Re­mem­ber­ing Canada’s first vet­er­ans

The Beacon Herald - - NEWS - ELLEN THOMAS The Strat­ford-Perth Ar­chives is lo­cated at 4273 Line 34 (High­way 8), just west of Strat­ford. We are open for re­search from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mon­day to Fri­day. Please call 519-271-0531,ext 259 or email ar­chives@perth­county.ca with any ques­tio

This Re­mem­brance Day, we look back at those Cana­di­ans who served in wars. The first war that saw Cana­dian troops sent over­seas be­gan on Oct. 11, 1899, and con­tin­ued un­til May 31, 1902. The Boer War was con­tro­ver­sial, gen­er­ally sup­ported by English Cana­di­ans, but ques­tioned by those of French her­itage, which put then-prime min­is­ter Wil­frid Lau­rier in a quandary as to how many troops to sup­ply.

The war was fought by the Bri­tish against the two small, in­de­pen­dent Boer (or Afrikaner) republics. The Afrikan­ers were de­scen­dants of Protes­tant Dutch, French and Ger­man refugees who had moved there in the sev­en­teenth cen­tury. When forced into the in­te­rior by the Bri­tish ear­lier on, they es­tab­lished two na­tions, the Transvaal and the Or­ange Free State. It is widely be­lieved the Bri­tish in­sti­gated the war be­cause they wished to ap­pro­pri­ate land that held a wealth of gold and di­a­monds. The Bri­tish, on the other hand, jus­ti­fied the war with the rhetoric that they wished to pro­tect the Uit­landers or for­eign­ers, who were im­mi­grants from Bri­tain and its colonies em­ployed to work the mines. It was a bloody war that claimed an es­ti­mated 60,000 lives, in­clud­ing 270 Cana­di­ans.

The first wave of Cana­dian sol­diers sent over­seas com­prised 1,000 vol­un­teers. On Oct. 10, 1899, the Strat­ford Daily Bea­con ran the head­line, “War is Cer­tain Now.” On Oct. 12, it was re­ported that “Twenty Men Wanted. Lieut.-Col. White of the 28th Asks if Strat­ford Can Fur­nish Twenty Men in Case a Cana­dian Con­tin­gent Go To Transvaal.” Men from the area rushed to sub­mit their names. Of the 20 re­quested, three were cho­sen. From Strat­ford, Harry Bal­lard was in the first wave sent to bat­tle. The other two cho­sen were G. Gra­ham and E. W. Peart, both of St. Marys. Even­tu­ally, an­other 6,000 sol­diers, nurses and spe­cial­ists would be sent over the next few years.

On the home front, women set up a “Pa­tri­otic Fund.” The Bea­con, in 1900, an­nounced that “The Ladies Have Col­lected $266.50 Pa­tri­otic Con­cert at Avon­ton Re­al­izes $25 – Over $300 Ex­pected From G. T. R. Em­ploy­ees.” The lo­cal trea­surer was the Bri­tish Mort­gage Loans Co., which had al­ready re­mit­ted $250, while an­other lo­cal con­trib­u­tor, Perth Mu­tual Fire Ins. Co., donated the in­cred­i­ble amount of $500. Mean­while, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment an­swered the ques­tion on many minds: How much would it cost to mail a let­ter to the front? The an­swer was one penny.

When the war fi­nally came to an end, with the Bo­ers sur­ren­der­ing, the Bea­con ran the head­line “Peace Pro­claimed,” on June 12, 1902. It was re­ported that “This morn­ing when the news be­came gen­eral in the city flags were dis­played”… on pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions and else­where. ”Out­side of this there was no demon­stra­tion what­ever.”

This could not be said of other com­mu­ni­ties in Perth County. For in­stance, in Mitchell, a vic­tory at just one bat­tle, the Siege of Kim­ber­ley, re­sulted in “a great wave of ex­cite­ment and re­joic­ing pass­ing over the town when the news was re­ceived of the re­lief of Kim­ber­ley.”

Four Cana­di­ans re­ceived the Vic­to­ria Cross, 19 the Distin­guished Ser­vice Or­der and 17 the Distin­guished Con­duct Medal. One of Canada’s nurs­ing sis­ters, Ge­orgina Pope, was awarded the Royal Red Cross. In many com­mu­ni­ties the first war memo­ri­als were erected, per­haps, fore­shad­ow­ing what was yet to come.

STRAT­FORD-PERTH AR­CHIVES

Stereo­scopic image,se­ries 1901 – Heroes of Paarde­berg wel­come Cana­di­ans dis­em­bark­ing at Hal­i­fax, N.S.

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