Wednesday, October 26, 2016

World War Wednesdays: Heroes of North Dunwich

Ten acre maple bush on the Campbell farm, north half lot 19, concession 3, Cowal
     Being home always makes me want to post about the Elgin County area, and this week's search for original content brought me right to my own backyard. I thought it would be nice to pay tribute to my familial home of North Dunwich this week by compiling just a few of its Second World War servicemen and women. With Remembrance Day just around the corner I like to shed some light on individual stories, so this post marks the beginning of that trend for the 2016 edition. 
     For those readers not from the area, or those who are from Elgin but haven't had the pleasure of making an acquaintance with North Dunwich, I'll try and clarify the area in question this week: travelling north from Dutton, towards Glencoe is a network of small rural villages. These include Largie, Campbellton, and Cowal, all of which were once booming agricultural settlements with schools, churches, baseball teams, and annual outdoor concerts, inhabited by closely-knit neighbors of primarily Scottish descent. All of the individuals in this post came from those places, and from what I consider to be unique circumstances for war service. Since food production was a top priority for the Canadian government during the war, our farmers were highly valued as contributors to the war effort, with young men often being exempted from overseas service so that they could remain on the farms. While they could have achieved the same satisfaction of having served their country in the crucial agricultural capacity, the individuals in this post chose to also serve in the Canadian forces. Please join me in recognizing these remarkable individuals and their service:

Duncan Kenneth Campbell
SON of Mr . and Mrs . Alex Campbell, who reside near Cowal. Enlisted in the R. C. A. F. on September 8th, 1942. He was trained at Manning Pool, Toronto, and at No. 3 Bombing and Gunnery School, McDonald, Man., where he graduated as an air gunner. He proceeded overseas in October, 1943, and continued his operational training in England near Stratford-on-Avon, eventually joining 408 Squadron (R. C. A. F.), a unit of No. 6 Canadian Heavy Bomber Group. F/Sgt. Campbell completed 38 operational flights including a ten-hour trip to Freidrichshaven in southern Germany, and the 1,000 bomber attacks in support of the Canadian and British forces at Caen in July, 1944. He returned to Canada i n November, 1944, and was discharged in February of 1945, and is now farming in North Dunwich.
Edgar St. Clair Campbell
 BORN in Dunwich Township, September 13th, 1909. He enlisted on August 13th, 1942, i n Toronto, and went overseas on January 30th, 1944.- He served with the Royal Canadian Engineers in England until May, 1945, and in Germany and Holland until September, 1945. He is now back in England.
John Stuart McWilliam
BORN near Campbellton, the son of Mr . and Mrs. A. N . McWilliam , and enlisted in the R. C. A . F. in May, 1944. He trained at Manning Pool in Toronto, and after receiving two months farm leave during the summer of 1944, was discharged as "services no longer required" in November, 1944.
Clarence McPhail Campbell
SON of Mr . and Mrs. A. M . Campbell, Cowal, enlisted for active service June 11th, 1942. After training in Canada at Petawawa and Debert, N.S., he went to the United Kingdom in August, 1943, as a member of the 33rd Anti-Tank Battery, 6th Anti-Tank Regiment. He went to France on D-Day and was then attached to the Elgin Regiment with B Squadron, 25th Canadian Armoured Delivery Regiment and continued with this unit through France, Belgium and Holland, in which country he still is stationed.
Lloyd McCallum
SON of Mrs . J. A. McCallum and the late Mr . McCallum, Cowal. Enlisted i n the R. C. A . F. in August, 1941. He served i n the fire department of the Ai r Force in Canada for over three years, when he was transferred to Newfoundland. L. A. C. MoCallum was discharged on November 17th, 1945.
Andrew St. Clair Duncanson
 SON of Mr . and Mrs . A. G. Duncanson of Largie. He enlisted for active service in October, 1939, with the Canadian Dental Corps. He served i n Canada at London, Stratford, Listowel and Kitchener, then was sent to the United Kingdom. He spent five months on the continent, serving in Normandy, Belgium and Holland. He has returned to Canada and has commenced dental practice in St. Thomas, Ont.
Lloyd George Leitch
SON of Mr . and Mrs. Thomas Leitch, Largie, was born January 14th, 1921. He entered the army Apri l 13th, 1944, and was at training depots in Chatham and London. He was discharged on May 31st, 1944, on medical grounds.
Don Allister Duncanson
SON of Mr . and Mrs. A. G. Duncanson, North Dunwich. was born on November 15th, 1919. He graduated from Dutton High School and attended University of Western Ontario. After enlisting in the R. C. A. F. i n June, 1941, he was trained at Toronto and Oshawa and graduated from Hagersville as a commissioned pilot. S/L Duncanson, after taking a general reconnaissance course at Summerside, P. E. I. , proceeded to the United Kingdom in October, 1942. He received his operational and torpedo training on Beauforts at Dunberry, Scotland, and in Northern Ireland, going to the Middle East and on to India in May of 1943. I n September, 1943, he was returned to the United Kingdom for conversion to Beaulighters and joined 144 R. A. F. Squadron at Wick, Scotland, i n April , 1944. S/L Duncanson completed forty-two operational flights, and was awarded the D. F. C. for securing a torpedo hit on a German merchant ship after being wounded by shrapnel. He returned to Canada in September, 1945, and was discharged on October 24th, 1945.
Clara Wrightwood
—ENLISTE D in London, Ont., June 10th, 1943. Took her — basic training in Kitchener through July, 1943, then _ took a driver's course i n Kitchener for six weeks, finished the middle of September. She was then sent to St. Anne de Bellevue on September 23rd, 1943. On June 11th, 1944, she was transferred to London, Ont., and September, 1944, worked at C. M . D. on Highbury Ave., until February. Then went to Meredith Bks. until ready for a discharge. She received her discharge from 101 Depot Co. July 6th, 1945. Clara also attended Largie School in Dunwich, where her father has resided since 1927. Her brothers, John Maurice Fox, Joseph Fox and Frank Fox, are also in the service.

     All of the photos in this post come from Elgin County Archives, with the information originating in A Tribute to Valour as compiled by Elgin County Archives. I'm proud to have showcased some relatives and community members this week, and of course recognize that they are a few of many more servicemen and women from the North Dunwich area. Please feel free to pass along the stories of any more individuals I may have missed!
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Upcoming Events at Eagle Community Centre

Hi everyone!  Once in a while we make sure to share what other locations have going on.  Check out what's coming soon in Eagle (south of West Lorne, on Talbot Line).   

Thanks for your continued support of the Eagle Community Centre. We have events planned that you don't want you to miss!

Family Halloween Party - FREE 
October 29, 2016 - 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm 
Door prizes, crafts, games, goodie bags and light dinner
Bring the kids, grandchildren and yourselves for this fun event. 
Come dressed up to earn a ballot for a prize!
Please RSVP by October 27th

Eagle Shores Artisan Show 
November 19, 2016 - 10am to 3 pm 
15 unique artisans with one of a kind quality gifts and products. You don't want to miss this show! 
A delicious lunch will be served and Baked Goods will be on sale.  Raffle table, draws and more! A great time to shop and socialize. Brochure available upon request. 

We are looking for donations for our Bake Table and volunteers to assist the artisans by carrying in their displays/items from 8 am to 9:30 am.  We also need volunteers to count and greet visitors from 10 am to 3 pm.  Let me know if you can help. 

ECC Member's Christmas Dinner - FREE
Sunday, December 4th - 5:30 pm  cocktails - 6pm Meal 
The Directors would like to thank members for their support and we invite you to attend a Christmas supper prepared by the Directors. Please RSVP by December 1st. A fun night of food and conversation. 

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Janet Given 
Eagle Community Centre 
"Great things happen here"
(519) 768-2698

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

World War Wednesdays: Capturing Hill 70 Launch

     Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of a fantastic new book, Capturing Hill 70: Canada's Forgotten Battle of the First World War held in the Barney Danson theater at the Canadian War Museum. Hosted by the War Museum's post-1945 historian, Dr. Andrew Burtch, it also featured introductions by co-editor Dr. Serge Durflinger and contributor Dr. Tim Cook. The general theme of the evening was that most Canadians really have no idea what happened at Hill 70 during the First World War, so I'm proud to say that regular readers of this blog will not fall into that category! I won't be saying too much about the battle itself outside of each author's speeches, so if you'd like to brush up on the finer details and our local veterans' involvement, you can refer back to this one:

     As Dr. Durflinger discussed, the book is actually a volume of collected essays edited by both himself and Douglas Delaney. It's a detailed account of the 'how' and 'why' of Canada's forgotten battle and victory, where nine thousand men lost their lives in August 1917. The goal is that it will operate in conjunction with the upcoming monument at the Hill 70 site in France to commemorate the battle's centenary, with the overall project being supported by the Hill 70 Memorial Fund. Capturing Hill 70 is part of a UBC Press series on Canadian military history.
Dr. Serge Durflinger, University of Ottawa

     Dr. Durflinger highlighted the importance of understanding Hill 70 as the major event between Vimy Ridge in April 1917, a major Canadian victory, and Passchendaele in October, a horrific failure. For the Canadian Corps, it was a diversionary attack from the upcoming offensive, but it also had its own local objectives. The battle occurred 1-2 kilometers north of Lens, a French coal mining district, and was referred to as "Hill 70" because that is the landmark's height in meters above sea level. Durflinger theorized that it is less-known recognized in Canadian memory because it is not actually an identifiable place, such as Vimy and Ypres.

     The offensive at Hill 70 was planned by Strathroy's own Arthur Currie, and it was his first time being in charge of a battle. The overwhelming opinion of historians is that he carried out this duty admirably with significant consideration for both tactics and preservation of men. Nonetheless, the first day of the battle (August 15, 1917) saw some of the Canadians' most grisly fighting on the entire Western Front. They were ultimately able to hold their ground, but it was a grim victory. Later, Currie indicated that he believed Hill 70 had been the Canadians' toughest fight, and he had seen them all. August 15 is regarded as Canada's third worst day of the entire war.

     Despite being a two-part offensive with the second stage (the seizure of Lens) a bitter defeat, the essays in the book demonstrate the battle's importance in the events that took place after it. Overall, it was the first solid example of Canadian affirmations on the Western Front. Durflinger concluded by adding that both his and Delaney's grandfathers had served in the First World War, and his at Hill 70.
Dr. Tim Cook with one of his books, The Necessary War
     Dr. Tim Cook took the stage to talk about his essay in the book, which is about the artillery, fire plan, machine gun barrage, and chemical warfare during Hill 70- an idea which he said came from the Hill 70 Memorial Group. He described the battle plan as a "killing by artillery," which was to be a "bite, hold, and destroy" operation that was unique and essential in its inclusion of that third step, "destroy." In all, 482 guns were present at the Hill: half British, half Canadian; and half the number of guns that the Canadians had had at Vimy Ridge. This worried Currie because it meant wear and tear on the guns, but the emphasis was nonetheless on a counterbattery program. In addition, Royal Flying Corps squadrons aided the gunners from the sky.

     The battle also saw the use of a heavy machine gun barrage using Vickers guns, with 2.5 million rounds being fired before the battle even began. This combined arms approach to battle ultimately proved successful, and set an example for subsequent engagements. In addition, the Canadians provided a vicious, brutal infantry attack.
A Vickers machine gun during the battle of Passchendaele

     Currie's plan was to hold the hill, thereby turning the Canadian attackers into defenders (he had the foresight to know that the Germans would eventually turn around with a counteroffensive), but his forces were unable to withstand the total of twenty-one counterattacks. During that time, 171 calls for support came from the infantry, by means of telephone, wires, runners, and even pigeons, and the gunners responded to every one. Ten days after the battle, Currie wrote letters of appreciation to the gunners, which included: "The assaulting Infantry maintain that the [artillery] preparation has never been more complete, the support has never been better and the liaison has never been more perfect."

     This book proves to be an impressive discussion of Hill 70 which includes a variety of perspectives and material which appeals to both academic and non-academic audiences. It was great to reconnect with Dr. Durflinger, one of my greatest historical inspirations, and to see Tim Cook, another phenomenal historian (check out some of his many books, they're all incredible) in person. Capturing Hill 70 is available through Chapters Indigo Coles and I highly recommend checking it out if you're interested.

     Phew, was that too much military history?? I always worry about indulging that side of things too much and boring the readers who come here for the weirdness/ niche topics I'm usually good for. I haven't mentioned it in a while but I am still always open to suggestions, requests, and questions!
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)
Further reading:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

World War Wednesdays: Dutton's Own Pte. Duncanson Update

 MCpl Pat Blanchard, Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND
     The final chapter in the story of Pte. Kenneth Donald Duncanson, the Dunwich native whose remains were missing for over seventy years, finally came to a close on September 14. On that sunny day in the Adegem Canadian War Cemetery outside Bruges, Belgium, he was laid to rest while his family looked on. The ceremony was conducted by his unit, the Algonquin Regiment, who conducted the ceremony with full military honours. Amazingly, it was exactly seventy-two years to the day since his death, during an attempt by the Algonquins to establish a bridgehead of the Dérivation de la Lys and the Leopold Canal. For further details on his early life, death, and the discovery of his remains, please revisit my earlier post:

Lieutenant Colonel Ken McClure, Commanding Officer of The Algonquin Regiment, hands the Canadian Flag to Judith Thomas, a second cousin of Private Kenneth Duncanson. MCpl Pat Blanchard, Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND

     Earlier this fall, I was fortunate enough to meet one of the Department of National Defense Casualty Identification Program employees, who is a colleague of mine at the Bytown Museum. She worked on Pte. Duncanson's case and actually held his wedding ring and other personal effects found with him after they were sent back to Canada, and told me that one of the main identifiers of the body was a bracelet that he had been wearing at the time of his death. A gift from his wife, Lillian, it was inscribed with his name and information because she feared that the traditional paper identifiers issued by the army would be insufficient for him to be recognized if the unthinkable were to happen. Thus, although she passed away before having closure to her husband's death, she was one of the key factors in finally laying Pte. Duncanson to rest. My colleague also told me that the entire Program is extremely impressed with the response to this story they've received from Dunwich residents, and that they have never before experienced a commemoration of this magnitude for an identified war casualty. This news, of course, did not surprise me in the slightest, since I have yet to observe a locale more proud of its history than ours. 
“We are grateful for the dedication and support of our international partners who made today’s events possible. Private Duncanson’s funeral provides an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect upon the experiences of those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. We will always remember them.”
Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister
“We pay tribute to Private Duncanson and his family, who gave so much to this country, as we express our gratitude to serving members and former members of our Canadian Armed Forces, who have made possible our continued enjoyment of peace and liberty. We will honour them always.”
Kent Hehr, Veterans Affairs Minister and Associate Minister of National Defence
“Regardless of the 72 years which have passed since Private Duncanson’s death, it is gratifying to finally be able to give him the dignity and respect of a military burial in a Commonwealth cemetery. His personal sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
Brigadier-General (Ret.) David Kettle, Secretary General, the Canadian Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Quick Facts
  • Private Duncanson was born in Wallacetown, Ontario, on June 7, 1915. He married in 1939 and lived in Dutton, Ontario. He enlisted in the Canadian Army on August 24, 1942, and joined The Algonquin Regiment (of North Bay and Timmins, Ontario) in April 1944.
  • He was killed on September 14, 1944, during an attempt by The Algonquin Regiment to establish a bridgehead crossing of the Dérivation de la Lys (canal) and the Leopold Canal, at the hamlet of Molentje, now in the municipality of Damme, Belgium. This was part of the preliminary battles leading up to the Battle of the Scheldt.
  • Private Duncanson’s remains were discovered in a farmer’s field in November 2014 but not recovered by Belgian authorities until April 2016, with DND assisting.
  • His identification resulted from a combination of historical context, anthropological analysis, artefact evidence, and dental records. The identification was made by DND’s Casualty Identification Program, with the assistance of the Royal Canadian Dental Corps and the Canadian Museum of History.
  • Veterans Affairs Canada provided support to the family members of Private Duncanson and coordinated their participation in the funeral.
  • Adegem Canadian War Cemetery already contains the graves of 67 soldiers from The Algonquin Regiment. Most of the 848 Canadians buried at this cemetery died in the fall of 1944 during the Liberation of Belgium and the Battle of the Scheldt. A number of Canadian airmen who died in action elsewhere are also interred there, as are a number of British and Polish soldiers. There are also two French burials.
     Many thanks to the Government of Canada for the news release describing the burial ceremony, Allister Cameron for the video link, and Angela Bobier for passing it along to me. Below, you'll find the video coverage of the ceremony courtesy of Allister.

Thanks for reading,
     Delany Leitch (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thanksgiving Weekend at Backus-Page House Museum

We are OPEN for the weekend.  This is your last chance to visit the museum during regular operating hours for 2016.  I can't believe we in the last few days of the season.  We are available for guided tours Friday 10am - 4:30pm then Saturday, Sunday and Monday from noon - 4:30pm.  To finish out our Fall Try It Out Tours we have Candle Making and more on Friday and Sunday plus Pioneer Games and Toys on Saturday and Monday.

I've already had calls and inquiries about doing your family photos here on the grounds.  Come on out any time as there's lots of places on site for great backgrounds.  Using the grounds and park are free, but I won't turn down a donation to the museum!  Museum admission rates are Adults $5, Children $2.

Have you tried out our new audio guide?  You can download it to your smartphone (BEFORE your visit).  There's also one for the museum interior and grounds.  Here's the link to the museum grounds tour.  Here's the link to the inside of the museum tour.  Please let us know what you think of the audio tours so we can pass along your comments to WanderBuzz, a local startup app company.

Have a spectacular Thanksgiving everyone!  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

World War Wednesdays: SECOND BLOGIVERSARY!

     Can you even believe that I've written a post every Wednesday for the past TWO years? It feels like this adventure just began and I'm still so grateful every day for all the things I've learned and experienced as a result of this blog. As I did last year, I thought it would be a nice trip down memory lane to look back at the past year of posts, remember some old favorites, and see how far we've come.

Fall 2015
     The first post of our second year was coverage of the Battle of Britain 75th anniversary ceremony on Parliament Hill. I still think of that day as being one of my favorite here in Ottawa so far, and I'll never forget the way the R.C.A.F. paid tribute to that legendary period in our history. This year, the ceremony was back at its usual location, the Aviation and Space Museum, so I feel lucky to have experienced the big anniversary when it was held at Parliament. After that, we changed keys and talked about country music and the World Wars, tipping our hat to Ernest Tubb and Jimmie Rodgers. The next post was on the Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill, one my favorite topics, and one of the first devoted to that fascinating man. The book with that title by Dominique Enright is still one of my favorite works ever and I highly recommend picking it up! One of the most popular posts of the year happened next, with the story of Edith Cavell. That one was part of a hundredth anniversary during the First World War and I loved how propaganda was tied into that story. The next edition ventured into the uncharted territory of Children's History with the story of the SS City of Benares tragedy, and then again with the guide to researching your own family's war histories after my trip to the Library and Archives Canada genealogy center. Fall continued with a discussion on the history behind Daylight Savings Time, which has some surprising connections to times of war! Last year's Remembrance Day post, "Forgetting Remembrance Day," was another memorable edition and a continuation of my original blogging purpose, which was covering commemorative events. The next post was about Canada's Mennonite communities and the Second World War, which is a deeply fascinating (and not frequently explored) topic and the subject of an amazing National Film Board movie, "The Pacifist Who Went to War". The last fall post really spiced things up with an exploration of General Eisenhower's alleged affair with his assistant, Kay Summersby. Overall, fall 2015 seemed to be all about trying new things and exploring some unique ideas!

The Battle of Britain ceremony

Winston Churchill

Dwight Eisenhower and Kay Summersby

Edith Cavell

Ernest Tubb
Winter 2015-2016
     We cracked off the winter blogging season with another of the most popular posts, the one about the Women's Division of the No. 4 B&G at Fingal, before moving into the well-loved series of Christmas celebrations held there. December ended with the presentation of my digital timeline project, which is an interactive map of the fatal accidents that occurred during the B&G's operation. Clearly I was spending a lot of time in the archives collecting resources on the school's history! We began 2016 with some First World War fondness from Aylmer, which happens to be my first post with a spelling error in the title, in case you ever wondered. In keeping with the central/east Elgin theme, the next post talked about the No. 1 Technical Training School in St. Thomas, which located in the St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital building. After that, my first Holocaust-related post finally happened, which was all about the story of Emmauel Ringelblum. To lighten the mood a little bit, the next week featured the story of the most adorable wartime sweethearts who were reunited in their nineties. The gloves came off with the post about a young Princess Elizabeth training as a mechanic and driver during the Second World War, but we put them back on again as archival gloves for the next three weeks' posts on some original Holocaust documents that had most likely never been seen since the days of the Warsaw ghetto. One of the defining characteristics of the winter posts was their origins in archival research, which I began relying on more frequently in order to make the posts more original and reliable.
Princess Elizabeth in front of her ambulance

The footbridge linking the Warsaw ghetto with the rest of the city
Spring 2016
     Spring began with a break from tradition: the only non-war-related post in the history of World War Wednesdays, in honour of this year being a Leap Year. The next week jumped into some coverage of Elgin's own 91st Battalion during the First World War, which was gearing up for the 100th anniversary of its departure overseas at the time. The next week shifted gears again with yet another Fingal post, this time on mishaps that occurred at the school and some lucky escapes in honour of St. Patrick's Day. After that, my visit to the Canadian War Museum with some NDP Members of Parliament and staff was another highlight of the year, and that week's post covered the World War Women exhibit that we got to experience with a special tour. The next post was one for the dogs, and discussed some of the famous dogs of leading men during the Second World War. In honour of the Vimy Ridge 99th anniversary in April, I focused the next post on commemorations of Vimy in Elgin County over the years. The next few weeks got nice and close to home, with the Letters Home to Dutton series and coverage of the story behind Pte. Kenneth Duncanson's life, death, and recovery in Belgium. I was finally back home at that time and made sure to give Dunwich lots of attention. All of these posts are definitely a sign of the times when they were written, and it's especially neat to look back on them and remember what I was doing at the time.
Pte. Duncanson

The old Dutton train station
John Hodder from Dutton, one of the soldiers whose letters home were published in the Dutton Advance during WWII

Summer 2016
     As much as I hate to admit that summer has drawn to a close, it's nice to look back and see how those posts played out. They started with the story of the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge and its connections to Adolf Hitler, and then observed the D-Day anniversary with some coverage of Elgin County men who were a part of those operations. We then moved into the two-part Dutton Advance During WWII series, which was followed up with a post on what it was like to go to the movies in the area during the war. July began with a unique post on the WWI Pals' Battalions, which I had never heard of before then. The next post got us spaced-out with the discussion on wartime shining stars from Wallacetown, which was inspired by a visitor during my time at Backus-Page House. We jumped across the Dunborough the next week to make sure that West Elgin veterans were recognized in a similar way, before extending the boundaries again the next week with the highlights of Lorne Spicer's war experiences and reunion with a former comrade at Parkwood Hospital. The August heat blazed on and so did the search for dynamic new posts, with some special attention being paid to the Blitz during WWII. After that, we talked about the Canadians during the WWI battle at Hill 70, where I was able to incorporate some of the local veterans' database I had compiled at the museum. We rounded off the summer with some darker topics, namely the Spanish Influenza epidemic and First World War Enemy Aliens in Elgin County. Overall, I'd say that my time at the Museum heavily influenced these summer posts, and opened my eyes to a wide range of topics that had yet to be explored.

     In general, when I look back on the past year of World War Wednesdays, I'm even more proud of this little tradition than ever. I think the last twelve months have really encouraged me to try new things, explore some unfamiliar topics, and go the extra mile to ensure quality and original content. I closed last year's blogiversary post by saying that I was so excited to see where the next year of blogging would take me, and I repeat that statement for this year! I can't thank my readers enough for following along and engaging with these posts, and I'm looking forward to providing you all with another years' worth of reading material.
      Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)