred up. It was a thrill for the town, an unexpected thrill.

The great band came along, playing a sharp, typically Yankee air. Silver instruments glittered in the sun. A single returned Canadian in the kilt led these unexpected, but warmly welcome guests through the streets…..

The band preceded two of the finest companies of fighting men ever seen in a city that has watched upwards of 40,000 men trained fine, and inspired by pride of their corps, leave for the war. Upstanding, six-footers, bronzed and free-muscled, moving as one winding automaton, they marched eight abreast through Dundas street and turned at Wellington street, to board again this train which brought them to the city from Camp Grant, near Chicago. They were two companies of the 343rd. Battalion, traveling to Toronto, for a stay during the Exhibition (what today is the C.N.E.)…….

Norwegian lads from the woods of Wisconsin marching to the music of a Canadian pipe band (apparently the second two companies were led by a local pipe band) in the great trek forward to do the mighty task of the hour ! Scandinavian boys from the prairies and mines of the middle west marching through an Ontario city they never knew existed three hours before ! Canadian returned heroes fraternizing with giants of Uncle Sam’s great States ! Officers chatting together, and Canadian girls gathering postcards from the Sammies and wondering what sort of girl “back there” would get them ! It was a little one act drama in the great pageant of democracy, a curtain raiser that gave Londoners a touch of novelty and brought closer home a real conviction of the alliance of democratic nations !” (1)

Was the reporter for “The Advertiser” excited - or what ! Apparently, these companies belonged to a battalion which was called “The Melting Pot Battalion”. Largely because of the different nationalities represented by the battalion’s soldiers. Two names that occur in the article are Lt. Col. Charles R. Howland (C.O. - Commanding Officer), and Major T.F. Marshall who was in charge of the companies that marched through London. One thing that I was not aware of was the term “Sammies” for American soldiers. It’s not an idiom which caught on.

(1) “The London Advertiser”, September 3, 1918.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - The 1st. Battalion Parades

Library & Archives Canada - Salisbury Plains, England 1915

Library & Archives Canada, Salisbury Plains, England 1915

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

List Of Casualties - 1st. Battalion

The following are six pages from the Militia Ministry's "Official List Of Casualties to Members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force", 1915. The six pages are from February 1915 up to March 2. There are still seven more pages to go. All are for the 1st. Battalion. The volumes where these are taken are in the London Room, London Public Library, London, Ontario. Gradually, I will try to get them all digitalized, and put them online. It will take a while. For now I have used my digital camera so they are not of the best quality. There is no index - so its peck and hunt !