Canada’s Boy Soldiers in WWI & WWII

At the November 2017 meeting for the Leeds-Grenville Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS), former editor of “Legion Magazine: Canada’s Military History Magazine“, Mr. Dan Black gave a very interesting talk about under-age soldiers from all across Canada who served during the WWI and WWII.

 

Some of the young men came home after their tour of duty, but many that didn’t. He read excerpts from two of the books he co-authored with John Boileau, describing their time in the field, and also read from some of the soldier’s letters home to their families and loved ones. For a few of those boys, their mother’s went through great effort to try to persuade the authorities to release their sons from service and send them home.

A great deal of research went into detailing the lives of these under-age soldiers, and Mr. Black shared information about the resources he accessed in order to do it – one of the main repositories accessed was Library and Archives Canada (LAC). He also spoke about some of the more challenging aspects of targeting his subjects due to the fact that their enlistment papers usually had false dates of birth. Many of these boys enlisted at the young ages of 15 and 16, there were some that were even younger. He told one particular story about a young man who enlisted not only under age, but under his elder brother’s name, which cause some difficulties when the family received a telegram expressing the regrets of the loss of their son.

The first book “Old Enough to Fight: Canada’s Boy Soldiers in the First World War” has a forward written by Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire. And the second book “Too Young to Die: Canada’s Boy Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen in the Second World War” had its forward  written by General John de Chastelain.

These books are an incredible resource for researchers of Canada’s Military History during the two World Wars, and for those that have general interest in newly researched and published aspects of those two conflicts.

I thought one of the most poignant aspects of the talk was when he was describing the Estate Forms that had to be filled out by the families of the deceased soldiers – usually by their mothers. Reading each of the files diligently filled out in their hand must have been a very intimate and moving part of the research.

Mr. Black spoke briefly on the next book currently in the research phase which will also be focused on a little known aspect of the First World War, to be written and publication expected for 2019.

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Remembering those that Served in WWI & WWII

Many Canadian families have at least one ancestral relative that served in the First and Second World Wars. Through my family research, I have discovered that my family has many soldiers that served with either the Canadian Forces, or the British Forces.

With the release of all the WWI files at Library and Archives Canada, researching your First World War Veterans has become incredibly facilitated. The first part of the project had images of Attestation records uploaded, and the bulk of the remainder of the individual Canadian Soldier Personnel Records have been scanned and added to the collection. The UK Archives have also been scanning and uploading their records to their Archives website as well.

From the UK Archives, I downloaded the service record of my Great Grandfather Matthew Connor who served with as a Trumpeter and Gunner with the ‘A’ Battery (Forfarshire) of the 256th Brigade, 2nd Highland (51st) Division out of Dundee Scotland. After reading through his military record, I went back to the UK Archive site, and ordered a copy of the War Diary for his Division. The detail of the Division’s activities is incredibly useful for understanding the movements of my ancestor throughout his time in service. I was also able to find information and photographs for his Division on the Forces War Records website.

LAC has mainly uploaded service files for the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF). Home Defense was not included. For another of my other Great Grandfathers James J Mahaffey who served as Home Guard (and was also a Trumpeter), patrolling the St. Lawrence River (From Prescott to Cornwall), much of the file has been lost for the ‘D’ Squadron of the 4th Hussars, and little is known about the unit during the First World War. A partial pay list and receipts collection has survived. [There is a small blog post about the Squadron on the Cornwall Community Museum site].

There are many other websites available that have histories of military Divisions where a researcher can learn at least a rudimentary amount about their Relative’s placements, or have dedicated lists of those that lost their lives during the conflict.

World War II records are still protected under privacy laws, and but are available if requested to direct descendants of soldiers that served.

This is a short list of the individuals that I have found to date. I still have an enormous amount of research to do for each one, but for most, I have at least the basics, thanks to information available on-line.

WWI –

  • CONNOR, Matthew ~RFA – 2nd Highland Bde/51st Div, ‘A’ bty. (635077)
  • CORDES, Herman ~CEF – 257th Btn. (1102317)
  • CORDIS, William ~CEF – 257th Btn. (644573)
  • CURRAN, David G ~BA – Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers/1st Btn. (44264) *KIA
  • CURRAN, Samuel J ~BA – Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers/1st Btn. (24193) *KIA
  • GERARD, Hubert D ~CF – 94th Regt. (2700323)
  • GERARD, Joseph W ~CF – 94th Regt. (2700322)
  • LALONDE, Arthur J ~HD/CEF – 59th Btn, 253Rd Btn., C.A.M.C (1090063/455819)
  • MAHAFFEY, James J ~HD – 4th Hussars, ‘D’ Squadron (NPAM)
  • McNAUGHTON, John ~CEF – 48th Highlanders, 15th Btn (27376) *KIA

WWII

  • CAWKER, Thomas R ~RCN
  • FOUNTAIN, Joseph R ~CF
  • LALONDE, Alexander J ~CEF
  • LALONDE, Arthur J ~CAF
  • McHAFFIE, James JF ~CF
  • McHAFFIE, Robert JJ ~CF

 

I hope to add further posts for these individuals once I have more detailed research to flesh out their stories.

OGS Conference 2017 Day 2

OGS Conference 2017 – Day 2 – Workshop Day!

The morning was spent with Jane E. MacNamara Think Like a Genealogist: Creative Research Techniques to Help You Follow the Right Ancestral Trail”. Jane went through some trial documents to show us how to make the best out of each piece of information on varying types of documents from Passenger Lists, Church Transfer Papers, Collections of manuscripts and Death Certificates. The intention was to think about other resources any small piece of extra information gleaned could be used to find a new research avenue. Not just to find new resources, but think more deeply about each resource.

We spent the afternoon with Kirsty Gray Using Family Reconstruction to Break Down Brick Walls”. While she’s a lot of fun, she’s also a tough teacher encouraging attendees to start thinking hard on research goals and get cracking! She was all about really digging into detail and filling out as many of the siblings branches as possible to create a richer family community in order to broaden parameters. Kirsty also had us analyzing documents in order to ask questions to determine potential resources to refer to in order to collect all the details possible. She also talked about varying levels of Reconstruction – how deep and broad to research. And then of course, Organization, and reaching out for Help.

After that was a “First Timers” gathering where I got to add another ribbon to what is now starting to look like a small collection. (I haven’t gathered nearly as many as some other crazy ribbon people I’ve seen!  ;P )

And then Opening Ceremonies with some words from Dr G. Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and Keynote Lecturer Journalist Dave Obee.

Dr. Berthiaume spoke about all the current projects in the works at LAC, and all the new ones soon to come. So much work has gone into the digitization of the WWI CEF records being copied and uploaded for all Canadians to access.  There are plans to carry on the digitization of resources and incorporate co-operative scan projects with the public using applications that LAC is developing for that purpose, which generated a lot of excitement from the full theatre.  His understanding of the importance of Family History Research to Citizen Genealogists, and passion to connect people to those resources and tools was wonderfully acknowledge by Mr. Dave Obee.

Mr. Obee spoke at length on the topic of Immigration. With acknowledgment to our presence at Algonquin college on traditional First Nations lands, considering, briefly immigration from the perspective of those experiencing the newcomers. He shared his own family’s experiences emigrating from various other places into Canada. Their stories, their dire hardships, and their points of view about being in Canada. “Push and Pull”. He reminded all of us, that as Genealogists, we, probably more than anyone else, should be fully aware of what immigration Means. There are events and forces and reasons behind every family leaving their homeland for another. We need to acknowledge how those events continue to cascade. History doesn’t stop at the Immigrant with a straight line through descendants, but instead, ripples. Suffice it to say, Mr. Obee delivered a powerful lecture that was broadly appreciated.