Click on the image above to access the Gateway to Northwestern Ontario History database and click on the Community Contributions link to upload and share your photos, documents, and stories related to the First World War and Thunder Bay.
The Fort William Daily Times Journal and the Port Arthur Daily News respectfully solicited letters from soldiers at the front - or extracts therefrom - during the First World War. Any reader who had a letter from a relative or friend with the British, French or Russian forces was invited to submit said letter for publication to the community.
In September of 1916 there were many escapes from prisoner-of-war camps, both located in Germany. The first men who escaped were James Jerry Burke, whose name was later found to be James Gerry Burke, along with Pte. H. Tustin, escaping on September 5th. From that same camp, Harry Saunderson escaped, but on a completely different day and with no knowledge of the other men's escape. Lastly, there were two more men that escaped who ended up meeting Burke and Tustin in Holland, named Lance Corporal Edwards and Pte. M.C. Simonds. Later on, Simonds was found to be named Pte. Melvin Cecil Simmons. Unlike the other stories, these two men escaped from a completely different prison in Germany but still in the month of September in 1916. This story has been researched and written by Jake Alfieri, based on accounts and information published in local newspapers at the time.
This photo shows the 141st Battalion Drum Band, including Harry Auld. Harry came from a family in Fort William Ontario and enlisted in 1916. He became a member of the drum band and was later gassed at Passchaendale. He served as a machine gunner during the First World War, survived and went home to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway. This photo was left to his son as part of his estate.
Private Peter Belanger was a runner (messenger) with the 52nd Battalion and was wounded in action. Private Augustin (Gus) Belanger, with the 52nd Battalion, was killed in action on May 25, 1917. He was awarded the Military Medal Posthumously, the citation reads: "On June the 5, 1916, this man carried important despatches to the front line companies crossing a mile and
a half of open country under intensely heavy shell fire. Although buried in a trench by the debris from the bursting shell fire, he continued his journey, twice coming under machine gun fire, and safely delivered the despatches. During the whole period of the 3rd to 14th June 1916, his conduct in delivering messages was most conspicuous."
Private Peter Belanger (left) 52nd Battalion,Private Augustin (Gus) Belanger (right) 52nd Battalion, Military Medal, both from Fort William First Nation, Ontario.
Photo Credit: Library & Archives Canada/Thunder Bay Military Museum.
Frederic Ernest Breckon was born in Whitewood, SK on April 10 1891. He died in Fort William ON, December 26, 1944. Fred grew up in Fort Frances, ON, where he met Ada Wilkes. She was born in Minnesota (Virginia City) on July 29, 1896. Theirs was a love story and Ada promised to wait for Fred after he signed up for the Great War in Winnipeg in 1914.
Ada waited for four years in Fort Frances, working three jobs, at a theatre, pharmacy and as a telephone operator. Fred was captured early in the war at Ypres, France, where he was gassed and bayonetted in the leg, and nearly finished off in the battle field by a German soldier. A German officer, who was educated and spoke English, saved his life and offered him a cigarette and spoke with him.
He was a prisoner of war from 1914-1918 as described in his book “In the Hands of the Hun” published after the war in 1919 by the Fort Frances Press. He returned to Fort Frances, and Ada, to a parade welcome, and they were married in 1919.
Also available here are Fred's Attestation Papers through Library and Archives Canada and the full text of his book, In the Hands of the Hun (1919). The images below are linked to a more detailed accounting of his story and to photos, postcards, and documents that have been provided courtesy of Marilyn Bellin, granddaughter of Fred Breckon: for the Breckon family.
John James Carrick
Click on the image above for a brief article and additional photos
Reginald Leo Anthony Carroll
Regimental Number – 438490 - 52nd Battalion, Port Arthur, Ontario
Reg Carroll was born in 1897 in Rolphton, Ontario, on the Ontario- Quebec border, just west of the Ottawa River. It was often said that he enlisted in the Unit when he was 16 years of age. Reg came to Fort William, Ontario looking for work. Most of his siblings did the same. One of his siblings was Herbert Carroll, who eventually became the Post Master of the Fort William Post Office (The Herb Carroll Senior Centre was named after him). Reg was killed in action on April 2, 1917 at Vimy Ridge. Father Reg Carroll, long-time priest of the Thunder Bay Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, was named in memory of Reginald Carroll.
Contributed by Larry Warwick. The photo of Reg Carroll to the left is linked to his Attestation Papers through Library & Archives Canada. The photo of Reg Carroll's gravestone to the right is linked to his Burial Record through the Commonwealth Graves Commission.
Edward Campbell Currie
In a letter addressed to the Thunder Bay Public Library, Barbara Larsen shares information about the story of Edward Campbell Currie. Click here to view a draft document entitled "Who Was Edward Campbell Currie?". This document contains information about the relatives mentioned in his war time letters as well as some history of places that Edward referred to in those letters. Scanned copies of the letters can be accessed through the Gateway to Northwestern Ontario History.
Little information is available about Pte Joe DeLaronde; the newspaper article linked above outlines his accomplishments in service during the First World War. DeLaronde came from Nipigon and joined the 52nd Battalion out of Fort William, ON.
James Arnold Dickie was born in Grandview, Manitoba on February 10 1893. He trained as a pharmacist/druggist and worked for the Vancouver Drug and Chemical Company from 1910-1914. He enlisted in the Manitoba Regiment on January 27, 1916, but in September 1917 he transferred to the RFC as a 2nd Lieutenant. After flight training in England on the Maurice Farman Shorthorn and Armstrong Whitworth FK3 he progressed to the BE2e and FE2b. He does not appear to have flown any combat missions and likely served as a flying instructor. He returned to Canada after the war in 1919, and in 1925 moved to Fort William where he opened a drug store. When the Fort William Aero Club was formed he became its chief instructor. Dickie was also active in aviation outside the city as the secretary-manager of the Canadian Flying Clubs Association, which had been formed to promote aviation across the country. He was recognized as an extremely competent instructor, well thought of by the Club members, and his death in a training accident in September 1930 came as a major blow to the club. He had married J. Henderson Burnett of Perth, Ontario in 1929, and they had one son who was born shortly after his father’s death.
Hector Fraser Dougall was born in Winnipeg in 1897 to William Dougall, a carriage builder, and his wife Isabel. He enlisted in the 221st Infantry Battalion in Winnipeg in March 1916 and served in Canada for 14 months. Unlike many of his contemporaries he did not go overseas with the CEF before transferring to the RFC, instead he enlisted as a trainee pilot in May 1917 in Toronto. Following basic pilot training he received his wings on August 19, 1917. Later that year he sailed to England where he was posted to 46 Squadron with effect from December 2. In mid-December he crashed and spent several weeks in hospital, but by late January 1918 he was back flying a Sopwith Camel in 54 Squadron, which was operating over the Somme sector of the Western Front. The records show him to have been an aggressive, determined pilot always ready to take on enemy fliers. While attacking a pair of German machines on February 26, 1918, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire, which caused head injuries and left Dougall with a piece of shrapnel in his leg. Passing in and out of consciousness he was able to land the plane, but on the wrong side of the lines and he was taken prisoner. After some rudimentary surgery, which included one of his fellow prisoners removing the shrapnel with a knife, he recovered sufficiently that he made several escape attempts as he and other RFC prisoners were being moved to a permanent camp in Germany. By April, his captors had had enough and he was imprisoned at Holzminden in Prussia, in a camp reserved for serious troublemakers and persistent escapers. Dougall did not give up and while there was caught preparing another escape attempt. When the armistice was signed, as a final nose-thumbing gesture to his captors. he climbed the flagpole and took down the camp flag. It was the state flag of Prussia, and destined to become a prized Dougall family heirloom.
Hector Dougall returned to Canada in January 1919. Following a period of bush flying in Northern Manitoba he moved to the Lakehead in 1927. There he continued his aviation activities, being a founding member and first President of the Fort William Aero Club, which operated out of Bishopsfield on Rosslyn Road, west of the city. During WWII he became the manager of the #2 Elementary Flying Training School, which operated at Fort William Municipal Airport, providing basic training for pilots destined for service in the RAF and RCAF.
Hector Fraser Dougall is perhaps best known in Thunder Bay for his part in the introduction of radio and television broadcasting to the city and region. He died as a result of a heart attack near Kenora in 1960, but his legacy lives on in DOUGALLMEDIA, the multimedia company that grew out of his original entry into the communications field in the 1930s.
(For more information on Hector Fraser Dougall’s WWI exploits see Dubé, Timothy (1996) "Hector Fraser Dougall, RFC: A Pilot’s Account of the Great War," Canadian Military History: Vol. 5: Iss. 2, Article 13.)
During the Second World War, Donald Fulford happened upon a box of glass slides (and the accompanying wooden slide viewer) in an abandoned house in France. These items remained in the family and were brought forward to the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project by his grandson, Calvin Fors. The images on the slides depict scenes, sometime graphic ones, from the front lines of the First World War. The scanned images can be accessed through the Gateway to Northwestern Ontario History. Please note that some images contain graphic content.
Major Hal C. Fryer
Pearl Fryer, wife of Major Hal C. Fryer (52nd Battalion), compiled and preserved a vast collection of photos, letters, reports, telegrams, newspaper clippings, and more in a scrapbook to commemorate the life and First World War experience of her husband. This scrapbook has been generously shared with us courtesy of the Scott/Fryer family. Further, several newspaper articles were published in August 1916 to commend Fryer's work during the War. Click on the images to access dozens of these records through the Gateway to Northwestern Ontario History, Fort William Daily Times Journal and the Port Arthur Daily News Chronicle.
Pte Archibald Gibbons
Born in the late 1890s in England, Archibald ("Archie") Gibbons enlisted with the 52nd Battalion out of Port Arthur, Ontario in April 1915. Prior to this he had attended St James School, where he was an honours student. While serving overseas, he suffered a shrapnel wound to his arm that left him slightly paralyzed for the rest of his life. Following his term of military service, Archie was an outpatient at the Keefer Convalescent Home around 1916/1917, during which time he learned to type and telegraph which led him to work in Upsala. Later he would take a job with the grain elevators. His daughter has generously contributed copies of his war records including attestations papers, casualty and medical forms, payroll documentation, and proceedings on discharge. The below photos are linked to images related to Archibald Gibbons and family and are accessible through the Gateway to Northwestern Ontario History.
Vimy Ridge, in northern France had been fortified by the Germans with well wired trenches, deep dugouts, inter-connecting tunnels and concrete bunkers. It was an important pivot in the enemy's defences. There on Easter Monday, April 9, 1917 came the Allies first successful major offensive on the Western Front. On that day the entire Canadian Corps of four divisions, under the British Commander, Lieutenant General Sir Julian Byng, took the heights of Vimy which became a symbol of Canadian achievement. An Ojibway, Private Thomas Godchere of Long Lake Band, Longlac Ontario, was awarded the Military Medal, “ For gallant and distinguished conduct in reconnoitring and scouting under heavy shell and rifle fire after the attack on the 9 April 1917. This man has always shown great coolness and daring while out on scouting patrols.” Thomas Godchere was killed in action when he made his final patrol that day.
Private Thomas Godchere, Military Medal, 120nd Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force, from Long Lac 58 Band, Ontario.
Photo Credit: Library & Archives Canada/Thunder Bay Military Museum
Major William John Hamilton
Major William John Hamilton volunteered with 94th Bn C.E.F. in 1916. He was the first principal of Fort William Collegiate and then became inspector of public schools for the district. He was a very respected and active member of our community. Click on the image to access a newspaper article and Major Hamilton's attestation papers.
The first local casualty of World War One, Billy Huston was a sharp shooter and is remembered in this feature article by Mark Chochla.
Click on the images above to view the full text articles, newspaper clippings and images
(Photos courtesy of the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry Regiment Museum and Archives)
These images and information related to Private Ingram have been contributed to the project by Mr. Ernie Tilbury of Thunder Bay. His "Uncle Ted" enlisted with the 52nd Overseas Battalion on October 2 1915 at the age of 17. He served in France and Belgium prior to demobilization in April 1919. His discharge certificate lists his age in 1919 at 31 years old, height 5'11", fair complexion, blue eyes, brown hair, and no marks or scars.
Francis Henry Keefer (Keefer Convalescent Home)
In 1915, the issue of supporting returning soldiers led to Francis Henry Keefer’s home being chosen to be used as a convalescent home over St. Joseph’s Hospital. The home was maintained for this purpose until its closure in 1919. Click on the image to the left to read the full story as contributed by Carol Nicholson of Thunder Bay.
(Photo courtesy of the Thunder Bay Museum)
Private David Kejick, an Ojibway from Fort William First Nation, earned the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He was described as "a genial giant of a man, six foot-six, in his moccains and strong as a bull". He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal because he displayed marked courage and intelligence during the attach on enemy positions at Tilloy on 1st October 1918. When his Company was held up by heavy fire, he on his own initiative ran into the open and with his lewis gun at the hip, fired four pans into the enemy machine guns. His fire was so effective that a party of the company on the right were able to advance and capture four machine guns together with 70 prisoners.
Private David Kejick, Distinguished Conduct Medal. 52nd Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force, from Fort William First Nation, Ontario.
Photo Credit: Library & Archives Canada/Thunder Bay Military Museum.
In April 1915 a Russian immigrant named Ivan Laswick joined the local 52nd Battalion and began a military career no one could have predicted. This brief article by Mark Chochla tells his story.
Private Frank Michon of the Fort William band joined the 52nd Battalion at Port Arthur, Ontario. When the battalion left Port Arthur for overseas in November 1915 some two hundred men were left behind. Pte Michon was to have been one of these men but he packed up his kit and got aboard the train with the others. At St. John's the extra man was discovered and Colonel Hay (Commanding Office of the 52nd Battalion) decided to keep him. Frank was twice wounded. He was taken prisoner by the Germans but managed to escape after being held for three months. He successfully made his way through Germany and safely crossed the front.
Private Frank Michon, 52nd Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force, from Fort William First Nation, Ontario.
Photo Credit: Library & Archives Canada/Thunder Bay Military Museum.
During the First World War, many families saw several members enlist. The Munro family of Port Arthur, ON is an example of this including John, Walter, George and Harry. A collection of photos and related information is available through the Gateway to Northwestern Ontario History as contributed by John Ross.
William Alexander Newman
William Alexander Newman was raised on the Bruce Peninsula, fought and was injured at Ypres. He was shot three different times during the War. After World War One, he raised his family from a home he built at 584 Tupper Street in Port Arthur. His attestation papers can be accessed via Library and Archives Canada. The photo above shows William with his half-brother McKay. This information has been contributed to the project by William's grandson, Phil Cameron.
William Thomas Opie
William Thomas Opie is thought to be the only Opie to have enlisted in World War One. He was the great grandfather of Brian Wright of Neebing. Brian has contributed documentation and photographs pertaining to William's life and experience during the Great War. Scanned copies of photos, military documentation, and personal documentation can be accessed through the Gateway to Northwestern Ontario History.
"Chris Parres was born November 17th, 1877, at a small place called Salterville, several miles east of Carman, Manitoba. He grew up on the farm, the son of a Danish immigrant, Jes Matthiesen and his Metis wife, Henrietta Salter...As a young man, he purchased his own land, farmed and “broke” horses. He also worked as a guide and camp cook. He had a large supportive family of Salter and Matthiesen relatives. In 1904, he married Eliza Alberta Madill, the daughter of a staunch Presbyterian minister.
Although I never heard about the War from my grandfather personally, it was evident from many of his letters that he had strong feelings about Canada’s involvement...Although 39 at the time, and the father of 3 small children, Chris volunteered."
The above excerpt is from the stories compiled and contributed to this project by Jim Parres, grandson of Chris Parres. The photo below links to Jim's words and expression of the impact upon his family of the First World War.
Ernest Potter, a pilot in WWI, is featured in three Looking Back articles: December 23, 2005, June 19, 2011 and June 26, 2011. Full text of these articles can be accessed on microfilm at the Brodie Resource Library. Click on the newspaper headline below to read full accounts of Ernest Potter's war experiences.
Information about Merrill Robinson can be found in the Papers & Records volume XXXI (2003), starting on page 51.
Stanley Wallace Rosevear was born in Walkerton, Ontario, in 1896, but grew up in Port Arthur, where his father was a teacher. The family lived on Prospect Avenue and Stanley attended Port Arthur Collegiate Institute. From there he enrolled as a student in Applied Science at the University of Toronto where, in 1916, he enrolled in the University Overseas Training Company The following year he transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). After pilot training in Britain, and commissioned as a Flight Sub-Lieutenant, he went to France in July 1917, where he flew Sopwith Triplanes out of Bailleul as a member of 1 (Naval) Squadron. From the outset, Rosevear was recognized as a skillful, aggressive pilot, being mentioned in dispatches several times and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in October 1917 for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. As the citation in the London Gazette noted “He has destroyed several hostile machines, and has also attacked and scattered parties of enemy infantry from low altitudes, on one occasion from a height of only 100 feet.” His squadron gained a reputation for its ground attack work, flying the Sopwith Camel, but Rosevear was also skilled in other aspects of aerial combat. In nine months at the front, he shot down 23 enemy aircraft. As a result of such activities he was awarded a bar to his DSC in March 1918. He was promoted to the rank of Captain when the Royal Flying Corps and the RNAS amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force on April 1, 1918, but later that month Stanley Wallace Rosevear lost his life when the plane he was flying crashed near Arras in France.
Lt. Stanley Arthur Rutledge
Click on the images above for a brief bio of Lt. Rutledge and an accompanying newspaper article.
Photos courtesy of the Thunder Bay Military Museum
Wilfred Rutledge was born in Fort William in 1891, one of two sons of Edward S. Rutledge, both of whom became pilots in the Royal Flying Corps.
Wilfred enlisted in the 28th Battalion, Saskatchewan Regiment in 1914. For some reason his military records list his middle name as ‘Lloyd’ rather than ‘Laurier’. In 1915, as a member of the CEF, he went overseas and serving with distinction in France, he was awarded the Military Medal and Bar in 1916 for gallantry.
The following year he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and after training in England he went back to France as a lieutenant in 48 Squadron, which was equipped with the new Bristol Fighters. Returning to Britain in mid-1917, he remained with the squadron until early 1918 when he transferred to a training squadron as an instructor teaching new pilots to fly. His brother Stanley Arthur Rutledge was also an instructor, who unfortunately died in a flying training accident in England in 1917. Following a stint as an instructor, Wilfred became a member of 119 Squadron, which was training as a day-bomber squadron, but the war ended before it became operational. His final posting was with 1(Can) Squadron, one of two squadrons that made up the Royal Canadian Flying Corps at that time. In 1919 he was awarded the Air Force Cross in recognition of his service.
Wilfred Rutledge was demobilized in July 1919 and returned to Canada with his English-born wife and two daughters in March 1920. The family settled in western Canada, where he worked for CPR, but in the late 1920s he put his flying training to use by becoming the instructor for the Calgary Flying Club, and establishing Rutledge Air Service. In 1930 he became the first man to fly a single engine plane across the Rockies between Calgary and Vancouver.
The family returned to Fort William in 1934, where Wilfred, among other things became involved in the city’s politics. He died as the result of an accident in his home in 1946.
For more information on Wilfred Rutledge’s activities in municipal affairs see: F.B. Scollie (2000) Thunder Bay Mayors and Councillors, 1873-1945, published by the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society.
Walter Frank Shapton
The stories and photographs of Walter Shapton have been shared with us by Mark Chochla of Thunder Bay. Mark is the grandson of Walter Shapton and has put together a detailed account of Walter's military and personal experience during the Great War. Click on the images below to read his story and view photos from the Shapton family during the war years.
Colonel Elizabeth Smellie
When war was declared in 1914, Elizabeth applied for service and in January of 1915 she received a telegram from Ottawa confirming that she had been selected for duty with the medical service in England.
As a Nursing Sister with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, she was first posted to a temporary military hospital at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire in the estate of Lady Astor. She continued to serve as a Nursing Sister in the regions of Taplow, England and Le Treport, France before becoming the Matron of Moore Barracks Hospital in Shorncliffe, England where thousands of Canadian soldiers were treated.
Click on the image of Colonel Smellie (courtesy of the Thunder Bay City Archives) to learn more about her life and experience during the First World War. Click here to access information on Colonel Smellie through the City of Thunder Bay Archives.
Sergeant Donald Smith
Sergeant Donald Smith originally joined the 94th Battalion. Upon arrival in France he was assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion and then was picked up in a reinforcement draft to the 43rd Battalion, Cameron Highlands of Winnipeg. During his time at the front he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Bar.
During the Second World War he would re-enlist and work in the training system located on the outskirts of Thunder Bay out near the present day airport. Click here to view photos and letters that have been contributed by Sergeant Smith's grandson, George Auer.
Corporal Jim Smith
A letter sent to Cpl Smith by his 18 year old sister, Alice Smith, in September 1918 relays a great deal of information about the family, daily and work life as perceived by Ms. Smith. At the time of the letter's writing, she was working as Assistant Biller at the C.P.R. Freight Office. The family was also about to move into a home on Victoria Ave. Further details of the letter discuss a recent Red Cross fundraising campaign that raised $14,000. Click here to read the full text of this letter as contributed by Mr. James Smith of Thunder Bay.
Private George Thomas
Private George Thomas was with the 38th Battalion out of Ottawa, Ontario and served as a scout in the First World War. He suffered a gun shot wound to his right ear and side of his head in September 1918. He was discharged in February 1919. Photos of and related to Pte Thomas during the War can be accessed via the Gateway to Northwestern Ontario History. A full collection of his war records include his attestation papers through Library and Archives Canada along with service records, medical and pay roll records. These contributions were made by Pte Thomas' grandson, Dave Van Wagoner of Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Private Arthur Wellesby Wellington was with the 94th Battalion; he enlisted in May of 1916 and was soon killed in action in France in late September of the same year. His death occurred 30 metres from the gates in Courcelette. He was 36 years old and had a wife and child back home in Fort William where he had worked as a railroad conductor. For two years following his death, his wife (Mrs. M. M. Wellington) regularly sent correspondence to officials in various offices to ask for information as to what happened to her husband. Parts of Pte Wellington's story can be found here through letters, telegrams, and images as contributed by his granddaughter, Mary Wigg of Thunder Bay, Ontario. He is also included in the list of local obituaries in the October 1916 Timeline section of this project.
Major Robert E. Wodehouse
The "local medical man" in this photo from the Fort William Daily Times Journal (February 10, 1915) is Major Robert Elmer Wodehouse, Fort William's Medical Officer of Health (MOH). He came to the city from New York in 1909. Before that he was superintendent of an isolation hospital in Toronto. When he arrived in Fort William he entered private practice before replacing Dr. Manion as MOH. In March 1910, Dr. Wodehouse and his Port Arthur counterpart Dr. Laurie were confronted with a smallpox outbreak. They restricted intercity travel, stopped public gatherings, and quarantined the sick.
In 1912 Dr. Wodehouse was appointed District Health Officer, headquartered at the Lakehead. He married Madeline, daughter of Frank H. Keefer K.C.M.P for Port Arthur. Dr. Wodehouse joined the armed forces in 1914 and was in charge of convalescent hospitals in England, including Bearwood, Berkshire, during the war. He attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He returned to his former position in Fort William in 1919 where he was made President of the Thunder Bay Public Health Association. The following year Dr. Wodehouse was appointed District Health Officer for eastern Ontario, headquartered in Guelph. His successor was Dr. Stark.
The "Mystery Medicine Man" question was generously answered by Mark Chochla and David Ratz.