The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 28 no 5, November 2016. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.
(For the Fallen, poem, Laurence Binyon, 1914).
Cantley 1889 has been producing articles with a military theme in honour of Remembrance Day since November 2011. Many of you have asked: Where can we start to gather information on our own soldiers?
Memories to Share
As in genealogical research, the place to start is with older family members who have memories to share, and perhaps boxes of pictures, medals, letters, postcards and telegrams put away for safekeeping in an old steamer trunk or in the back of a closet. One of our neighbours produced lovingly cared for pictures and a book entitled “1939 – 1945 : The War Dead of The British Commonwealth and Empire”, for the Calais Canadian War Cemetery, Leubringhan, Calais Southern Cemetery.
It was compiled and published by order of The Imperial War Graves Commission, 1956. In it was a list containing the name of her young brotherin-law who was killed in action in 1944 at the age of 22 (Echo of Cantley, November 2015).
We spoke at length with a Polish soldier who emigrated to Cantley after the Second World War (Echo of Cantley, November 2012) and learned about the horrors of the battle of Monte Cassino and the triumph of the Polish Corps. There is an amusing story that has been told and re-told over the years about a young man from Cantley who went to sign up but was rejected. He told his friends that it was because he was “too big for a monkey, and too small for a man.”
The stories of the Wilson boys: Harvey & Lemual
Sometimes we are lucky enough to be given access to a family history. Here is a snippet from the Wilson family history provided by Dolly Allen about a very determined young man, Harvey, and his brother, Lemual. They were two of James Albert Wilson’s and Catherine Cooper’s sons. Their River Road property is now owned by the Pomeroy family.
“Harvey, his son, decided at the age of 15 to join the Army as Canada was involved in the First World War. It was probably a Cavalry unit, as he arrived home in uniform in 1915, complete with spurs. But his true age was discovered and he was discharged without ever leaving the country.
Lemual, his brother, was the only other son to join the military in that war. Lem wore a navy and red-trimmed pillbox hat with his uniform and it was still in the Milk’s House at the time the house was sold. His military records state that he was with the 224th Forestry Branch, Canadian Expeditionary Forces in France where he suffered an injured leg. He received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Harvey received the British War Medal.”
A Treasure Trove of Military History
On the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website (free and bilingual) at www.bac-lac.gc.ca we can discover a wealth of information on our military history (see table of contents). For example, when looking up the World War I attestation papers, we found that there were in fact three Wilson sons who signed-up.
The attestation papers provide summary information, including regimental number, rank, date of sign-up and occupation at sign up as well as next of kin. LAC has undertaken the digitization of approximately 640,000 service files (which contain a wide variety of documents of interest to the family historian) of members of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (World War I). In their blog of October 14, 2016, they reported that 347,005 of 640,000 files had been digitized and are available online, or to put it another way, the latest box digitized was number 5,848 of 10,686 boxes to the name Mahony.
To gain a broader knowledge of available records and how to access them, we can attend lectures and seminars put on by local societies such as the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society or the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (watch for the lectures by Glenn Wright; they are excellent!) or the Montreal-based Quebec Family History Society (talks by Luc Lepine are well worth the drive to Montreal!) and of course, last but not least, the Gatineau Valley Historical Society which occasionally hosts a military-themed talk.
Mary Holmes is a founding member of Cantley 1889 which is dedicated to its mission to discover, catalogue, protect and promote Cantley’s heritage. We welcome input on any of our articles and we can be contacted at email@example.com. com by mail at 934 Montée de la Source, Cantley, J8V 3K5, or by speaking to anyone of our Board members.
Guess what? Wondering what this new installation is at Parc Mary-Anne-Phillips? Read the December issue of the Echo to find out about Cantley 1889’s latest project representing Cantley’s mining heritage.