Soldier Spotlight: Private William Atkinson

Image: A page from William’s service file (Library & Archives Canada).  “GSW rt hand Nov 14 1916.  Index finger slightly stiff, not as strong as before.  Good grip in that hand.  Complains that his glasses do not fit him.  Says he has pains in head.  Sleeps badly.  Heart rapid but action good.  Lungs negative.”

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 472536
Rank: Private
Branch: 46th Battalion; 5th Battalion Canadian Railway Troops; No. 7 Canadian Stationary Hospital, Canadian Army Medical Corps

William was born on March 11, 1885 (1886?) in Keswick, England. He came to Canada around 1910 and at the time of his enlistment in 1915 was living in Saskatchewan. William received a gunshot wound to his right arm at the Somme, and an wound to his scalp as well; he was seriously ill for some time after these injuries. After his recovery, William joined the Railway Troops. In 1917 he was gassed. William was granted permission to marry Doris on Sept. 21, 1918 and on October 1 his pay started going to his new wife. He was discharged on May 1, 1919. William, along with his wife Doris and daughter Joan, moved to Valhalla from England in 1929 and filed on a homestead at NE 33-75-9-6. They didn’t farm much, but raised Persian cats for sale. He died in the Grande Prairie Hospital after a long illness caused by war injuries on January 29, 1939.

Sources: Pioneer Round-Up Volume II p. 436; La Glace Yesterday & Today p. 92; Cemetery Record

The Sawdust Fusiliers: Veterans of the Canadian Forestry Corps

Image: William J. Noll on horseback leaving to join the Canadian Forestry Corps, 1917 (SPRA 2014.061.014c)

The upcoming issue of Telling Our Stories focuses on forests and forestry in the South Peace.  To give you a sneak preview of an article highlighting the Sawdust Fusiliers and the role they played in the First World War, here are the names of some local men who served in the Canadian Forestry Corps.  For biographies of these men, visit the World War I Soldiers Memorial.

Private Andrew Bennett

tripped while on parade in 1916, which led to doctors discovering a cyst on his knee

Private John Blonke

jaw was fractured when he was assaulted by a civilian in Scotland

Private Walter Bowen

was badly gassed in 1917 and also suffered from flat feet, which led to his transfer to the Forestry Corps

Private Leonard Broomfield

served with No. 11 Company in France, where they were engaged in aerodrome construction

Private Fred Burrin

was appointed ‘logcutter’ and given a raise in pay, but reverted to Private at his own request

Captain Robert Campbell

was made second in command of No. 41 Company in August 1918

Private Frederick Chiverton

was transferred to the Forestry Corps due to recurring heart trouble

Sergeant Henry Connery

three of his four sons also joined the army in WWI

Lieutenant Harlie Conrad

enlisted in the RNWMP in 1914 as a way of getting into the army

Private Ernest Constantin

had been hard of hearing since childhood, but condition was worsened by army life

Private Jerry Cronin

had a cataract in his right eye, due to having been struck in the eye with the end of a whip

Private John Cummins

worked as a logger before joining the Forestry Corps

Private Frank Dundas

medical examination states that he was missing the tip of a finger

Private Omer Dupont

while serving in England with the Forestry Corps, he married an Englishwoman

Private Joseph Duszinski

was shot in the arm in May 1916 at Ypres

Private Thomas East

was a widower with eight children when he enlisted

Private William Fair

after being wounded in June 1917, a large piece of shrapnel remained embedded near his shoulder blade for six months

Private Isaac Frazee

his left hand was paralyzed after receiving multiple shrapnel wounds in May 1916

Acting Sergeant Robert Gerow

he and his son both served in the Forestry Corps

Private Robert Gerow

served in France with the Forestry Corps for a short time before falling ill and being sent to hospital in England

Private Henderson Graham

was blind in his right eye, and therefore not fit for active service at the front lines

Sergeant Charles Hastings

due to a mining accident in 1903, one of his legs was shorter than the other

Private John Kneafsey

while in the Forestry Corps, he was thrown off a truck; his clavicle was fractured and he had a concussion, which led to dementia

Private Chester Lowe

was only 15 years old when he enlisted

Private Gordon McCullough

suffered from dementia, likely due to shell shock; died in 1924 as a result of having been gassed during the war

Private Robert McDonald

in January 1918 he was sent to the School of Farmery to receive training for cold shoeing

Private Charles MacGregor

lied about his age by ten years in order to enlist

Private George MacGregor

worked as a cook during his time in the Forestry Corps

Private Henry Moss

after the war, a miscommunication led to his wife and family believing him to be dead, and it was decades before he was reunited with them

Private William Noll

when he left to enlist in 1918, he pinned a poem to his door stating that he would not be returning to the area

Private Lorne Nowry

after serving in the Forestry Corps, he came to Grande Prairie and bought a sawmill

Acting Corporal Jacob Orman

before being transferred to Forestry Corps, he was attached to the Russian Embassy in London

Private Raymond Pellerin

was wounded at Vimy Ridge before being transferred to the Forestry Corps

Private Thomas Rice

when he slipped on ice, his foot became jammed between a log, the carriage, and the skidway

Private Mike Rostalski

was shot in the leg in May 1917, after which he was transferred to the Forestry Corps

Private Herbert Stewart

after being injured at the front lines, he was transferred to the Forestry Corps; in 1918, a log fell from a wagon onto his leg, causing severe damage

Private Peter Stuart

worked as a lumberjack before the war

Private George Tate

injured his shoulder during training and as a result he remained in England with the Forestry Corps for the duration of the war

Private Robert Tilt

dyed his hair in an unsuccessful attempt to look young enough to enlist in World War II

Acting Sergeant Spencer Tuck

was gassed at Ypres in August 1916, losing partial function of his right eye

Soldier Spotlight: Private Archibald Setter

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 736480; 101051
Rank: Private
Branch: 66th Battalion; 8th Battalion

Archie was born in Battleford, Saskatchewan on May 4, 1892. In 1914, he filed on NW 1-77-5-W6, near Spirit River. He enlisted in the Canadian Army in July of 1915, though he was absent without leave (still in Canada) from August 30, 1915 until April 9, 1916. In spring of 1916 Archie enlisted and was sent overseas. A letter Archie wrote was printed in the February 20, 1917 Grande Prairie Herald:

Northumberland War Hospital

Dear Friend,

I suppose you will be quite surprised to hear from me; however, as I am living in my bed at the above hospital I thought I would write you a few lines. We arrived in Liverpool on the 7th May 1916 and there went to a place called St. Martin’s Plains and from there I was drafted in to the 8th Bttn. and went to France in June. I was in the battle of Ypres in June and also was at the Somme when I got hit in the left ankle, and I have finally lost my left foot, it is cut off about 5 inches above the ankle, so my chances are pretty good for getting back to Canada once more. Well Bill, you people have no idea of the war, but I can tell you that it is simply hell.

I suppose Grande Prairie is a big place now since the railroad is there.

Dean Hodgins was in the same Bttn. as me, I wrote to him a few times since I got wounded, but I have got no answer so I don’t know what has happened to him.

My leg is not quite healed yet but I am improving greatly. I think it will be some time yet before I will be able to use an artificial limb.

Well, Bill, this will be all for this time and if you don’t answer this letter please tell Mr. Rae that I want some papers.

I remain your friend,
Pte. A. Setter
No. 101051 No. 5 Ward, 8th Canadians

Archie had accidentally shot his foot while cleaning his rifle on September 10, 1916. His medical records state that he “was struck by rifle bullet in ankle accidentally by discharge of his own rifle. Foot was badly shattered. Wound became very septic requiring amputation which was performed Oct. 21, 1916.” It was later reported in the Grande Prairie paper that Archie came back to Canada and was working as a postmaster in Saskatchewan. Archie died on May 2, 1975.

Soldier Spotlight: Private John Finlay Watson

Image: A clipping from the Lake Saskatoon Journal, June 16, 1917

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 437637; M56292
Rank: Private
Branch: 15th Battalion

Finlay was born in Belfast, Ireland on September 16, 1891. His parents immigrated to Canada with their nine children in 1908; Finlay filed on homesteads at NE 9-71-8-W6 and NW 33-70-8-W6 in 1910. In August of 1915, Finlay enlisted in the Canadian Army. His brother Robert also served during World War I. Finlay received a bayonet wound to his right leg at Vimy Ridge on April 30, 1917 when he went over the top and landed on a spiked bayonet (see his June 1917 letter for more details about the injury). He also suffered from accidental abrasions to his face and hands in August of 1917. Finlay’s wife was named Mabel. During World War II, Finlay served with the Veterans Guard at a POW camp in Lethbridge. He died there on February 2, 1945 and was buried in the Lake Saskatoon Cemetery.

Sources: additional news clippings, including those listed as Finlay; Pioneers of the Peace p. 119; Along the Wapiti p. 401, 411

Soldier Spotlight: Private Henry Moss

Image: A page from Harry’s military service file, indicating at the bottom that he was “granted permission to marry” in July of 1918. (Library & Archives Canada)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 1037322
Rank: Private
Branch: Canadian Forestry Corps

Harry was born in Monmouthshire, England on January 23, 1891. He was living in Kisbey, Saskatchewan at the time of his enlistment in August of 1916. In August of 1918, Harry married an Englishwoman named Margaret. He brought his young bride to his homestead in Saskatchewan, where their daughter was born. In 1923, Margaret and their daughter returned to England as farm life was difficult and his wife was ill and homesick; Harry planned to send for them once he got established. He came to the South Peace in 1928, and in 1930 filed on the northern half of 22-76-1-W6. Harry was reluctant to send for his family as conditions were still primitive and the nearest school for his daughter was twelve miles away. In 1935, another man with the surname Moss was killed in central Alberta. Harry’s brother and wife in England heard of it and assumed it was Harry, so they stopped writing. Harry was unaware of this and as Harry was not much of a writer, he lost contact with his family in England. Some years later, an inquiry for Henry J. Moss was printed in the Legionnaire (a magazine for war veterans) saying that a daughter was interested in his whereabouts. Harry replied to the inquirer and found that it was indeed his daughter, who was married and living in southern Alberta. Harry’s daughter traveled to Wanham to meet her father. When Harry retired from farming several years later, he moved to southern Alberta to be nearer his daughter and four grandchildren.

Sources: Grooming the Grizzly p. 450

Soldier Spotlight: Private Raymond Pellerin

Image: The Pellerin garden covered in snow in August 1935. (SPRA 116.09.01.01.164)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 154954
Rank: Private
Branch: 1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion; 16th Battalion; Canadian Forestry Corps

Ray was born in Leroy, North Dakota on January 9, 1896. He came to the Peace Country with his parents, Napoleon and Lucy, in 1913. Ray filed on homesteads at the following locations: 19-75-2-W6; 36-73-2-W6; 24-75-3-W6; 22-71-5-W6. In 1915, he and a friend built a raft to go down the river to Watino, at that point the end of the railroad, to get the train to Edmonton where they could enlist. The raft was upset in the river and they lost their belongings, so they had to continue on foot. Ray received a gunshot wound to his left hand at Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917. After the war, he returned to his land in the South Peace. Ray married Jean Floener on November 22, 1922. The couple had three sons. Ray died on December 26, 1972 and was buried in the Grande Prairie cemetery.

Sources: Centennial Celebration Edson Trail p. 97, 119; Smoky River to Grande Prairie p. 231; Across the Smoky p. 159; Pioneers of the Peace p. 312

A page from Ray’s military service file with details about his injury at Vimy Ridge on April 9,1917.  (Source: Library & Archives Canada)

Soldier Spotlight: Private Thomas Rice

Image: A group of DeBolt homesteaders at the Sturgeon Lake Sports Day. Standing, left to right: Elbert DeBolt, Cy Young, Ove Nielson, and Tom Rice. Seated, left to right: Jack McLaughlin, Bill LeValley, Irene Cummings (first East Smoky teacher), Ellis Turner, Virginia De Bolt, Mary Walters, and George DeBolt. Used in “Across the Smoky,” p. 331. ca. 1925 (SPRA 116.09.01.01.0621)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 2288437
Rank: Private
Branch: Canadian Forestry Corps

Thomas was born on March 29, 1893 in International Falls, Minnesota. He came to Canada with his parents as a young boy, living first in Ontario and eventually coming to Alberta, where he was living at the time of his enlistment in April of 1917. Thomas went absent without leave from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM on October 16, 1917 and forfeited 24 days of pay as a result. On December 11, 1917, Thomas was injured accidentally. According to his service file, he was injured “while replacing the dogger on the carriage, Pte. Rice slipped, owing to the ice on the oak skids, and he foot was jammed between the log and the carriage and the skidway.” In April of 1918 Thomas was absent without leave overnight, and on June 3, 1918 he was absent without leave for two hours. While overseas, Thomas met Suzanne Chabau. They were married after the war, though Thomas spoke no French and Suzanne, a Frenchwoman, spoke no English. They came to the South Peace after the war and filed on the southern half of 2-73-3-W6 in 1919. They sold the homestead after thirty years and moved to Goldfields, Saskatchewan. Four years later they moved back to Edmonton. During World War II, Thomas was sent to work in a plant in Ontario. His family joined him once he got settled. Thomas died in Hamilton, Ontario on January 5, 1974.

Sources: Smoky River to Grande Prairie p. 177

Finding Memory: Highlights from the Indigenous Reference files

SPRA 510.12.18.041 Part of the Indigenous Reference Files collection

One of the large projects for our summer student this year was digitizing the Indigenous reference files. This project involved digitizing and describing the reference files related to Indigenous peoples in this region. There are twenty-two Indigenous reference files with twenty centimeters of textual records. This project was prioritized to support the Indigenous History Committee, whose purpose is to examine the ways we can preserve and promote the history of the Indigenous Peoples in the south Peace in order to support reconciliation. This committee was established in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s (TRC) Calls to Action. The Indigenous Reference File Project was chosen because it helps make Indigenous centered information publicly available.  This helps to do our part in fulfilling the TRC Calls to Action.

The digitization portion of this project was finished in mid-July. As we create an itemized finding aid for the files we will start to share some of the items through blog posts, like this one!

This featured item is from the Indigenous News reference file.  It is an article about Henry Louis Norwest, an Indigenous WWI veteran who had more confirmed sniper hits than any other soldier from countries in the British Empire. Norwest was born in Fort Saskatchewan in 1884 and enlisted in January of 1915.  He had 115 confirmed sniper hits, which means they were observed by another soldier.  He earned four medals for this achievement.  Another soldier described Henry Louis Norwest as being charismatic and quick witted.  Norwest died August 18, 1918 as he was about to pull the trigger on an enemy sniper when a bullet hit him just below his steel helmet.  He is buried near Amiens, France, which is north of Paris.

The reference files give us a glimpse into our local history, and especially now that they are digitized, are an incredibly valuable resource! If you want to see more from the Indigenous reference files, keep your eye on the blog for posts like this.

Soldier Spotlight: Gunner Frank Stevenson

Image: Dave Goodwin (left) and Frank Stevenson (right) standing beside a buggy. Used in “Across the Smoky,” p. 10. 1920 (SPRA 116.09.01.01.0078)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 2040193
Rank: Gunner
Branch: Canadian Garrison Artillery

Frank was born in Fredericton, PEI on November 27, 1889. He was living in Charlottetown at the time of his enlistment in December of 1916. Before going overseas, Frank had proposed to Edna Abbott. When he was discharged in 1919, Frank came west and filed on land at a SE 26-72-1-W6 and NE 24-72-1-W6. Eight years later, in 1927, he wrote to Edna to join him – she had written to him saying that if he didn’t have things ready, she was going to move on with her life. They had been engaged for eleven years. Frank and Edna were married on October 13, 1927. They raised their family of five children in DeBolt. Frank died in April of 1974.

Sources: surname file; Across the Smoky p. 36

Soldier Spotlight: Private Stanley Thorsteinson

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 472689
Rank: Private
Branch: 54th Battalion

Stanley was born in Ísafjörður, Iceland on October 10, 1892. He filed on SW 18-74-8-W6 in July of 1915. In November of 1915, he enlisted in the Canadian Army. Stanley was wounded on November 18, 1916 at 6:30 AM, twenty minutes after his battalion went over the top at the Somme. He suffered from shrapnel wounds to his right knee and the right side of his head. Stanley was moved two miles by stretcher, and invalided to Canada in March of 1917. On November 30, 1917, he was discharged, having been found medically unfit as a result of his injuries. In 1920/1921, Stanley filed on a second homestead at NW 8-74-9-W6. By this time, he was married to Dorothy Lettice Wilson. Stanley and Dorothy left the area in 1923. Stanley died on December 7, 1957.

Sources: Buffalo Trails p. 219