Soldier Spotlight: James & Dorothy Eastman

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: 19393
Rank: Private
Branch: 9th Battalion; 14th Battalion; 1st Division Cycle Company; Canadian Corps Cyclist Battalion

James was born in Grenfell, Saskatchewan in March of 1899. He later moved to the Edmonton area with his parents. In order to enlist in the Canadian army in 1914, James lied about his age, stating that he had been born in 1896. In September of 1915 James was put in confinement to await trial for having left his post before being relieved. He was sentenced to six months of hard labor; however, this order was revoked in October.  James was engaged in the battle of the Somme, the Second Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele, Mons, and Vimy Ridge, and was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery. This award was noted in the London Gazette on March 11, 1919.

At some point, possibly while on leave, James met Miss Dorothy Margaret Thomas, a Red Cross volunteer, in London (see a page from her Red Cross records above).  Dorothy was an Englishwoman, born in London on September 19, 1901.  They were married in the parish church of St. Barnabas Southfields in London in March of 1919.  Following the wedding, the sailed for Canada and eventually made their way to the South Peace.  In 1923, James filed on a homestead at SE34-70-11-W6, near Halcourt.  They remained on the farm for many years and raised seven children.

When World War II was declared in 1939, James once again volunteered to serve.  This time he served as a sergeant of the detention barracks in England.

James died in Halcourt on October 4, 1964.  After his death, Dorothy moved to Victoria.  She died there on July 7, 1990.

Source: Beaverlodge to the Rockies p. 340

A page from James’s military service file (Library & Archives Canada). The note at the bottom reads: “Man says feet do not bother him except on standing on hard pavement any length of time.  Feet flattened but no disability on marching 8 or 10 miles.  After that they tired and ache.”

Soldier Spotlight: Helen Mary “Nellie” Craig

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.

Force: R. C. A. F. (W. D.)

Nellie Craig was born in Scotland in 1920 to parents James and Sibella (Muir) Craig. With her parents and 3 siblings she immigrated to Canada and settled in the Peace River Country in 1930. The parents rented farms in the Wembley area for 13 years, and the children attended Hermit Lake School and the Klondyke Trail School. Both Nellie and her brother, Charlie, served in World War II. Nellie enlisted in June 1942 with the Women’s Air Force, and she was posted in Davidson, Saskatchewan and Penhold, Alberta in the Post Office Division. Previously, Helen had worked at the Wembley post office for 3 years. Upon her discharge in May 1945, Helen worked as the secretary for the Assistant Minister of Education in Edmonton. In November 1948 she married James Coulson, and the couple had two children: Tom and Maureen. Nellie died at age 85 in May 2006 in Edmonton.

Photograph: The Craig family, from Along the Wapiti, p. 213

Source:
Along the Wapiti p. 213 (story & photograph); p. 412 (Name in WWII Veterans list)
Lake Saskatoon Reflections p. 122-124
AGS website – Obituary Index

Soldier Spotlight: Philias Durand

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: 736927
Rank: Private
Branch: 43rd Battalion

Philias was born on June 17, 1888 in Wotton, Wolfe County, Quebec. It is unknown when he first came out west.  In 1913, there was an explosion in the mine where Philias was working in Fernie, British Columbia. His skull was fractured and he suffered from headaches as a result; not surprisingly, the headaches worsened after joining the army. Philias was wounded at Vimy Ridge in January of 1917; he fractured the middle finger of his right hand and there was shrapnel in his right elbow and left leg. He was also struck in the head and was unconscious for four hours after being wounded and had two fits on the way to England. Philias was sent to a convalescent home in Edmonton, and discharged on November 30, 1917. Numerous disabilities were listed on his discharge paper: loss of function in his right hand, dizziness, pains in his head, poor memory, fits, nervousness, and weakness in his left leg. In the board’s opinion, Philias was mentally deficient. After discharge, in 1918, he settled in the Elmworth area (3-70-11-W6) with his Irish wife. Philias died on February 26, 1962 at the Shaughnessy Hospital, Vancouver.

Philias’s entire military service file has been digitized by Library & Archives Canada.

A page from Philias’s military service file (Library & Archives Canada)

Soldier Spotlight: Frederick Bruce Albright

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.

Service Number: R76714
Force: Air
Regiment: Royal Canadian Air Force
Rank: Flight Sergeant

Bruce Albright was born March 2, 1914, the son of Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Albright of Beaverlodge, AB. At age 26 in 1940 he enlisted in the RCAF as a pilot, and was stationed in Yorkton, SK. On August 16, 1941 Bruce was given his wings. He was sent overseas and took part in at least two big German raids. According to a news article, Bruce was captain of a Wellington bomber, and promoted to Flight Sergeant on June 1, 1941. It is believed that he was killed in action on June 2, 1942 while being east of Brussels in Belgium. Bruce was the first communicant of the United Church in Beaverlodge to give his life in WWII.  He is remembered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Source: Grande Prairie Herald Aug. 28, 1941; Sept. 4, 1941; Aug 27, 1942; Nov. 25, 1943; Beaverlodge High Year Book 1947-48 p.26

Photograph: Bruce Albright and his woodpile, 1928

Soldier Spotlight: Private John Kneafsey

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: 155105
Rank: Private
Branch: 1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion; Canadian Forestry Corps

John was born in Glendale, Minnesota on May 5, 1878. In 1913, he filed on a homestead at NW4-74-8-W6.  A newspaper headline from October 5, 1915 reads that “For the Third Time this Pioneer Country Has Responded to the Call for Volunteers;” John was listed among these volunteers, having enlisted at Lake Saskatoon on September 20, 1915. On June 14, 1916, John received shrapnel wounds to his right side while in the trenches at Ypres. He notes in a letter sent to a friend back home that “I was lucky as I was able to walk as my wound did not bleed much.”  John was much impressed with the care he received while in hospital.  He also had several weeks’ leave in Ireland; John did not feel he needed so much leave, but “the officer said it would do me good, so I went.” Some time after this injury, John was transferred to the Canadian Forestry Corps. In February of 1918, John was thrown off a truck and suffered from a concussion and a fractured clavicle. After this injury, he became forgetful;. the medical notes in John’s service file note that he appeared and acted more like a man of 70 than of 40. John was later diagnosed with dementia and arteriosclerosis, and in October he was sent back to Canada on a hospital ship. He died “by apoplexy at Cobourg Military Hospital” in Ontario on May 15, 1919, and was buried in Credit River (St. Peter’s Cemetery), Minnesota.

John’s entire military service file has been digitized by Library & Archives Canada.

Read a letter John wrote to a friend back home just months before he was injured the second time.

Notes from John’s service file (Library & Archives Canada)

Notes from John’s service file (Library & Archives Canada)

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.