New at the Archives: Donna’s First Display

Archives Technician Donna has been busy this morning curating her first display of archival artifacts. The display will be used by the Grande Prairie Museum’s education department to supplement their programming activities.

 

The creation of the Christmas card dates from 1843 in England and was commissioned by Henry Cole. In the 1910s and 1920s, homemade Christmas cards became popular. Technical development, like colour lithography, in the 1930s moved people away from making their own cards. Card designs have evolved over time. The World Wars brought Christmas cards with patriotic themes. In the past cards have also shown Christmas traditions, objects associated with Christmas, Christmastime activities, or other aspects of the season such as the snow and wildlife of the northern winter. Many of these details can still be found in modern Christmas cards.

 

Introducing Donna Richards – SPRA’s New Archives Technician

Hi! My name is Donna Richards and I am the new Archives Technician at South Peace Regional Archives.

I was born in Grande Prairie and have spent most of my life in the Peace River regions of Alberta and British Columbia, except for four years when I attended the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Education degree, I was offered my first teaching position with Peace Wapiti School Division #76 at Sexsmith Elementary School. Three years later I transferred into Grande Prairie. I taught at Harry Balfour School, which was only two shorts blocks from my childhood home, for three decades. After 33 years in the teaching profession I retired in 2014.

After retiring, I felt I needed to keep myself active and engaged. The past three plus years I’ve been busy substitute teaching at local schools and facilitating student teachers from Grande Prairie Regional College. Now I can add Archives Technician to the list! I am thrilled to be given this opportunity and look forward to learning and working at South Peace Regional Archives.

Olwen’s Scrapbook: A Journey to the Peace Country in 1933

On June 7, 1933, Olwen Sanger-Davies boarded the train in her home town of St. Leonard’s on Sea in East Sussex, England to begin a long journey. The first leg was to the port of Southampton by train, then to Montreal, Canada, aboard the SS Montrose, by Canadian Pacific train across Canada to Banff, and up to the Peace River Country on the Northern Alberta Railway. The purpose of her trip was to visit her younger brother Morgan, who lived just outside the Town of Grande Prairie…

Olwen documented her journey and time in the Peace Country in two scrapbooks, containing approximately 500 drawings and paintings. Published by the South Peace Regional Archives, Olwen’s Scrapbook captures her story in Olwen’s own words and illustrations. It is a nostalgic, educational, and artistic gift.

Olwen’s Scrapbook: A Journey to the Peace Country in 1933 can be purchased from the South Peace Regional Archives for $40.00 + GST. Cash and cheques are accepted. Limited copies are available.

Passchendaele – An Eyewitness Account

After great success at Vimy Ridge and Hill 70, the Canadians were called upon to relieve the Australian and New Zealand troops in Flanders, Belgium. Many preparations were made under the careful eye of General Currie, and on October 26th the attack was launched. The Battle of Passchendaele lasted until mid-November, at the expense of 15,654 Canadian lives. Following is an except from the memoir of a South Peace soldier, Lance Corporal Edward Joseph Heller.

It seemed to be the policy then and there to have comparatively few in the front line, for if the enemy counter attacked he would probably overrun it anyway. We did some digging during the night, connecting shell holes, deepening ditches that were supposed to be trenches, etc. to make room for the extra men… The ground, as at Vimy Ridge, was all torn up. I am sure not a square foot being in its original condition or position. We suffered a few casualties during the night, subjected to what was called a harassing fire: the artillery mow and then dropping a shell here, one there. Our artillery did that too. When morning came, we settled down into the ditches… We lay where we were, in the mud of course, all day of the 29th. If one wanted to change position, get a hard tack out of the haversack, or move for any reason at all, one had to move very slowly… Of course we couldn’t move very fast anyway, as we were chilled to the bone.

There was a sort of step at the dead end of this ditch, so I sat upon the step. I probably dozed off (for we hadn’t had much sleep for some time), for the next thing I knew, I was laying in the mud up out of the ditch, in a sort of bewildered way, thinking perhaps something had happened, for it seemed the right half of my head had been shot off (how I thought I could still be alive after that?) and 72 bones (that’s about 1/3 of them, isn’t it?) were broken. Apparently a shell passed just in front of me… and exploded. How deeply I was buried or how long it took to dig me out was not thought of then, so I never found out, which never worried me any… Two fellows helped me start walking… perhaps to some dressing station… there is a flash of a few seconds of memory… there was this railway car, low sides but no top. How and why I and others were there, I didn’t know or care… Next I was lying on a stretcher in a large marquee. By evening I was in a cot, nice white sheets, hospital pyjamas so clean and dry.

Edward Heller had in fact sustained a gunshot wound to his left leg at Passchendaele. Later in the war, his right leg was also wounded. Heller survived the war and returned to his homestead near Beaverlodge.

Photograph: SPRA 194.03, from Edward Heller’s fonds, likely taken at Passchendaele

To get an idea of the devastation they fought through, consider attending the Passchendaele movie screening at the Grande Prairie Regional College on Friday October 27 at 7:00. We will also have a small display honouring our South Peace veterans who played a role in this important battle.  Click here for more information on this event.

The Battle for Passchendaele

Photograph: South Peace Archives, Edward Heller fonds, SPRA 194.01 [cropped]

 

The Battle for Passchendaele was the final victory in the larger British offensive in Flanders to drive the Germans from the essential Channel Ports and to eliminate their coastal U-boat bases.

The offensive began on 31 July 1917. Despite the constant rain, the British managed to obtain most of their objectives by October. Most but not all: Passchendaele, just east of Ypres, remained in German hands. With the Australian and New Zealand troops exhausted, Sir Douglas Haig, commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force ordered in the Canadians.

Appalled at the battlefield conditions and despite limited preparation time, Sir Arthur Currie, commander of the Canadian Corps, carefully planned the upcoming battle and ordered vital improvements to gun pits, road, and tramlines.

The battle commenced on 26 October. By mid-November, the Canadians reached their objective. The cost was high: nearly 16,000 Canadians dead or wounded. Among those were men from the South Peace Region.

Some of those men include D.W. Patterson (fonds 152), Edward Heller (fonds 194), John Thomas (Digby) Smith (fonds 367), Arthur Buck (fonds 298 ) Walter Spry (fonds 559), and Herman Klukas (fonds 635). Others, for whom we have few or no records include Harold Hugh Black, William Andrew Cowan, John Proctor, John Francis McLeod, Frank M. Longair, William G. Longhurst, Walter Emerson Eaton, William George Hodges, Frederick C. Keith, and Gustaf “Smithie” Listhaeghe.  You can view their stories at SPRA’s online Soldiers’ Memorial.

To get an idea of the devastation they fought through, consider attending the Passchendaele movie screening at the Grande Prairie Regional College this Friday. We will also have a small display honouring our South Peace veterans who played a role in this important battle.

 

Canada Remembers Program  http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/first-world-war/fact_sheets/passchendaele

The Great War Gala

Last Friday, the Friends of the Archives Society welcomed guests to its Great War Gala. We wish to extend our deepest gratitude to all those who attended the event, donated to our auction, and supposed our cause. Take a look at some of our favorite photographs from the event…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Slang Words From World War I

Considering the many new developments in weaponry, equipment, and military tactics during World War I, it is certainly not surprising to see how many new words and phrases that were coined during this time.  Some of them were based on words from other languages as men representing various cultures and backgrounds rubbed shoulders on a day to day basis, others were made up and offer a glimpse into the humor that the soldiers employed to face the horror of life in the trenches.  Enjoy this selection of ten slang words from the Great War, and be sure to check out the sources below for more.

 

Napoo
derived from the French term “il n’y a plus”, which the Canadian and British soldiers took to mean ‘finished’, ‘dead’, or ‘completely destroyed’


Pogey-bait
the Canadian and American term for any sweet snack


Spike-bozzled
usually used to describe completely destroyed aircraft


Potato Masher
slang for German hand grenades


Whizz Bang
nickname for a small-calibre shell


Barkers
trench slang for army sausages, which soldiers believed contained dog meat


Thingamajig
a made-up trench word used to refer to the new devices invented during the war


Bumf
originally slang for toilet paper, but later on referred to any communication from headquarters


Blighty
another word for “England”; a ‘blighty wound’ would be wound that got a soldier sent back to England


Strafe
this could mean anything from bombardment to a severe reprimand; it came from the German propaganda slogan “Gott Strafe England”, meaning “God Punish England”

 

Sources:

Mental Floss – 21 Slang Terms

Canadian War Museum – Soldiers’ Slang

War History Online – A to Z of World War I Trench Slang

BBC News – English Expressions Coined in World War I

 

The South Peace Goes to War

The South Peace Regional Archives has curated a new exhibit for the Community Room at the Grande Prairie Museum. The new exhibit features ten photographs from the SPRA collection that tell the story, “The South Peace Goes to War.” The ten photographs were chosen by SPRA staff from a variety of collections, including the Edward Heller fonds, Turner family fonds, and Harry Tuffill family fonds.

Beginning with the first enlistments of 1914 making their way down the Smokey on the Beaver to the celebration of war’s end at Bear Lake, these ten photographs lead the viewer on a journey through the social history of the Great War. Below is a brief description of the exhibit. For more information, feel free to visit the exhibit in person.

OFF TO WAR

The Beaver Carrying Freight and Men To Enlist, 1914.

The Beaver river boat is carrying freight and men who are going to enlist. Three men are sitting on the bow of the boat, another is poling and the rest are standing on the boat.

SPRA 024.01.09.28 Holroyd Drugs Photograph Collection 024

 

FOREIGN SERVICE

French Troops in Camp, 1914 ca.

World War I French troops in camp, with soldiers, officers, horses and wagons in the background.

SPRA 0164.02.10 Gabriel Basly fonds 164

 

RECRUITING

Recruiting, 1915.

Five men in World War I uniforms standing on the main street (100 Avenue) of Grande Prairie. Businesses visible in the background include the Crown Café, a pool hall, and a confectionary.

SPRA 555.04 Edith Mair fonds 555

 

TRAINING FOR BATTLE

WWI Soldiers on a Break, c.1917.

WWI soldiers at rest with their saddles, buildings in the background.

SPRA 589.04.14 Donald Gordon Morrison fonds 589

 

FORGING FRIENDSHIPS

Charlie T.M.Turner and Army Friend, ca. 1915. [Charlie Turner may be the man standing]

Chas. T.M.Turner and his army friend during WWI.

SPRA 2011.44.05 Turner Family fonds 478

 

LIFE AWAY FROM HOME

Soldiers Playing Cards, 1914 c.

Harry Tuffill playing cards with a group of World War I soldiers.

SPRA 0056.01.075-3 Harry Tuffill fonds 056

 

TRENCH WARFARE

WW1 Troops Sitting in a Trench, 1916.

The photograph shows soldiers, some injured, sitting in mud behind a trench wall. One is holding a stretcher, two men each have one arm in a sling.

SPRA 0194.02 Edward Heller fonds

 

NO MAN’S LAND

WW1 Troops Trudging Across a Muddy Field, 1916.

The photograph shows soldiers in the distance walking along a wired barricade through a very muddy field.

SPRA 0194.03 Edward Heller fonds

 

MEDICAL SERVICES

WWI Convalescent Hospital, 1918.

Patients and staff at “The Larches,” a WWI convalescent home at Paignton, Devon, England. Note on the back reads: “Shattock with best wishes from K.C. Gauney September 14, 1918.”

SPRA 1969.59.331

 

WAR’S END

Great War Veterans Picnic, Bear Lake, Alberta, 1920

Postcard showing a people gathering at Bear Lake for a picnic in honor of the Great War Veterans.

SPRA 0112.02.23 Croken-Tomshak family fonds 112

10 World War I Names Every Canadian Should Know

Sam Hughes

Sir Samuel Hughes was Canada’s Minister of Militia & Defense until November 1916. While some of his equipment choices ended in embarrassing fiascoes, he was the driving force behind Canada’s war effort early in the war.

Image Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography

 

John McCrae

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was the Canadian physician who penned the iconic war poem, In Flanders Fields. McCrae suffered greatly, both physically and mentally, as a result of his war experiences, and died as a result of fatigue and pneumonia in 1918.

Image Source: Wikipedia

 

Arthur Currie

General Sir Arthur William Currie became commander of the Canadian Corps after his success at Vimy Ridge, and he held that position for the remainder of the war. Currie’s fastidious planning in preparation for battle led to him being known as one of the finest generals of the war.

Image Source: Wikipedia

 

Billy Bishop

William Avery Bishop (from Owen Sound, Ontario) was the British Empire’s top flying ace in the First World War. He was officially credited with 72 victories.

Image Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia

 

“Chip” Kerr

Private John Chipman Kerr of Spirit River, Alberta, was awarded the Victoria Cross at Courcelette for single-handedly capturing 62 prisoners. There is a mountain named after Kerr in Jasper National Park.

Image Source: Memorials to Valour

 

George Lawrence Price

Pte. Price was a Canadian soldier in the 28th Battalion, Saskatchewan Regiment. During the liberation of Mons, Price was shot in the chest by a German sniper and became the last Allied soldier to be killed before the Armistice. He died at 10:58am, November 11, 1918.

Image Source: Wikipedia

 

Edith Cavell

Though not a Canadian, Edith Cavell was a figure who received international attention during the war. The courageous British nurse aided some 200 Allied soldiers in escaping from German-occupied Belgium and was shot by a German firing squad as a result. Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper National Park is considered to be one of the greatest climbs in North America.

Image Source: EdithCavell.org

 

Billy Barker

William George Barker was Canadian flying ace who achieved the status of “ace” during a 10-month stint on the Italian front. But it was on the Western front, near the end of the war, that Barker won a Victoria Cross for shooting down three of fifteen enemy aircraft that attacked him. Billy Barker is to this day the most highly decorated serviceman in the British Empire.

Image Source: Canoe.com

 

Roy Brown

Although Arthur Roy Brown had only ten aerial victories during the war, he was officially credited with having shot down the Red Baron. It remains controversial to this day whether it was in fact Brown who downed the Red Baron, or if it was ground fire. Regardless, the gallant manner in which he defended his friend Wop May in the dogfight earned him a Distinguished Service Cross.

Image Source: Wikipedia

 

Margaret C. MacDonald

Major Margaret MacDonald was the Matron-in-Chief of the Canadian Army Medical Corps Nursing Service. She was one of the founding members of the CAMC’s nursing service, and by the end of the war, more than 3,000 nursing sisters had served overseas.

Image Source: Life on the Home Front

 

Sources: Canadian War Museum, The Canadian Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, and South Peace Regional Archives

Battle Report: Archives Week and the Great War Gala

This week, the South Peace Regional Archives is celebrating Archives Week 2017: Alberta and the Great War.

The Archives staff have been hard at work curating a new display for the community room of the Grande Prairie Museum. This display features documents and photographs from the Archives collections and represents many aspects of the war, from recruitment and enlistment to discharge and celebration. It will adorn the community room for months to come and enhance the educational programming provided by the Grande Prairie Museum staff.

Meanwhile, Archives staff and Friends of the Archives volunteers are also busy preparing the finishing details of the upcoming Great War Gala. Archives staff created ten different displays featuring reproductions of archival records from our collections. Friends of the Archives volunteers designed tabletop decorations and silent auction displays. Both staff and volunteers are  looking forward to the musical performances from GPRC’s Fine Arts students and faculty, including: Kristina Alexander (mezzo-soprano), Jeremy Thielmann (piano), Brad Luna (trumpet), Breanna Girvan (soprano), Mackenzie Lowen (soprano), Kyle Friesen (baritone), and Mark Woodman (tenor).

Don’t miss out on your chance to celebrate with us; purchase your tickets for the Great War Gala today!