Wooden Valentines

While Beth Sheehan collected history and photographs from the Peace River Country, she also collected physical objects, including samples of wood.  In her collection here at the archives, we have a story and photographs of wood samples collected by Beth in the local area and in her travels. In 1954, her husband Everett gave her a wooden Valentine he made while camping on the desert in Arizona. She thought it so lovely that together they made more. Everett made boards approximately 1/4 inch thick with a band saw. Beth traced heart shapes on the boards, then cut them out with a coping saw. She filed and sanded them meticulously, making them into three-dimensional hearts. Oiling brought out the natural beauty and grain of the wood. On the back of each heart was noted the name of the wood, where it was from, the year, and in some cases, who gave it to her. She didn’t make duplicates. She also took pictures of polished wood and some wooden jewelry. Arthritis in 1985 made it too difficult to hold and work on the small pieces, and no more were made, though many pieces had been prepared.

Beth’s Wooden Valentines

After the War

The aftermath of the Great War was not nearly as well-documented as the war itself. Men gave up the practice of writing letters and keeping diaries, which have now become such a significant part of keeping their stories alive. But records were still kept, detailing medical issues, applications for pensions and land grants, and the like. And when returned soldiers were ready to open up about their war experiences, stories were told once again.

Some men had gone to serve in Siberia after the war, or stayed in France and Belgium to give their deceased comrades proper burials. Others waited to be repatriated from prison camps, or remained in England for an extended period of time before being well enough to travel home.

Sadly, as the soldiers came home, disease came with them. Up to 50,000 Canadians died of the Spanish Flu in the year following the war. The men who lived through this second wave of tragedy struggled to find their place in the regular world, which they did not find quite so normal after all. Physical and mental injuries plagued and debilitated them, and finding work and maintaining a steady income was an ongoing trial.

In his memoirs, Edward Heller (a South Peace soldier), stated that the memories remained “as though burned in so deeply as with a hot iron”, and that many wounds “though diminished in severity by the passing of years, never heal over, and most of the pain remains.”

We in the coming generations can take it upon ourselves to learn from these memories – which were indestructible to those who lived through them – and guard against such horrors taking hold of the world once again.

New: visit this map, showing where South Peace soldiers died and were buried during World War I

For more information on the final hundred days of the war, visit Veterans Affairs Canada: The Last Hundred Days

The Liberation of Mons

Canadian troops reached the outskirts of Mons, Belgium on November 10. It was common knowledge that an armistice was imminent, but there was no backing down until official word had come.

And so, the Canadian Corps fought their way into the city of Mons on November 11, where they were treated to a hero’s welcome by the civilians who had lived under German occupation since 1914. Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 at 11:00am.

The Battle of Valenciennes

Valenciennes was one of the last remaining cities the Germans had to hold on to. In the first two days of November, the Canadian Corps were able to capture approximately 1,800 enemy soldiers in the area. By nightfall on the 2nd, Canadian troops had left Valenciennes and were headed for Mons. The following day (November 3), Germany’s ally, Austria, signed an armistice to end their involvement in the war.

The Battle of Cambrai

The victories at the Canal du Nord and Bourlon Wood cleared the way to Cambrai. Between October 8th and 10th, Canadian, British, and New Zealand troops fought in and around the city. Compared to the resistance they had experienced at the Canal du Nord and on the outskirts of Cambrai in the previous days, taking the city itself proved to be an easy task for the liberators, the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions.

Battle of the Canal du Nord

Leading up to the Battle of the Canal du Nord, Canadian Engineers worked tirelessly to construct bridges across the Canal, ready for the assault that would take place on September 27th. On that day, the Corps advanced approximately four kilometres before being held up for a time near Bourlon Wood.

In the following days, Canadian troops cleared enemy trenches and liberated multiple French villages, before encountering extraordinarily harsh fighting on the outskirts of Cambrai. Between September 27th and October 2nd, Canada suffered more than 13,600 casualties – one of the most costly actions of the war.

SPRA Abroad

Above photograph from Where the Red Willow Grew, page 235

The archives recently received a query from a researcher in Germany.  Jürgen kindly gave us permission to share some of his family’s story on our blog today.

“My paternal family lived for several generations until the Second World War in a small village west of the town of Lutsk in Volhynia, now Ukraine. They were descendants of German colonists who had left their homeland in the 18th century to seek a better life in the East. Almost all of them were farmers.

At that time, life there was really not easy and people had to work very hard to make ends meet. In the late 1920s, the population in the villages had grown so much that there was not enough land left to feed all of them. Therefore, many families decided to leave Volhynia. They emigrated to distant countries like Brazil, Argentina, the US and Canada.

A few of my relatives sought their fortune overseas. One of my father’s oldest cousins, Alvina Reichert (Mundt), emigrated together with her husband Arnold and their children to Canada in 1929. In the first years, they maintained contact with their relatives left behind in Volhynia, but after the end of the Second World War they certainly lost touch.

I have already been researching my family history for several years and one day, I wondered how the life of Alvina and Arnold had gone further after they had arrived in Canada. Unfortunately, I did not know exactly where they had settled in Canada. So I started looking for any clues of them on the internet. Finally, I discovered this wonderful website of the South Peace Regional Archives. There I found the names of my relatives listed in the database “Compiled Community Book Names Index”. Then I contacted the archive by email and I asked for assistance. I was surprised to receive an answer to my request the same day. The staff were extremely friendly and they helped me a lot in my search for information about my relatives. Really amazing!

I am very happy to have found this website and I recommend it to anyone who wants to do research in this region.

Many thanks and kind regards from Germany!

Jürgen M.”

Battle of the Drocourt-Queant Line

The Drocourt-Queant Line was a part of the Hindenburg Line, an extensive German defence system built in the winter of 1916/1917. On September 2, the first day of fighting at the Drocourt-Queant Line, a section more than six kilometres wide was captured. By the following evening, Canadian troops had reached Canal du Nord. This victory cost the Canadian Corps 5,622 casualties in a span of three days.

(French) Project Volunteer Located!

We thank everyone for their interest in this project. We have now located a volunteer to complete this. However, if you are interested in completing similar projects, please do not hesitate to let us know! The Archives collections include many records in French that we would be delighted to have translated and transcribed.

The Archives is currently seeking a volunteer with knowledge of the French language to transcribe and translate a short speech by Pierre Lozeron, to be included in the next issue of Telling Our Stories.

Pierre Lozeron was born in 1887, in Auverern, Canton of Neuchatel, Switzerland. Pierre arrived in the South Peace in 1912, having walked over the Edson Trail to settle in this area. Like many immigrants in the early 20th century, Pierre rarely saw his family, but corresponded with them regularly. In 1959, Pierre traveled back to Switzerland to visit his family. During this visit, he presented a speech on his pioneering life in Canada. We are interested in showcasing this speech in our special travel themed issue of our magazine. It is four typed pages long, and written in French. According to Pierre: “Je suis agriculteur. Je ne suis pas orateur.” (I am a farmer. I am not a public speaker).

If you, or someone you know, would be willing to transcribe and then translate this speech, please contact info@southpeacearchives.org