Canadian HistoryFlanders FieldsGreat WarRemembrance

Remembrance Day, 2015

 

On Remembrance Day, 2015, I was sitting at home watching the Remembrance Day ceremony from Ottawa on my TV. My phone rang and I answered it. On the line was my great friend Karen Dallow and she was calling from the Menin Gate at Ypres, Belgium. She was with her son, Jake, and they were trying to find Farquhar McLennan’s name on the Menin Gate. I informed her that Farquhar was buried at Bedford House Cemetery which was close by.

“Would you and Jake mind going to the Cemetery and paying your respects on my behalf?” I asked.

“Certainly!” came the answer, and they hopped into a taxi and traveled to Bedford House.

With the help of the taxi driver, Karen and Jake were able to locate the grave stone. Karen took this video and emailed to me. A precious gift.

Within a year I was able to travel to Ypres and pay my respects personally.

I am forever thankful for the deeds of Karen and Jake.

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Jake at the Menin Gate, Ypres. (Ieper)

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Ypres

Well now, where did I leave off? Oh yes! Bedford House Cemetery. I did manage to make my own pilgrimage to the cemetery. It was in May, 2016, and the weather was beautiful. My wife, Beth, accompanied me. We flew to Luxembourg, to stay with our friends, the Defoa Clan. Karen (of the previous post) offered to drive us to Belgium, and ultimately to Ypres (now called Ieper). We arrived in the beautiful medieval  city in time for lunch on a gorgeous spring day. After lunch, we booked into our B&B and then headed out on the Menin Rd., through the Menin Gate towards the tiny hamlet of Hooge. At Hooge there is a road that right turns toward the south. The road is called Canadalaan. Less than a kilometre…

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Sanctuary Wood Cemetery

down this road is Sanctuary Wood and the museum. Beside the museum is Sanctuary Wood Cemetery. Just a little beyond the museum is the Canadian Memorial for the Battle of Mount Sorrel.

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Battle site of Sanctuary Wood – note the craters and the memorials.

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A reconstructed trench.

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Shell holes.

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Tree stumps that survived the War. Bullet holes and crosses!

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The view toward the Messine Ridge, from the Mount Sorrel Memorial.

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Using the Trench Maps that I have seen and Google Earth, it is possible to ascertain that Pte Farquhar McLennan lost his life on June 13, 1916, only a few metres from the the Sanctuary Wood Museum and the trenches.

Once we had paid our respects at this sacred place, we left for Bedford House Cemetery, where Pte. Farquhar McLennan rests.097

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The Cross of Sacrifice at Bedford House.

This cemetery, like all of the other Great War cemeteries are tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. They are all in splendid display and it is impossible to enter one of these sites without your eyes tearing and your heart hurting. After we walked past the Cross of Sacrifice, we could see the area where Farquhar was buried.

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Beth and I at the Cross of Sacrifice

 

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Farquhar’s Headstone. Beside is the headstone of Pte. Watson, 60th Battalion CEF.

 

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Karen and Beth, Bedford House Cemetery.

 

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The City of Ypers at sunset.

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Ypres during the Great War, same view as above.  Heavily shelled by the Germans.

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A “Jack Johnson”. 15 inch artillery shell in the Cathedral of St. Martin.

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Cloth Hall, 1916. One wall propped up.

Every evening, since 1929, the City of Ypres (Ieper) holds a ceremony at the Menin Gate to honour the dead. The ceremony starts at 8:00 PM with a procession to the Gate from Cloth Hall. Hundreds of people are there every night to witness the event. Below is a video of the ceremony.

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Cloth Hall, May, 2016.

Every evening at 8:00 there is a ceremony of remembrance at the Menin Gate. Hundreds of people attend each night. This has been an ongoing event since 1929 with a disruption during WW2. Below is a video of the procession which begins at Cloth Hall.

 

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Jake Defoa in front of the Menin Gate.

There are about 55,000 names of missing allied soldiers listed on the gate. All names are from the area we call Flander’s Fields, also known as the Ypres Salient, just east of Ypres.

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Our last night in Ypres and a chance to unwind.

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The next day, a trip to Passendaele.

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Paradise

When I found Farquhar’s attestation papers in the Archives, it was obvious that he signed up for duty somewhere in the Niagara Region. With a search on Google, I found that there was a training camp in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The camp occupied the open field next to Old Fort George. This field is called the Commons and is still existent.

In the archives of the Niagara Historical Society, I found photos and information about the training camp.

This area had been used as a military/cadet summer training camp since the 1800s. It was used for this purpose until Camp Borden was built to replace it after the War. On the edge of the field was a stand of trees called Paradise Grove. Hence, the camp was called “Paradise Camp”.

The name “Paradise Camp”, was one of the first inspirations for me to write a story about Farquhar McLennan. I was struck by the irony of the name. The young men were being trained to become cold, efficient, killers in a place called “Paradise”! Where were they going? The were destined for Hell!

There were two ways for Farquhar to travel from Toronto to Niagara-on-the-Lake. One method was by ferry boat, the “Cayuga” for instance, or by rail. There was a steam locomotive that ran to St. Catharines and then he would have to switch to an electric tram to finish the trip to Niagara. The tram traveled right into Niagara-on-the-Lake by way of King St.

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Tram line on King St., Niagara-on-the-Lake. (courtesy of Niagara Historical Museum Collection)

The recruits would disembark at the corner of King and Queen Sts. and then would head over to the Commons to sign up. They would be greeted by an eye-popping sight. Bell tents by the thousands! (I think I slept in one of these vintage bell tents when I was in Scouts)

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Enlisted men’s tents in Paradise Camp. (courtesy of Niagara Historical Museum Collection)

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These tents, I presume are mess tents. (courtesy of Niagara Historical Museum Collection)

In the summer of 1915, there were twelve battalions in residence at Paradise Camp, so just over 12000 men. Farquhar was enlisted in the 58th Battalion, Central Ontario Regiment, CEF. His battalion number was 451889. The attestation papers indicate that Farquhar had been in the militia at some point. In fact, he had joined the 48th Highlanders while in Toronto.

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Recruit’s uniforms. (courtesy of Niagara Historical Museum Collection)

There were no proper military uniforms available for the recruits, so they wore the uniforms that you see above. The men nicknamed the straw hats; “cow’s breakfast”. I wonder what impression these uniforms made on the young ladies of Niagara. Of course the officers had full gear!

Proper uniforms didn’t arrive until August.

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Panoramic view of the 58th Battalion. Can you find Farquhar? Neither could I!

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The officers of the 58th, Lt. Col. Genet OC, in the centre, second row.

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Officers of the 58th.

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B Company, 58th Battalion. Farquhar is in this picture and it took me hours to find him.

Hint: one recruit has a tiny red arrow above his head.

The battalions trained here at Niagara until the fall. One contingent from the battalions was sent overseas in August, ahead of schedule. The casualties at the Western Front were taking a toll and reinforcements were badly needed. Farquhar wasn’t among that contingent.

More to come in my next Blog.

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Grief’s Geography

Grief’s Geography – where the heroes lived. – click here for link

This link will show a map of Toronto and the location of the home (shown with a poppy) of every casualty of the Great War. Look to see if there were any heroes who lived on your street.  Enter your postal code. There is a poppy on 175 Boulton Ave., where Farquhar McLennan lived. Thanks to Global News for this site.

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Paradise Part 2

OK, pay attention now, so here we are, back to Paradise Camp, in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Some very notable Canadians attended Paradise Camp for officer training before the War. One of them was Vincent Massey, who much later became Governor General of Canada. Another notable was Percival Molson, of beer fame and having a stadium named after him at McGill University. And a third, but not the least was Nobel Prize winner, Fredrick Banting.

In the summer of 1915, when Pte. Farquhar McLennan enlisted, the group of men at Paradise Camp was part of, what was called, the Second Contingent. The men that went overseas at the beginning of the Great War, in the fall of 1914, all expected to be home by Christmas. Nobody foresaw the shape this war would take. Casualties began to mount very quickly and the government realized that more men would need to be recruited. Thus began the Second Contingent.

A battalion consists of roughly 1000 men and officers. In 1915, the camp was attended by the 35th, 36th, 37th, 58th, 74th, 75th, 76th, 81st, 83rd, 84th, 86th Machine-Gun, 92nd, and the Canadian Army Medical Corp (CAMC). There was a total of around 12000 men.

The camp was established with two campuses; one at the Commons and the other one just north of Niagara-on-the-Lake, at Fort Mississauga. The musketry range was on the north campus.

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Fort Mississauga, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Two soldiers, Pte. Bateman and Pte. Scott of the 75th inscribed their names into the soft brick of the entrance to the sally port. Still there for all to see.

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Overseas draft, August 1915.

The picture above is of the “overseas draft”. It was becoming very apparent that the men at the Front were falling faster than they were being replaced. Therefore in August of 1915, a draft was conducted at Paradise camp and this group of men were sent overseas ahead of time. If you look closely at the picture, the men are wearing some of their field gear.

A typical day of training would consist of waking up at 4:30 AM, dressing, followed by breakfast at the mess tents. Morning drills would start with parade drills, beginning with the smallest units (sections, platoons) and progressing up to the largest units (company and battalion). The afternoons would be taken up with combat skills, such as, hand to hand combat, bayonet, target practice artillery or signaling. Fridays were reserved for the long 12 mile (approx) route marches. There was a choice of two; either to Queenston Heights or to Port Dalhousie. Saturdays were for sports and leisure and Sunday was for Divine Service and Church Parades. Families would come to visit the men on Sundays.

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58th Battalion Football team. Farquhar is seen in the back row, third from the right.

Sports played a very important role in the training and development of troops. It was encouraged for fitness and teamwork. Battalions and Companies participated in many tournaments for prizes and trophies. Great rivalries developed between the battalions. The uniforms that you see in this picture were donated by the YMCA. The “Y” played a huge role in supplying equipment to the men for these activities. This picture, by the way, is the one that I chose to put on the cover of the book, “Flowers of the Forest – The Pride of Our Land”. 

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Cup, Hockey Hall of Fame, Toronto — Great War 100 Reads

In hockey-obsessed Canada, it was inevitable that someone would decide to honour hockey players killed in WW1. The Memorial Cup was first awarded in 1919. It will be presented for the 100th time in May 2018.

via Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Cup, Hockey Hall of Fame, Toronto — Great War 100 Reads

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Football way back when..

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Ontario: The Early Years

Perhaps it was appropriate that in Ontario, the first game of soccer, as we know it today, was played in Toronto between teams representing the Carlton Cricket Club and the Toronto Lacrosse Club.  The game was played in 1876, when cricket and lacrosse, along with baseball, dominated Canadian team sports in the summer.  It was played on Parliament Street in Toronto, under the laws formed in 1863 in London, England.  But the transition from the hybrid forms of football played in Ontario prior to that day and the game we play today was not immediate, and many years passed before Ontario soccer joined the mainstream.

One year after the game played in the Queen City, the first national soccer association, outside of the British Isles, was formed.  It was known as the Dominion Football Association.  Unfortunately, it was short-lived and had faded away by the time 1881 rolled around.  But before then, something far more significant had happened.  The Western Football Association was formed in Berlin (now Kitchener) in 1880.  “Football”?   Yes, the official name for soccer is Association Football, and in the early years, and at least up until World War Two, it was known as that in Canada.  Soccer is a colloquialism formed from the second syllable of the word “association.”

The Western Football Association was founded by the great David Forsyth, one of the most influential men in the history of Canadian sport.  It operated in all the towns and villages west of Berlin, places you rarely, if ever, hear of today in connection with soccer.  But the WFA thrived in the summer months, and was to a certain extent based in schools.  One of these was Forsyth’s Berlin High School.  Another was just south of Berlin in Galt, where “Tassie’s School,” Galt Collegiate Institute, took to the game like a duck to water.  West of Berlin, it was the same with Seaforth Collegiate Institute, and similarly in Clinton and further south in Woodstock and Ingersoll.  But small towns also embraced the game, places like Listowel, Brussels, Milverton, Mildmay, Ayr, Plattsville, Aylmer and Atwood.

Aylmer staged the first international soccer game played in Canada in 1888, with Canada playing the United States, and later that same year, a team made up of players from the WFA toured Britain with great success.  However, before that time, the WFA had established a relationship with the American Football Association south of the border, and in 1885 and 1886, a team representing the WFA travelled to New Jersey to play.  That in turn brought teams from the U.S. to Ontario, and those teams played in Berlin, Galt, Toronto and Seaforth.  Later, teams from as far west as Detroit joined the WFA, and the WFA clubs travelled to Chicago and St. Louis.

While the WFA functioned west of Toronto, the Central Football Association operated in Toronto and just east of the city, while the Eastern Football Association was centred in Cornwall.  All of this activity eventually led to the founding of the Ontario Association Football League in 1901, with David Forsyth as the guiding light.  While it was known as the Association Football League (as were most soccer/football organizations formed in Canada in those days), the term “league” had nothing to do with a league as we think of it today.  League in this sense referred to groups working together towards a common goal.

The founding of the OAFL saw the emergence of Galt Football Club as one of Canada’s first great teams.  Known in some quarters as “The Galt Porridge Eating Invincibles,” Galt (today a part of the City of Cambridge), dominated the Ontario Cup in 1901, 1902 and 1903, and then won an Olympic Gold Medal at the 1904 Olympic Games held in St. Louis, Missouri.

But one year later, when the Pilgrims, the first English touring team, came to Canada, something rarely mentioned before came to light.  Canadian Rules.  It seems that over time, teams in Ontario had begun playing to a somewhat different set of rules to those in use elsewhere, at least in Britain.  These rules (or to give them their correct name – Laws), permitted more violent play than the laws in use in Britain —  laws that allowed for hacking at players’ legs and tripping, while it was quite alright to jump on the back of the player with the ball.  The Pilgrims objected.  Controversy ensued, but the games seem to have been played at least partly under Canadian Rules.  While the Pilgrims were beaten by the Berlin Rangers 2–1, it was the game against Galt that really mattered, a game billed as being “For the Championship of the World.”  Played at beautiful Dickson Park on the banks of the Grand River, the game attracted over 3000 spectators and ended in a 3–3 tie.

Four years later saw the beginning of the end for Canadian Rules as a Scot named Tom Robertson fought for and formed the Toronto and District League playing British rules in opposition to the Toronto League, playing Canadian rules.  Eventually Robertson prevailed, and the two organizations joined forces.  Robertson then went on to become the secretary of the Toronto and District League and then of the Ontario Football Association and finally to help found the Dominion of Canada Football Association, today’s Canadian Soccer Association, in 1912.  But soon after that, the clouds of war cast a dark shadow over all of Canada, and led to the deaths of almost an entire generation of young Canadians, many of them soccer players.

( courtesy of, Canadiansoccerhistory.com)

Farquhar's Dunlop Team Photo

Farquhar’s Dunlop Team Photo, 1914, Division 3 Champions, Toronto

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A rendition of Ulster Stadium at Greenwood and Gerrrard, Toronto. Built in 1925.

Football is an important theme in the novel, Flowers of the Forest. The theme centres around Pte. Farquhar McLennan’s prodigious football skill. I used a little writer’s license, having him play his games at Ulster Stadium, which wasn’t built until years later. His skill was noticed by others, particularly, a certain Lt. Colonel in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. We will learn more about him later. Stay tuned.

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