Soldier Spotlight: Private John Blonke

Image: Notes in John’s military service file about his jaw injury (Library & Archives Canada)

Regimental Number: 2382745
Rank: Private
Branch: Canadian Forestry Corps

John was born in Russia on January 26, 1897. He was living in Brown, Manitoba when he was drafted in 1918; having been drafted so late in the war, he served only in England. According to his service file, John’s lower jaw was fractured on May 30, 1919 while fighting a civilian in Scotland (the civilian assaulted him). John came to the Crystal Creek area in 1928 and bought Henry Fortier’s land. In 1942, he married Kathleen Stelfox. John died in 1972 and was buried in the Grande Prairie cemetery.

Sources: Grande Prairie Cemetery; Smoky River to Grande Prairie p. 87

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Soldier Spotlight: Sergeant Frederick Bohn

Image: Male members of the Sexsmith Legion. One photograph identified as Edgar Henning, Stanley Kulicki, Jock Thomson, Adam Grotkowski, ?, George “Knobby” Clark, Joe Shannon (seated), Fred Bohn, Charlie Stojan, Andy Innes, Danny Rycroft, Gordon Mates, Matt Chrenek. C. 1960. (SPRA 644.01.13)

Regimental Number: 441184
Rank: Sergeant
Branch: 53rd Battalion; 32nd Battalion; 5th Battalion; 15th Canadian Reserve Battalion

Fred was born in Rosehill, Manitoba on October 29, 1886. He joined the Canadian forces in 1915. In May of 1916 a shell exploded near him and he received shrapnel wounds to his face and right eye. At this time it was also discovered that he had deformed toes and ingrown toenails, a painful ailment for a soldier. Fred was back in hospital for trench foot in November 1916, and it is noted on his medical records that he was very pale and suffering from fainting spells. On September 14, 1918, Fred was promoted to the rank of sergeant. Toward the end of the war, he volunteered to go to northern Russia, and it was late summer 1919 before he returned to Canada. At that time Fred came up to the LaGlace area and purchased SW 10-74-8-6. While in England during the war, Fred had met Agnes Gibson, an English girl, and the couple was married in January 1921 in Bridgeport, Connecticut at the home of Agnes’s uncle. They returned to the farm in LaGlace. Fred died in LaGlace in April of 1968.

Sources: Wagon Trails Grown Over p. 1147; LaGlace Yesterday and Today p.65; Buffalo Trails p. 206, 261

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Soldier Spotlight: Private Arthur Barre

Image: Car stuck on a muddy road, with three men attempting to move it, ca. 1925 (SPRA 2002.54.48)

Regimental Number: 3207612
Rank: Private
Branch: 49th Battalion

Arthur was born in Pipestone, Manitoba on November 10, 1891. He was living in Redcliff, Alberta when he was drafted in March of 1918. Arthur forfeited 21 days’ pay for missing parade on December 14, 1918 at 9:00AM. See pages 29 and 31 of Arthur’s service file for information about his family. In 1920, Arthur came to the South Peace and filed on homesteads at SW 26-72-12-W6, SW 22-72-12-W6, and NE 24-72-12-W6. He married Margaret O’Connel in 1925. Arthur was a mail carrier between Hythe and Goodfare for about eighteen years. His car “was the only car around to have license plates on it, and it was a common practice among those who owned a car to borrow Art’s license plates to make a trip to town.” Arthur continued to farm in the Goodfare area until his retirement in 1952. Arthur was hospitalized in Calgary for some time before his death on January 11, 1955.

Sources: surname file; Pioneer Round Up p. 63

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Soldier Spotlight: Lance Corporal James Barclay

Image: A diagram of James’s wounds from his military service file (Library & Archives Canada)

Regimental Number: 467403
Rank: Lance Corporal
Branch: 29th Battalion

James was born in Darlingford, Manitoba on April 1, 1887. In 1915, he filed on a homestead at SW 31-70-11-W6; that same year he traveled to Edmonton and enlisted in the Canadian Army. His medical examination prior to enlisting was conducted in Spirit River. In December of 1916, James received a minor wound to his foot. He was also shot in the right forearm in August of 1917, this time quite a serious injury. The bone was fractured and became infected. The arm was operated on to do a nerve suture (see page 24 for a diagram of the wounds). James was invalided to Canada in December of 1918. According to the present address card in his service file, James was living in Edmonton in 1922. James died of a heart attack at the Dreamland Theatre in Edmonton on October 30, 1954.

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Soldier Spotlight: George & Cecile MacKenzie

Image: excerpt from Cecile’s military service file (Library & Archives Canada)

George Fraser MacKenzie

Regimental Number: 2109822
Rank: Private
Branch: 8th Canadian Field Ambulance, Canadian Army Medical Corps

Cecile Leonore McKibben MacKenzie

Rank: Nursing Sister
Branch: Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Sister Reserve; Canadian Army Medical Corps


George was born in Hamilton, Ontario on November 9, 1891. He came to the Peace region over the Edson Trail in 1914 and filed on homesteads at 24-77-6-W6 and 19-77-5-W6. George enlisted in the Canadian army in February of 1917 and served for many months as an ambulance bearer in the trenches.

Cecile was born in Glanford, Ontario on August 2, 1883. She enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps in March of 1918, having resigned from the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Sister Reserve. Cecile served in the following hospitals:

-No. 13 and 14 General Hospitals (France, March 1917 until March 1918, prior to enlisting in the Canadian army)
-No. 15 Canadian General Hospital (Clivedon, England)
-No. 10 Canadian General Hospital (Brighton, England)

Cecile’s British records state that she was “a good surgical nurse, but slow. Very reliable and conscientious. And most kind to the patients.”

On November 11, 1919, Cecile married George MacKenzie. They had met at a military hospital in England while George was convalescing. The couple had two children. George enlisted in the Air Force in 1941; Cecile joined him in Ontario where he was stationed. Son Hugh and daughter Virginia both joined the Air Force as well; Hugh was killed in action in 1944. George and Cecile returned to the South Peace after the war, where she filed on SW 24-77-6-W6. Cecile died in 1954 and was buried in the White Mountain Cemetery. George continued to farm until 1959, then moved to Vancouver to live with his daughter and her family. George died in 1977.

Sources: Memories & Moments p. 111

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Soldier Spotlight: Private Arthur Buck

Image: Arthur Buck writes, “One of the steamers I came up here on. It is at Athabaska Landing, Alberta, 1911.” (SPRA 298.17)

Regimental Number: 101075
Rank: Private
Branch: 66th Battalion; 49th Battalion

Arthur Buck was born December 11, 1889. He filed on N.W. 33-72-8 on Dec 12, 1911. He enlisted in the Canadian army on 22 July, 1915 and served in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. Arthur received a gunshot wound to his left forearm at the Somme on October 11, 1916. He died at the No. 44 Casualty Clearing Station on November 1, 1917 from shrapnel wounds in the chest and shoulders and is buried in Nine Elms British Cemetery, Poperinghe, Belgium. Arthur’s grave marker is inscribed with “It is not death but sleep.”

Arthur Buck in hospital, 1916 (SPRA 298.38)

Arthur Buck makes a bear cub stand on its hind legs, ca. 1912 (SPRA 298.16)

 

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

The Sawdust Fusiliers

Image: A group of six men traveling by horse and wagon from Grande Prairie to Athabasca to enlist with the R.N.W.M.P. at the beginning of WWI.  Harlie Conrad, who later served with the CFC, is at the far left.  1914 (SPRA 356.03.08)

With Remembrance Day just around the corner, we’re revisiting a past Telling Our Stories article about the Canadian Forestry Corps in World War I. This article was contributed by Archives volunteer Kaylee Dyck and appeared in the March 2020 issue. Kaylee researched First World War veterans of the South Peace in order to complete the Archives’ online World War I Soldier’s Memorial.

Forests play a crucial role in Canada’s history and economy. In times of war, this has been particularly true; after all, 40% of Canada is wooded land. During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain imported tremendous amounts of timber from Canada to build up the Royal Navy. When the Great War began, Britain wanted not only the timber, but Canada’s lumbermen as well.

At the start of the war, timber was shipped across the Atlantic. However, limited space aboard existing ships and the threat of U-boat attacks prompted change. In February of 1916, the British government requested that 1,500 skilled lumbermen be sent from Canada to harvest forests in England and Scotland (and, later, in France). The 224th Battalion produced its first sawn lumber in England within three months. It soon became apparent that more than one battalion would be needed to keep up with the demands of war. On November 14, 1916, the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) was officially established. By the end of the war, the CFC was a force of over 30,000 men, including some foreign labourers and German POWs.

When the CFC was first formed, the army preferred experienced men like Jack Cummins, who homesteaded between Sexsmith and La Glace after the war.  Jack had been logging in British Columbia when he decided to join the CFC, and he was assigned to a company in France. In August 1918, he was one of 1,300 forestry men who volunteered for active service in aid of the final push that led to the end of the war.

As the war dragged on, the CFC needed more and more men. Men previously deemed unfit for active service at the front lines were now welcomed to the CFC. Many lied about their age, desperate to “do their bit.” William Paige of East Pouce Coupe gave his age as 17 when he enlisted, and though the recruitment officer believed him to be even younger, William was able to join the CFC. At the opposite end of the spectrum were those who were overage but unwilling to let the young fellows do all the work. Omer Dupont of Goodfare was 54 years of age when he was enlisted (he claimed to be ten years younger). Omer served with the CFC until April of 1918, despite suffering from rheumatism. Herman Klukas was transferred to the Corps after sustaining injuries at Passchendaele and Ypres. Flat feet and the lingering effects of a gas attack landed Walter Bowen, a Beaverlodge farmer, in the Forestry Corps. This motley crew of the too-young, too-old, and injured would disprove the critics and become the backbone of the Allied effort.

The CFC produced an estimated 70% of all Allied lumber during the war. This lumber was used to construct trenches, duck boards, telegraph poles, troop shelters, ammunition boxes, aircraft, guns, rail lines, bridges, roads, and countless other necessities of war. The CFC operated 151 logging camps in Britain and France, and was made up almost entirely of Canadian men, machinery, and methods. In most cases, locals greatly admired these hardworking lumbermen. The press described them as having “the bronzed, healthy look and the easy confident swing which we have learned to look for in Canadians.” The royals too were great supporters of the Forestry Corps; Princess Anne acted as an informal patron, and King George V donated Windsor Great Forest to the war effort.

Over time, the CFC became more sophisticated. In 1917, the CFC began to farm its own plots of land in order to become more self-sufficient, rather than taking valuable rations away from those at the front. Also that year, a training camp was opened for the men who had no previous experience in the logging industry. No amount of training or experience, however, could prevent accidents. Two South Peace men, Herbert Stewart and Thomas Rice, sustained injuries while serving with the CFC. Herbert joined the Forestry Corps in England after receiving shrapnel wounds and showing signs of shell shock. In March of 1918, a log fell from a wagon onto his leg, causing a serious fracture and resulting in a permanent limp. Thomas’s injury was less serious; he slipped on ice and his foot became “jammed between the log and the carriage and the skidway.”

By the end of the war, at least 75 men from the South Peace region had served with the Forestry Corps. For some, serving in the CFC marked the beginning of a new path in life. George Nowry, once a barber, used the skills he had learned during the war to take over a sawmill in Grande Prairie in 1921. Researchers can visit the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial to learn about Nowry and others who served in the Canadian Forestry Corps. A list of local CFC veterans can be viewed on the Archives’ blog.

Without the work of the Canadian Forestry Corps, the Allies would have suffered from a serious lack of supplies. The outcome of the war might have been very different without their efforts. While most of those who served far behind the front lines were spared from the atrocities that the soldiers in the trenches witnessed, the labour and dedication of these Sawdust Fusiliers was no less significant.

In 1915, Herman Klukas enlisted in the 66th Battalion of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment for World War I. This photograph was taken while he was serving in France, in 1917. (SPRA 635.01.01)

Soldier Spotlight: Sergeant George Hollingworth

Image: The Teepee Creek Stampede showing chuck wagon races, ca. 1948 (SPRA 2009.023.08)

Regimental Number: 14727
Rank: Sergeant
Branch: Fort Garry Horse; Corps of Military Police

George “Rusty” was born in Eckington, Derbyshire, England on August 17, 1890. In 1905 he came to Canada alone to join his brother in Winnipeg. He enlisted in the Canadian army in Valcartier in September of 1914. In September of 1915, Rusty felt foreign matter in right eye, he was unsure if it was dirt or piece of shell (the incident took place at Armentieres). He was sent to England in November and the doctor found that he had an ulcer caused by the presence of the foreign matter. Rusty spent a few months in hospital as a result and afterward served with military police in England. In 1919 Rusty filed on a homestead in the Teepee Creek area (7-74-3-W6 and 17-74-3-W6). A year later, in 1920, Rusty and his wife Gladys came by train to Sexsmith and settled on their homestead. Rusty was president of the Teepee Creek Stampede for a number of years, and in the 1940s trained 16 local girls who became known as the Teepee Creek Riding Girls. Rusty died on July 19, 1981.

Sources: Wagon Trails Grown Over, p. 1147, 906, Buffalo Trails p. 261; see articles in surname files

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Soldier Spotlight: Major John Anderson

Image: note about John’s Military Cross from his military service file (Library & Archives Canada)

Regimental Number: 1958
Rank: Major
Branch: 19th Alberta Dragoons; 5th Battalion

John was born on January 19, 1885 in Glasgow, Scotland. He filed on a homestead at 22-74-8-W6 in 1914, but joined up later that year. John was awarded the Military Cross on October 8, 1915 “For conspicuous gallantry near Messines on 8th October, 1915, when he went out with Private Wythe to a German sap. Lieutenant Anderson entered the sap, and Private Wythe crept along the edge. They met and shot two Germans, exchanged shots with three others, and brought back the rifles of the men they had killed. Next day they returned to the sap, and attacked another party of Germans, who retired, leaving a clock, some bombs, a periscope, etc., behind. These they brought in. Much valuable information was gained.” On April 9, 1917 at Vimy Ridge, John received shrapnel wounds to his left jaw, which chipped the bone, and also to his neck. He was killed in action at Passchendaele on November 10, 1917, the final day of a 102-day battle.

Sources: Buffalo Trails p. 220

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Soldier Spotlight: Private Samuel “Dean” Hodgins

Image: The Lake Saskatoon Baseball Team in 1912. Standing: Leonard Eisenmann, Charlie Richardson, George Stoll, Charlie Stoll, Sel McAusland, and Max English. Seated: Roy Stokes, Dean Hodgins, Percy Perraton, Ulia Douglass, Walter Eaton, Hermann Reidrick, and Jimmy Loudfoot, bat-boy. (SPRA 032.08.08.0749)

Regimental Number: 101240
Rank: Private
Branch: 66th Battalion; 8th Battalion

Dean Hodgins was born in Port Rowan, Ontario on February 15, 1888. At the time of his enlistment in September of 1915, he was living in Grande Prairie (his homesteads were located at 36-71-7-W6 and 31-71-6-W6). A letter from the front written by Private Keith in July of 1916 suggested that Dean had had “cold feet.” Articles were published soon afterward to give the true story (see the attached news clippings) and suggested that the previous accusation was made out of spite. Shortly afterward, in September of 1916, Dean went missing in action, though this was not reported until March of 1917. It was later discovered that Dean had been killed during an attack on enemy trenches near Courcelette on September 26, 1916, just three months after arriving in France.

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.