Postcard sparks students’ interest in Remembrance
Writer found an unusual way to help commemorate First World War
A group of Fleming College students got some unexpected mail this week that got them thinking about Remembrance Day.
On Wednesday, a postcard arrived at their Water St. residence. They found it wedged into the doorframe.
Claire Shaughnessy found the card when she got home. She was a bit surprised by it because they’d never gotten mail (in fact, they don’t even have a mailbox).
It was addressed to the occupant (s) with a short, handwritten note: “Your house’s history,” it read. “Over 100 years ago, L. Cpl. Sydney Mason Ward (775583), born Nov. 18, 1897 left your house to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He would serve in with the 60th Battalion in the First World War. We remember.”
On the other side, was a photo of two men dressed in military garb standing in a trench. “Courage, Sacrifice and Betrayal – The Story of the Victoria Rifles of Canada, 60th Battalion in the First World War” was written along the bottom and the name Richard R. Pyves in the upper left corner.
“It was cool,” Shaughnessy said of the postcard. “I’ve never
seen anything like that before.”
She left it on the table, where her roommate Stephanie Stone found it.
Initially, Stone saw the cover and thought it was a flyer of sorts for Remembrance Day. Then she read the other side.
“I thought it was really cool that somebody lived here 100 years ago,” said Stone, 20.
The postcard was sent by Richard Pyves, an author who lives in Pickering.
After spending eight years working on his latest book, Courage, Sacrifice and Betrayal, Pyves wanted to go the extra mile with some of the information he’d gathered.
In his research, Pyves investigated 2,776 soldiers in the 60th Battalion.
After the book was published in March, Pyes figured he’d do something to honour the 100th anniversary of the end of the
First World War, which is Sunday.
He thought it’d be neat if he told people about a particular person who came from a particular house.
So, he screened the addresses he had to see if the houses were still standing. Some enlistment forms didn’t have a house number, just a street name or a post office box.
In the end, Pyves mailed out
310 cards. Nearly 200 went to homes in Toronto, and the Water St. house was the only one in Peterborough to get a card.
The home belonged to Ward’s mother, Elsie, who he declared as next of kin. Since Sydney enlisted six days before his 18th birthday, Pyves thought there was good chance that’s where he’d been living.
According to Sydney’s paperwork, he was born in Ashford, England.
He was a weaver by trade and stood about 5’4”, with brown eyes, dark brown hair and was single when he enlisted in Brampton.
Sydney doesn’t appear to have been wounded in the war, Pyves said, and when the 60th Battalion broke up in April 1917, he was transferred to the 87th Battalion.
He later married, but Pyves doesn’t know if they had children or where Sydney is buried. He died on Sept. 20, 1972 at 74. The four roommates were taken aback when they heard Sydney enlisted at 18.
“That’s so young,” Stone said. Brooklyn Hudson, 21, said she remembers honouring Remembrance Day in school.
But as she’s gotten older, she’s realized that it’s her responsibility to commemorate the special day.
“I think that because we got that (the postcard), it pushed us to remember more than I typically would,” said Hudson.
Roommate Maeghan Reilly said the card somewhat changes the way she looks at Remembrance Day.
“I definitely think it makes it more personal to know that somebody lived here and walked around the same floors that we’re walking on,” said Reilly, 20.
That sentiment is what Pyves was hoping for – a connection to history.
“Hopefully it helps to make them appreciate the 100th anniversary of the end of First World War,” Pyves said.
‘‘ “Hopefully it helps to make them appreciate the 100th anniversary ...”
Author Richard Pyves sent postcards to addresses that were once the home of Canadian First World War soldiers. One of those cards was sent to Peterborough.