Alexandra Blair will recite In Flanders Fields at the November 11 ceremonies in Alexandria.
The grade 12 student from Maxville, the daughter of Erin Blair and Nicole Beaulieu, has several family connections to soldiers who served in both World War I and World War II.
Her great-grandfather, Currie Edward Blair, was born in 1887 in Moose Creek. He was a member of the 5th Pioneers, a unit he joined in 1916, and was later part of the 5th Canadian Railway Troops.
Mr. Blair, who has researched his family’s extensive military history, relates that on April 9, 1917, the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, his grandfather would have been about 15 kilometres from the site of the historic victory.
The C.R.T. battalions proved to be essential to advancing the lines. In October 1914, Canadians had proposed sending railway units to Europe but were turned down.
Prior to 1914, more new railways had been built in Canada than anywhere else in the British Empire.
After the Battle of the Somme in 1916, it was clear that road and animal transport alone could not bring forward the weight of war material required.
At Vimy Ridge, the lines were laid on the heels of the advance. Shells and small arms ammunition came up, and casualties were evacuated.
About 60 miles of narrow gauge were laid. In five hours a spur line was constructed and a British battery supplied with shells the morning of April 9.
Men were killed due to accidents, enemy shelling, and aerial bombing as well as machine guns and rifle fire.
While the troops in the front lines had the protection of their trenches during artillery shelling, the railway troops were often out in the open. They worked above those trenches either moving supplies forward or repairing lines that had been damaged from shelling, while the troops below went about their business. The repairing of lines was a constant ac- tivity and the threat from shelling, either observed or random, was a daily occurrence.
Legion executive member
Mr. Blair’s father, Gerald M. Blair (1921-2002), was a sergeant with the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) unit in World War II. After the war, he served as a member of the Alexandria Legion executive.
Many of Alexandra’s ancestors fought in the First World War.
What follows is a list of relatives who served in WWI.
Great-great-uncle, Malcolm Donald McLennan, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Canadian Army Medical Corps, Sergeant.
Great-great uncle, Weldon Johnston, 2nd Depot Battalion, E.O.R., Corporal.
Great-great uncle, Clifford Johnston, 5th Brigade Canadian Field Artillery, 17th Battery C.F.A., Corporal. He suffered an early death in 1926, possibly attributed to the effects of mustard gas poisoning.
Great-great-great uncle, John Arthur Presley, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Private. He served only briefly in Canada; he was later
judged to be medically unfit and received an honourable discharge.
Third cousin, twice removed, Linden Blair, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), 21st Battalion, died of wounds in April, 1918.
First cousin, four times removed, Albert Edward Presley, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 87th Battalion Cdn. Infantry (Cdn. Grenadier Guards), killed in action Oct. 21, 1916.
First cousin, four times removed, James Samual Presley, brother of Albert Edward Presley, 5th Field Company 2nd Division Engineers, Private.
Second cousin, three times removed, Charles Edward Blair, 2nd Depot Battalion, Eastern Ontario Regiment, Private.
Second cousin, three times removed, Gordon Blair, brother of Charles Edward BlaiR, 38th Battalion, Corporal.
REMEMBRANCE: Alexandra Blair will pay tribute to her great-grandfather Currie Edward Blair, and the many others who served in World War I, when she reads InFlandersFields November 11.
PILGRIMAGE: At Vimy Ridge in 2016, Erin Blair, his wife Nicole Beaulieu and daughters Catherina and Alexandra visit the monument.