WW1 started in August of 1914 and Canadians were so eager to go fight the enemy that by October the first contingent to head overseas numbered in the 30,000 range.
The men of the east central Alberta district were just as eager if they didn’t make it into the first contingent they got there as soon as possible.
This meant that they were involved in many of the big battles.
They would often write home about those battles.
Fortunately for us, their families would sometimes share these letters with the community by putting them in the local newspaper.
W. H. McMurray was Coronation’s first soldier to leave for the front. He writes of the Battle at Ypres, April 22-26, 1915.
“I was in this right up to the hilt and came through with a whole skin though goodness knows how I ever managed to as after being under shell fire and sniping, gas fumes, and poison shells, I had to ride the gauntlet with dispatch right through a wall of machine-gun bullets.”
Pte. C. T. Scott sent a lengthy report on the Battle of The Somme. He tells of advancing “over a mile in open ground in broad daylight through a heavy fire of all the different varieties of hate that Fritz could send over.”
Pt. J. Adamson sent a letter telling of the battle of Hill 70.
“I don’t think Fritz has many whizbangs left, he is beat but he won’t admit it. The morning of the 15th when we went over the top to drive Fritz off Hill 70 was one of the prettiest sights I ever saw; The bullets our boys threw at the Germans were so thick a pin could not go through without being blown up.”
They fought long and hard throughout the whole war and by the time it finally ended in November 1918 they were broken and weak but they could still stand proud because they had fought the ‘Great War’, the war that was supposed to end all wars, and they were victorious.
By war’s end, 619,000 Canadians had enlisted.
Almost 61,000 were killed, 172,000 were wounded with 3,461 men and one woman having a limb amputated.
Many were broken in mind and body.
The horror of that war must have stayed in the mind of King George V because in the fall of 1919 he sent the then acting Prime Minister, Sir George Foster, a letter.
This letter stated in part, “It is my desire and hope that at the hour when the armistice came into force, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, there may be for the brief space of two minutes, a complete suspension of all our normal activities… all work, all sound, and all locomotion should cease so that in perfect stillness the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.”
I think he would be pleased to know that 100 years later we still do that.
100 years later we still honour the fallen.
100 years later we still remember the glorious dead.
by Lois Perepelitz