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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.
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)
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.
The imposing man in the picture above is Lt. Col. Harry Genet, OC of the 58th Battalion, CEF. Born in London, England on Feb, 20, 1864, Harry Genet eventually imigrated to Canada and settled in Brantford, Ontario, where he found work at the Adams Wagon Works as an accountant. Genet also found time to become the Commanding Officer of the 38th Dufferin Peel Rifles.
The Ministry of Militia ordered a battalion to be raised in the central Ontario region in May, 1915. By July, 1151 men had been recruited and were at Paradise Camp, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Lt.Col. Genet took on the mission of recruiting the officers for the battalion.
In the novel, Flowers of the Forest, Lt. Col. Genet and our football prodigy, Pte. Farquhar McLennan, come face to face at Paradise Camp. This is the start of a very complicated relationship that carries over to the Front in Belgium. I don’t want to give away too much here; I’ll let you read about it.
Genet suffered a war injury (sort of) when he was thrown from his horse in High Park, Toronto. He was treated for broken ribs and a separated shoulder. After a spell in Toronto, stationed at the CNE, the 58th moved to England in November, 1915. In Jan., 1916, they moved across the Channel to France. The next stop was the Ypres Salient, in Belgium.
In June, 1916, the Germans mounted an advance that pushed the Canadians out of an area called Sanctuary Wood. It was a bloody, embarrassing loss for the CEF. On June 13, 1916, the Canadians, with the 58th Battalion, attacked the German positions in Sanctuary Wood, pushed them back, and regained their old lines. This was a historic event for Canada. This was the first time a Canadian fighting unit had conducted an offensive mission in the theatre of war.
Only a short time later, Lt. Col. Harry Genet won the DSO (Distinguished Service Award) in a battle at Observatory Ridge. He also received further commendations during his service at the Front. Genet led the 58th at the Battle of the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Lens and Passchendaele. After Passchendaele, Genet left the 58th and the Front.
from a multiplicity of wounds.
Harry Genet eventually returned to England and took up residence in Mervstham. His life came to an end on March 17, 1946. We shall remember.
On a completely different note. This post came up on Facebook yesterday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death in action of this soldier.
On the 25th March, 1918, Walter Tull was killed by machine gun fire while trying to help his men withdraw.
Second Lieutenant Walter Tull was the first black British Army Infantry officer.
Walter Tull, the son of a joiner, was born in Folkestone on the 28th April 1888. Walter’s father, the son of a slave, had arrived from Barbados in 1876. In 1895, when Walter was seven, his mother died. Walter’s father remarried but he died two years later. The stepmother was unable to cope with all six children and Walter and his brother Edward were sent to a Methodist run orphanage in Bethnal Green, London.
Walter was a keen footballer and played for a local team in Clapton. In 1908 Walter’s talents were discovered by a scout from Tottenham Hotspur and the club decided to sign this promising young footballer. He played for Tottenham until 1910, when he was transferred for a large fee to Northampton Town. Walter was the first black outfield player to play professional football in Britain.
When the First World War broke out, Walter abandoned his football career to join the 17th (1st Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment.
During his military training Walter was promoted three times. In November 1914, as Lance Sergeant he was sent to Les Ciseaux in France. In May, 1915 Walter was sent home with post traumatic stress disorder.
Returning to France in September 1916 Walter fought in the Battle of the Somme, between October and November, 1916. His courage and abilities encouraged his superior officers to recommend him as an officer. On 26 December, 1916, Walter went back to England on Leave and to train as an officer.
There were military laws forbidding ‘any negro or person of colour’ being commissioned as an officer, despite this, Walter was promoted to lieutenant in 1917.
Walter was the first ever Black officer in the British Army Infantry, and the first black officer to lead white men into battle.
Walter was sent to the Italian Front where he twice led his Company across the River Piave on a raid and both times brought all of his troops back safely. He was mentioned in Despatches for his ‘gallantry and coolness’ under fire by his commanding officer.
He was recommended for the Military Cross but never received it.
After their time in Italy, Walter’s Battalion was transferred to the Somme Valley in France. On the 25th March, 1918, Walter Tull was killed by machine gun fire while trying to help his men withdraw.
Walter was such a popular man that several of his men risked their own lives in an attempt to retrieve his body under heavy fire but they were unsuccessful due to the enemy soldiers advance. Walter’s body was never found and he is one of thousands of soldiers from World War One who has no known grave.
(courtesy ww1 Colourized Photos)
Donald Trump has been yearning for a parade. When he reads this Blog, he will be green with envoy. Enjoy, Donald!
The summer of 1916 was long, hot and hazy. The food was good and the sports were competitive and lively. For the most part, the men enjoyed their time in Paradise. They were certainly aware of what lay down the road.
There was one terrible thunderstorm that almost led to tragedy. But, you will have to read about it in the novel, “Flowers of the Forest”.
The amazing football skills of Pte. McLennan were on display for all to see in inter-battalion football matches. Every Saturday was football day on the Commons and no one missed a game. Even the locals came out to watch and the local press from St.Catharines and Niagara Falls covered the matches.
Like all things, the summer eventually drew to an end. The nights grew longer and cooler. Word was out that the battalions would be shipped out in the coming Autumn.
By the end of August, the men had their khaki military uniforms. They made a trip across Lake Ontario, by ferry, to the CNE for Labour Day and a parade through the City of Toronto.
As September blended into October, the nights were becoming cold and creature comforts were being challenged. On October 18, 1915, there was a Grand Review of the troops by the Governor General, HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught. Around this time, the officers of Military District #2 decided that the men at Paradise Camp should make a 112 KM. march to their winter quarters in Toronto. The march was set up as a tactical exercise based on a mock war. The troops at Niagara were to make their way through enemy- controlled territory to reinforce their allies in Toronto.
The battalions were to depart Paradise Camp, starting on October 25, 1915. They would leave, one battalion on each day for 12 days. All battalions were preceded by their bands , a screen of about 15 to 20 scouts on watch for enemy, and stretcher bearers brought up the rear. Each man carried a full kit that weighed about 60 lbs.
The first destination was The Lake Street Armoury in St. Catharines, where they would billet for the night.
to be continued
Well now, where were we? Oh yes, St. Catharines! The 58th spent their first night at the Lake Street Armoury. The people of the city went out of their way to make the Battalions feel comfortable and welcome.
Early the next morning they were up and marching off, on the second leg of the trek. Grimsby was their destination. As they marched into Vineland they were greeted by the “Pie Wagon”. Here, the locals treated them to pies and refreshments. They passed through Beamsville and spent the second night on the beach at Grimsby, Chautauqua Park.
The next day set Hamilton as their new destination. When they entered Fruitland, they were again treated to apples and pies at the side of the road by an adoring public. The Battalion spent the night at the Armoury in Hamilton.
After leaving Hamilton, the troops passed through Burlington, and spent the next night at Bronte. Port Credit was next, where they spent the night at the St. Lawrence Starch Company grounds. The men were able to bathe in the vats at the factory.
The final destination, where all of the units would rendezvous, was High Park, in the west end of Toronto. Once here, the battalions readied themselves for a Grand Recruiting Parade into the city. This was the largest military parade the city had ever seen – 16 miles long.
The People of Toronto treated the men like heroes, as they lined the streets to glimpse the passing parade. Homes and buildings were decorated all along the route. Whenever the parade stopped, the the cheering crowd would shower the men with gifts of cigarettes, tobacco and “sweet meats”.
The parade wound through the city to Yonge Street, and then on to the City Hall at Queen and Bay. The final stop for all of the battalions was the Canadian National Exhibition.