Homeowners to receive history lesson in mail
Check the mail. For 10 Brantford homes — and a select few elsewhere in Southwestern Ontario — a little bit of First World War history is coming signed and delivered just in time for the centenary of the armistice that ended the socalled War to End All Wars.
Pickering author Rick Pyves penned 310 personalized postcards to century-old addresses across Canada linked to soldiers from the 60th Battalion, the Victoria Rifles of Canada.
Ten postcards are destined for Brantford, 18 are heading to London, three are earmarked for Woodstock homes and a few more were sent to addresses in St. Thomas, Stratford and other small towns in Southwestern Ontario.
“I was trying to think of what I could do for the 100th anniversary,” Pyves said. “I thought if I was a homeowner and someone sent me a postcard that said ‘soand-so left your house to go to war 100 years ago’ I would be pretty amazed.”
The postcards are an extension of Pyves’ main project, his new book Courage, Sacrifice and Betrayal: The Story of the Victoria Rifles of Canada, 60th Battalion, in the First World War.
Pyves’ grandfather and great uncle were members of the 60th Battalion. At first, he wanted to tell their stories but soon expanded the scope of his research. It took him eight years to tell not only the history of the battalion, but also the story of the soldiers who served in it.
“I researched 2,776 soldiers and I got about 25 facts on each one,” he said. “It was worth it.”
Pyves used online genealogy websites to find living relatives of the soldiers. With the help of the soldiers’ descendants, he gathered letters written during the war and photographs of 220 of the men.
“I got 86 personal recollections and stories, which really took the book from being an average book, I think, to being a great book,” he said, adding the soldiers’ own words are used in several sections.
Like many others in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the 60th Battalion had members from across the country. Though it was raised in Montreal, the battalion was reinforced by recruits from Atlantic Canada and Ontario as the war dragged on. All told, the 60th Battalion included nearly 1,000 men from Ontario, Pyves said.
Pyves’ postcards are handwritten and include the name, rank, regimental number and birthday of the soldier linked to the address.
Getting them into the hands of unsuspecting homeowners wasn’t easy, Pyves said. Using the data he’d spent years compiling, it took him six weeks to check if soldiers’ old street addresses were still around.
“Obviously you don’t want to spend money mailing a postcard to an address that no longer is in existence,” he said.
The postcards have a hashtag #CourageSacrificeandBetrayal so recipients can share their home’s hidden history online. Pyves sent out his second and final batch of postcards early last week.
Through his book and his postal project, Pyves wants people to remember the individual people who went off to fight in one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.
“I really wanted to preserve the stories of the soldiers. The reality is that they’re all dead now, but even their children and grandchildren are dying now,” he said. “Really, what I’m trying to do is preserve history.”
RICK PYVES/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Pickering author Rick Pyves penned 310 personalized postcards to century-old addresses across Canada linked to soldiers from the 60th Battalion, the Victoria Rifles of Canada. This is one of 18 destined for homes in London.
This is the front of the postcard being mailed to century-old addresses across Canada linked to soldiers from the 60th Battalion, the Victoria Rifles of Canada. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO