Visit this blog for regular posts about records at the Archives of Manitoba that date from the time of the First World War. Visit the Archives of Manitoba to see the records in person.

November 2017 Posts:

27 November 2017

Military service exemption for farmers – a letter to the Premier

Letter from E. O. Gautron to Premier  T. C. Norris
Archives of Manitoba, EC 0016 Premier’s office files, GR1665, Premier T. C. Norris pages 1129, G 530 file 1.

The Military Service Act was passed 29 August 1917 and introduced conscription in Canada. The new Act was a concern to Canadian farmers. Farmers had been tasked with producing more to support the war effort and were now being called to serve overseas as well. In response to these concerns, the law did not go into effect in farming communities until mid-October 1917 so that the 1917 harvest could be brought in. After that, individual cases were reviewed by exemption tribunals which determined whether the farmer was essential for carrying out the work on the land.

In a letter addressed to Premier T. C. Norris in November 1917, farmer E. O. Gautron [or Gantron?] notes that he was pleased to read in the newspaper that Norris encourages hog production but that this production is only possible if men can stay to work their farms. He has a farm of 240 acres in Haywood, Manitoba with 40 head of cattle, 30 pigs and 20 sows and expects to have 150 pigs in the Spring. He explains that he went before the exemption tribunal but was not exempted even though he does not have any brothers, has elderly parents and would need to sell the animals if he has to enlist.

Letter from Premier  T. C. Norris to E. O. Gautron
Archives of Manitoba, EC 0016 Premier’s office files, GR1665, Premier T. C. Norris pages 1130, G 530 file 1.

Premier Norris’ response five days later states that he agrees with Gautron; “it is very important that the farmers do not be robbed of the necessary help”. He writes that he has discussed the matter with various government ministers who, in turn, took it up with Minister of Militia, General Mewburn, who recently made a statement (which appeared in the newspaper that morning) that men required on farms would not be called on to serve overseas.

He provides further reassurance that “in your case I would not think that there is any danger of your having to go to the Front.”

The statement made by General Mewburn on 24 November, referred to in Norris’ response to Gautron, exempted all farmers’ sons and experienced farm labourers so that they would be available for the 1918 planting and harvest. He also promised a review of any judgements refusing these people’s exemptions. This came during the federal election campaign of November-December 1917 and is widely viewed as an attempt to win the rural farm vote by Prime Minister Robert Borden.

This exemption for farmers was lifted in April 1918 because of the great need for more soldiers. It is not known what this meant for E. O. Gautron but his letter to the premier of Manitoba, and the response he received, can be read, one hundred years later, at the Archives of Manitoba in the government records series, Premier’s office files.

Search Tip: Search “Premier’s office files” in Keystone for more information.

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20 November 2017

The S.S. Pelican

photo of the S.S. Pelican ship
S.S. Pelican, ca. 1910-1920, Arthur M. Irvine fonds, HBCA 2012/1/271.

As the First World War entered its fourth and final year, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) continued its trans-Atlantic shipping and purchasing business with European allied governments, employing over 250 ships. Some of these ships, between wartime business trips, continued their usual Arctic runs for the HBC, supplying posts and transporting furs for the HBC’s Fur Trade Department. Others were temporarily taken away from their fur trade duties and were fully in the service of European governments. The S.S. Pelican was one of these ships.

The Pelican was bought from the British Admiralty in 1901 and converted into a cargo carrying ship. From 1901 to 1915, it was used to supply HBC posts in the Arctic and Labrador, and to transport furs back to London. In 1915, the Pelican was employed in taking cargo from New York to England. From December 1916 until April 1918, it was fully in the service of the French government. During August 1918, while on a voyage from Canada to Great Britain on behalf of the British government, the Pelican successfully fought off a German submarine. Watch for a blog post on this story in the coming year.

After the war, the Pelican continued to ship goods in Europe, sailing between France, England and Russia. In May 1920, it left Cardiff to return to its duties in Hudson Bay and Labrador. On August 4, while en route between Port Burwell and Lake Harbour, it got caught in fog and suffered irreparable damage from ice. This was the Pelican’s last voyage.

Search Tip: To find more images and other records of HBC ships, search the ship’s name in Keystone.

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14 November 2017

Messages by Wire: Telegrams from the Time of the First World War

During the First World War, telegrams were the fastest way to send written communication. Telegrams were used by governments and war correspondents needing to communicate quickly and efficiently. They were often used to send notice of a soldier’s death, capture or wounding. Soldiers sent telegrams to let their families know of their travels or that they had survived a battle.

photo of a Canadian Pacific Railway Co.S Telegram from Charlie Francis. It reads 337 RA 776 MARONI. Field PO APL 36-17. BFM Francis, Headingly Manitoba. Safe. Charlie Francis.
“Safe.” Charles Francis sent this telegram home to Headingley weeks after the Battle of Vimy Ridge, 30 April 1917. Charles Ross Francis fonds, Correspondence, Telegram 30 April 1917, P304/2.

Telegrams, also known as wires or cables, were expensive to send which meant messages were brief, some words were shortened and ‘unnecessary’ words were left out. One hundred years later, telegrams provide an interesting comparison to current forms of fast, abbreviated communications.

Messages by Wire: Telegrams from the Time of the First World War
Messages by Wire: Telegrams from the Time of the First World War
B F M Francis. Headingly Man. Safe. Charlie Francis.
Archives of Manitoba, Charles Ross Francis fonds, Correspondence,
Telegram from Charlie Francis to his family in Headingley weeks after the Battle of Vimy Ridge, 30 April 1917, P304/2.
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Winnipeg Man Apr 22 1917. Mrs Frank Simmons. 19 West Liberty St Savannah GA. George killed   come home at once. Jack. 503 pm.
Archives of Manitoba, Battershill family fonds, Amelia and Frank Simmons correspondence,
Telegram from Jack Battershill to his sister Mrs. Frank (Amelia) Simmons, 22 April 1917, P7472/2.
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Winnipeg Man Apl 23 1917. Mrs F Simmons. 19 West Liberty St Savannah GA. Mother sick   come as soon as ready. Dad. 614 pm.
Archives of Manitoba, Battershill family fonds, Amelia and Frank Simmons correspondence,
Telegram from John Battershill to his daughter Mrs. Frank (Amelia) Simmons, 23 April 1917, P7472/2.
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Winnipeg Man Apl 30th 17. Frank Simmons Westinghouse Church Kerr CO. 37 Wall St New York. Mamma holding up fairly well   wants to see baby. Battershill. 250 p.
Archives of Manitoba, Battershill family fonds, Amelia and Frank Simmons correspondence,
Telegram to Frank Simmons, 30 April 1917, P7472/2.
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Montreal Feb 27th. G F B Livesay, Western Associated Press Winnipeg, Man. Opportunity to send Canadian press correspondant to the front. What do you think. J. S. Lewis.
J. F. B. Livesay fonds, Correspondence,
Telegram from J. S. Lewis to Livesay, 27 February 1915, P7595/7.
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Ottawa ONT Mar 2-15. E H Macklin. Western Assd Press. Winnipeg. War office desires nominations of one correspondent for entire dominion who will be permitted to go to the front from time to time. It is desired that all the press associations shall confer immediately and submit to the government the name of a suitable person. R L Borden.
J. F. B. Livesay fonds, Correspondence,
Telegram from Prime Minister Borden to E. H. Macklin, general manager of the Winnipeg Free Press, 2 March 1915, P7595/7.
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J.B.T.Livesay, Western Associated Press, Winnipeg. Would miss you sorely if you went nevertheless hope you succeed in landing the job. E. H. Macklin.
J. F. B. Livesay fonds, Correspondence,
Telegram from E. H. Macklin, general manager of the Winnipeg Free Press, to Livesay re the possibility of Livesay becoming a war correspondent, 3 March 1915, P7595/7.
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Winnipeg Man Oct 16-1915. Miss D. A. Russenholt, 385 Dufferin Ave., London Ont. Leaving tonight reach Toronto monday twelve thirty will wire there. Edgar. 7.46 pm.
Archives of Manitoba, Edgar S. Russenholt fonds, Correspondence,
Telegram from Ed Russenholt to his sister Drusilla regarding leaving Winnipeg to travel to the Western Front with the 44th Battalion, 16 October 1915, P2828/3.
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Ottawa Ont. June 1st/17. D. A. Russenholt, London, Ont. Replying to your telegram May 31st only information available Lieutenant Edgar Stanford Russenholt admitted no 5 British Red Cross Hospital Wimereux May 14th 1917 shell gas wound slight upon receipt of further information you will be advised. Officer I. C. Records. 2.46 pm.
Archives of Manitoba, Edgar S. Russenholt fonds, Correspondence,
Telegram to Ed Russenholt's sister Drusilla, 1 June 1917, P2828/5.
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(handwritten) Winnipeg July 6/17. Miss D. A. Russenholdt. Free Press gives Edgars name in list landed on Halifax yesterday. M. B. Scott.
Archives of Manitoba, Edgar S. Russenholt fonds, Correspondence,
Telegram to Drusilla Russenholt regarding her brother Edgar Russenholt's return to Canada after being wounded in the First World War, 6 July 1917, P2828/5.
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London Ont July 10 1917. Miss E Russenholt, Care Miss Scott, 303 Breadalbane Apts, Winnipeg. Arrive Winnipeg Thursday ten Pm. Edgar. 16 10 k.
Archives of Manitoba, Edgar S. Russenholt fonds, Correspondence,
Telegram from Ed Russenholt, 10 July 1917, P2828/5.
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The Pas Man June 1st-15. Premier Norris. Winnipeg Manitoba. Five thousand foreigners railway laborers demanding food work or transportation town unable to cope with situation immediate relief necessary. H Finger. Mayor.
Archives of Manitoba, EC 0016 Premier's office files, GR1665, Premier T. C. Norris pages 108-181,
Telegram from H. Finger, Mayor of The Pas to Premier T. C. Norris, 1 June 1915, G 528 file 5.
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Sewell Man June 24th. T C Norris, Premier of Manitoba, Winnipeg Man. No J P in camp to attest recruits Could you have captain Adams and self appointed and wire authority to act at once. J P Lyle, Member Legislative Assembly Saskatchewan. Lieut 9th C M R.
Archives of Manitoba, EC 0016 Premier's office files, GR1665, Premier T. C. Norris pages 108-181,
Telegram from Lieutenant J. P. Lyle to Premier T. C. Norris re military camp, Camp Sewell, 24 June 1915, G 528 file 5.
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Hon W. T. White, Minister of Finance, Ottawa. Reference your telegrams thirtieth ultimo and first instant in response thereto will ask the Legislature of the Province at the first Session hereafter to pass legislation exempting dominion war issue from all Provincial taxes of whatsoever kind of nature. Anxious to co-operate with your Government in any way possible to serve the interests of the Empire at this time. T. C. Norris, Premier.
Archives of Manitoba, EC 0016 Premier's office files, GR1665, Premier T. C. Norris pages 229-311,
Telegram from Premier T. C. Norris to Hon. W. T. White, Minister of Finance, Ottawa, 3 November 1915, G 528 file 7.
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Winnipeg, Man. Feb. 4, 1916. Rt. Hon. Sir R. L. Borden, G. C. M. G., K. C., Prime Minister, Ottawa, Ontario. The Legislature of the Province of Manitoba desire to express to you deepest regret and concern for the great calamity which has befallen Canada, in the burning of Parliament Buildings at Ottawa, and to convey our sincere sympathy for the families of those who have lost their lives and to those who themselves have been injured. T. C. Norris. Charge Executive Council. Manitoba Government.
Archives of Manitoba, EC 0016 Premier's office files, GR1665, Premier T. C. Norris pages 312-376,
Telegram from Premier T. C. Norris to Prime Minister Robert Borden, 4 February 1916, G 528 file 8.
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Ottawa Ont June 2nd-15. R D Waugh. 494 Stradbrook Ave Winnipeg Man. Sincerely regret inform you 14551 Private Richard D Waugh, Lord Strathcona Horse, formerly 6-th Battalion, officially reported wounded further particulars when received will be sent to you. Adjutant General.
Archives of Manitoba, Waugh family fonds, Waugh family history scrapbook created by Douglas Waugh,
Telegram to Winnipeg Mayor R. D. Waugh re his son, Private R. Douglas Waugh, wounded at the Battle of Festubert in 1915, P7973.
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14th July, 1915. Captain Forster, Yesrek, Liverpool. Both cables received. Does doctor confirm nurses opinion. How long does he think Waugh likely to live. Rush reply. Nanton. Rush cable to England. Chge. O.H. & N. Special Rush.
Archives of Manitoba, Waugh family fonds, Waugh family history scrapbook created by Douglas Waugh,
Telegram from Winnipeg to Captain Forster in England asking about Douglas Waugh, July 1915, P7973.
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Liverpool Sept 18.15, Nanton, Winnipeg. Surgeon reports Waugh out of danger confidently expect recovery stiff knee and shoulder congratulations parents. Forster.
Archives of Manitoba, Waugh family fonds, Waugh family history scrapbook created by Douglas Waugh,
Telegram from Captain Forster in England to Winnipeg reporting on Douglas Waugh's recovery, September 1915, P7973.
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r D Waugh, 494 Stradbrooke Ave, Winnipeg. 1580 deeply regret inform you Lieut Alexander Logan Waugh Cavalry officially reported killed in action Dec first nineteen seventeen. Dir of Records.
Archives of Manitoba, Waugh family fonds, “Alexander Logan Waugh. Lieutenant. Lord Strathcona's Horse (R. C.)” scrapbook created by Douglas Waugh,
Telegram informing former Winnipeg Mayor R. D. Waugh of the death of his son, Lieutenant Alexander Waugh, December 1917, P7974.
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Ottawa Ont Dec 15 17. R D Waugh. 494 Stradbrooke Ave Winnipeg Man. My colleagues and I send our deepest sympathy in the great bereavement you have sustained in the death of your gallant son. R L Borden. 1240p.
Archives of Manitoba, Waugh family fonds, “Alexander Logan Waugh. Lieutenant. Lord Strathcona's Horse (R. C.)” scrapbook created by Douglas Waugh,
Telegram from Prime Minister Borden to former Winnipeg Mayor R. D. Waugh sending “deepest sympathy”, December 1917, P7974.
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Together with our 1918 display, the Archives has also created a slideshow of telegrams from the war. The show can be viewed in the Archives’ foyer during business hours, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m and below.

The 20 telegrams featured were chosen from several collections of records at the Archives. Each was sent during the First World War. They include personal telegrams, often with news of Manitoba soldiers at the front; government telegrams from the files of Manitoba Premier T.C. Norris; and telegrams sent to the Canadian Press from war correspondent J.F.B. Livesay.

Search Tip: : Search “First World War” in Keystone to find a wide range of records.

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7 November 2017

1918: the last year of the war

By 1918, the First World War had been raging for almost 3 ½ years. Canadians had seen major battles and significant casualties and conscription had been enacted. Victory – and the end of the war – was not assured. Twelve months later the war was over and many Canadians remained in Europe to assist with the transition from war to peace.

SELECTED RECORDS FROM THE LAST YEAR OF THE WAR. By 1918, the First World War had been raging for almost 3 1/2 years. Canadians had seen major battles and significant casualties and conscription had been enacted. Victory - and the end of the war - was not assured. Twelve months later the war was over and many Canadians remained in Europe to assist with the transition from war to peace. This display features a selection of letters, diary entries and photographs documenting nine Manitobans serving overseas in 1918. These Manitobans include soldiers, officers and a nursing sister. The letters and diaries were written in the trenches, in hospital beds and in training barracks and provide both censored and un-censored accounts. The photographs provide a glimpse of the in-dividuals and their surroundings. This display traces the pro-gression of the year and the war, through winter, spring, summer, fall, Armistice (11 November) and the weeks following. These records are a small selection of records from the Archives of Manitoba related to the First World War. Search the Keystone database or visit our research room to find out more about these and other collections of records from the time of the First World War.
ARMISTICE 11 NOVEMBER 1918.
“A fine day – Armistice at 11. a.m.” Clarence Boswell, 11 November 1918. “Nov 11. Peace declared. Made a night of it”. James Uhlman, 11 November 1918. “The Belgian people are treating us first rate. We couldn't wish for better. Beds with white sheets every night. We are billeted right in their homes. They are very sociable and do everything they can for us.” Campbell Millar, 12 November 1918. “VICTORY is Ours…As I write these words the London uns have begun firing and cheers are breaking out everywhere/ To realize that horrible nightmare of nearly 5 years is over is not yet possible.” R.M. Dennistoun, 11 November 1918. “Yesterday we marched right through the city of Mons and the Germans were getting out on the ther side… One woman gave me some fried potatoes and I ate them on her steps…” George Hambley, 11 November 1918.
Panels from the new hallway display, 1918, at the Archives of Manitoba. (PDF)

This week, the Archives of Manitoba launches its final display in a series of First World War displays. This display, entitled “1918: the last year of the war” features a selection of letters, diary entries and photographs documenting nine Manitobans serving overseas in 1918. These Manitobans include soldiers, officers and a nursing sister.  The letters and diaries were written in the trenches, in hospital beds and in training barracks and provide both censored and uncensored accounts. The photographs provide a glimpse of the individuals and their surroundings.

This display traces the progression of the year and the war, through winter, spring, summer, fall, Armistice (11 November) and the weeks following to the end of the year. The display includes transcripts so that visitors can read the full text of the letters and diaries featured.

Visit the Archives of Manitoba to see this display or to see other records related to the First World War. We are located at 200 Vaughan Street in Winnipeg, and we are open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Search Tip: Search “First World War” in Keystone to find a wide range of records.

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6 November 2017

Cavalryman and diarist George Hambley at Passchendaele

George Hambley was another Manitoban who witnessed the battle of Passchendaele although he was not as involved as he had been seven months earlier at the battle of Vimy Ridge. (See the blogs of 23 March 2017 and 11 April 2017 for more information.) Recently returned to the field after a hospital stay, he took care of the horses while many of his fellow cavalryman had been sent with working parties up the line.

cover of George Henry Hambley's diary. The cover is black with no writing on it. The inner  the diary has writing : “Geo. H. Hambley Can. Light Horse. Diary. Sept 30th 1917. No 7. When he sent his great voice forth out of his breast, and his words fell like the winter snows, nor then would any mortal contend with Ulysses - Homer's Iliad - Preface to speeches and letters by Abraham Lincoln”
Archives of Manitoba, George Henry Hambley fonds, Diary (#7), 30 September 1917 23 November 1917, P7413/7.

Hambley recorded his experiences in his diary as he did for the rest of the war, and the rest of his life. Like many soldiers at Passchendaele, his first observations were about the mud!

two pages in George Henry Hambley's handwritten diary
Archives of Manitoba, George Henry Hambley fonds, Diary (#7), 30 September 1917 23 November 1917, P7413/7.

“A most beastly hole – mud about a foot deep everywhere – tent pitched on very damp ground and frogs beetles and bugs galore infest the place. The horse lines are paved with brick but everywhere else the mud is fierce – the ditches are all full of water…”

In what seems to be an account inserted at a later date, Hambley records some of the experiences of his fellow cavalrymen, writing about Tommy (Thompson) and Pete Stewart who walked past a big tent where bodies were packed in rows one on top of the other and:

two pages in George Henry Hambley's handwritten diary
Archives of Manitoba, George Henry Hambley fonds, Diary (#7), 30 September 1917 23 November 1917, P7413/7.

“Pete Stewart said ‘My God I wouldn’t want to be put in there’ but then he had his leg blown off and he said ‘give me a cigarette boys. I might as well be happy’ or some joke like that. Sure enough they did take his body back to that terrible morgue place. But Pete died like a hero – never a whimper or a complaint. ‘He was a real man.’ Gosh, Tommy said – ‘That was a terrible place for mud. When a shell tore a big hole it would be filled up with water in a few minutes and woe betide anyone who slid down into a shell hole. There were more men lost in the mud I think than were killed by the guns. We should never have been in there at all. The death toll there was terrible.’”

As the Canadian Light Horse left Passchendaele and the Ypres front, Hambley reflected:

two pages in George Henry Hambley's handwritten diary
Archives of Manitoba, George Henry Hambley fonds, Diary (#7), 30 September 1917 23 November 1917, P7413/7.

“The regiment will not soon forget Passchendaele – especially those who went in on either of the three working parties – I did not have the privilege but would have liked to have been on the machine gun party with Yates.”

For Hambley and the Canadian Light Horse there were more battles ahead.

Search Tip: Search “George Hambley” in Keystone for more information.

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