Glengarry’s connections on all fronts
On Thursday, October 31, 1918, a young woman from Greenfield in Glengarry died at the Rock Island Post Hospital in Illinois.
Nursing Sister Janet McIntosh was a Red Cross nurse on active duty who had been posted to the American military hospital and succumbed to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. She was 34.
The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. D.J. McIntosh, Miss McIntosh was accorded full military honours in Rock Island and her remains were interred at Greenfield November 4, 1918.
The Red Cross War Memorial in Lancaster and the Glengarry Cenotaph in Alexandria both bear her name.
Miss McIntosh was among approximately 60 Canadian nurses who died during the First World War as a result of illness or from direct action. A total of 3,141 women served with the Canadian Army Medical Corps during the 5 years of the First World War.
Another local nurse who served was Jessie Maude McLennan from Lancaster, who survived serious trench fever after being posted to a Canadian military hospital in the ancient Balkan city of Salonika, now called Thessaloniki in Greece.
Three other Glengarry nurses joined the U.S. army -- Alena MacDonald, Alma Lighthall, and Catherine Gelineau who was from Quigley’s Corners (Lochiel Hamlet). Edith Rayside from Lancaster had an impressive role in the war, being promoted to Matron-in-Chief in Canada.
Glengarry’s nurses in service during the First World War served as the introduction to the “Glengarry Connections” segment of local historian Robin Flockton’s talk, “Glengarry Connections on all fronts: St. Lucia to Siberia, 19141919,” at a recent special meeting and dinner hosted by the Glengarry Historical Society at the Royal Canadian Legion branch 544 in Lancaster.
The evening commemorated 100 years since the end of The Great War and included artifacts brought for the evening by members of the audience and the Glengarry Nor’Westers and Loyalist Museum in Williamstown. The event also included a talk by Leon Chamois, Senior Curator of the SD&G Highlanders’ Regimental Museum in Cornwall who brought along a very interesting artifact from the museum’s collection to illustrate his discussion of the SD&G Highlanders and the First World War. Mr. Chamois explained that the 59th Stormont and Glengarry Militia Regiment was placed on active service on 6 August 1914 for local protection duties only because Sir Sam Hughes, Canada's irascible and combative Minister of Militia and Defence from October 1911 to November 1916, who organized the Canadian Expeditionary Force, determined that Canada’s existing militia units would not go to war.
Instead, Sam Hughes created an entire duplicate system of overseas battalions to the great disappointment of Canadian permanent force militia who yearned to join forces overseas. “We were the 59th Stormont and Glengarry because Dundas was in the next militia unit,” explained Mr. Chamois. “We thought we were going to war. Instead Hughes determined that be the 154th Overseas Battalion, CEF, would be raised in our area.”
The 154th would be raised in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
“This was a slap in the face to a lot of people,” said Mr, Chamois, “Because it was essentially ignoring the entire existing military system.” To further complicate the matter, it became apparent that they were sending the numbered battalions overseas numerically, not an encouraging situation for the 154th who saw some members rush to enlist in other lower numbered overseas battalions.
At this point, Mr. Chamois asked two volunteers to carefully unfold and bring forth an artifact, a silk flag that had been commissioned by the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE) when war was declared.
“You can see that there is something that doesn’t seem right,” said Mr. Chamois. And indeed, it’s obvious that the word Dundas has been added later to the 154th’s flag, squeezed diagonally between the existing Stormont and Glengarry. “It’s because when the 59th went to war, Dundas was thrown in,” said Mr. Chamois. “By the way, when I give this talk in Dundas, it’s entirely different,” said Mr. Chamois to loud laughter from the room. Robin Flockton continues to do excellent research on Glengarry history and his talk October 18 was no exception. Mr. Flockton’s talk was a tour of the “Forgotten Fronts of the Great War” with connections to Glengarry whenever possible. It was a thorough talk, filled with anecdotes, and perhaps surprising to some in the room, among the 1,600 men and women who left the peace and quiet of Glengarry and spread across the world between 1914 and 1918, some found themselves in theatres of The Great War far from the Western Front -- Macedonia, Serbia, Mesopotamia, the Eastern Front, the Caucasus, the North Russian Expeditionary Force and the Siberian Expeditionary Force. The event took place at the Royal Canadian Legion branch 544 Lancaster which donated the hall for the event and was presented by the Glengarry Historical Society.
IMPORTANT EMBLEM: Volunteers Duncan McRae and Owen Robertson, both from Bainsville, hold an important artifact from the SD&G Highlanders’ Regimental Museum in Cornwall, a silk flag commissioned by the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire for the 59th Stormont and Glengarry Battalion of Infantry that had to be changed to have Dundas added after the 154th Overseas Battalion began recruiting in Dundas. In front is Leon Chamois, Senior Curator of the SD&G Highlanders’ Regimental Museum in Cornwall who brought the flag.