Wednesday, January 25, 2017

World War Wednesday: The Sweet Stuff of WWII

     In case you hadn't already noticed a trend, or if you're new to World War Wednesdays and don't know that we've been going strong for almost two and a half years, the World Wars have everything to do with, well... pretty much everything. We've delved into some delectable topics a few times in recent memory (I know I doughnut have to remind you about the WWI Salvation Army doughnut girls post), but I thought it would be interesting to look into the Second World War's connections to some of the commercial candy brands we all know and love.

1. M&M'S

     The story goes that Forrest E. Mars, Sr. (son of Frank Mars, who founded the iconic candy company Mars, Inc.) invented this classic treat in 1941, after having seen soldiers during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s eating chocolate pellets coated in tempered chocolate. He secured a patent for the product that same year, dubbing it "M&M'S," and set up shop with M&Ms Ltd. headquartered in Newark, NJ. Advertised as M&M'S Plain Chocolate Candies, the tubes of candy also hit the market in 1941, and came in brown, red, green, blue, orange, yellow, and violet. Within months, however, the US entered the war following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December, and M&M'S became reserved for exclusive military use. Since their trademark candy coating prevented them from melting in warm climates such as the Pacific, M&M's were included as part of soldiers' C-Rations. Tubes were also sold in post exchanges and ship's service ports. When the war ended in 1945, they were once again available for purchase by the general public, and the original tube packaging was replaced with the familiar bag in 1948.

2. Hershey Bars
Ration D bar and Tropical Chocolate bar, ca.1942-1944, Hershey Community Archives
     Hershey Chocolate Corporation became involved with the war effort with the production of military ration bars, for which American troops became well-known during their time overseas. Much like M&M'S, the bars had to stand up to the more demanding combat conditions, so a change in the formula was required before they were fit for duty. The original commercial bars melted too easily and tasted too good to be only used on the brink of starvation. The ration bar, then, had to be able to withstand heat, be high in protein and food energy, and taste bitter. This formula required a more complicated production process, using special methods and machinery, but the Ration-D bar nonetheless became a staple for American troops. Between 1940 and 1945, over three billion Ration-D bars were distributed to soldiers in combat around the world. They came in packs including three bars, each of which could supply a single soldier with 1,800 calories (the recommended daily intake of a combat soldier)! As a result of their wartime contributions, Hershey Chocolate Corporation won the Army-Navy 'E' production award in 1942, and also received a flag to wave at their plant and pins for every single employee. At the end of the war, the company received five more 'E' production awards.

3. Whitman's Chocolates
     The story of Whitman's Confections and wartime actually goes back as far as combats before the First World War, and the company, which was one of the first to produce boxes of assorted chocolates, prided itself on sending their goods to men and women serving overseas. During the First World War, they continued that tradition by sending boxes to the soldiers. The company even fared quite well during the Depression, and actually ran the most magazine ads during the 1930s than ever in its history. By the time the Second World War broke out, Whitman's once again sent chocolates to the troops, and female factory workers even placed handwritten notes inside the packages. Some of those eventually resulted in friendships and even marriages!

4. Tootsie Rolls
LIFE Magazine, 26 Oct 1942
     Tootsie Rolls also picked up the theme of the public giving their beloved candy to the troops during the war with its advertising, and they were also included in American soldiers' rations. They were intended to provide 'quick' energy, and earned even more fame at home during the 1940s with endorsements from celebrities like Gene Autry and, famously, Frank Sinatra, who is said to have been buried with Tootsie Rolls!

     I hope you enjoyed this little foray into the sweeter side of wartime history. Many thanks to Candy Professor, The Huffington Post, Carrie Ledgerwood's History of Candy blog, and Tootsie's interactive timeline for information and images.
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Family History Friday - Stevenson Part 2

Since we featured a picture of John Edwin Stevenson's family band a couple weeks ago, Sandra Sales mentioned we could post a picture of Robert Stevenson's family orchestra from the book the "Wallacetown United Church" by Margaret Welch.  If anyone has a copy of this book we'd be happy to accept one as a donation to add to our resource library here at Backus-Page House Museum.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Nominating Committee Report 2017

Board Approved List of Nominees for Tyrconnell Heritage Society`s Board of Directors to be voted on at the Annual General Meeting on March 1, 2017.  Meeting starts at 7pm at the Backus-Page House Museum.

Nominees for 3 year terms
Betty Ann Bobier
Don Bobier
We still have room for 2 more candidates!!

Nominees for 1 year term
Mike Mulhern

The following board members still have years left on their term.
1 year left: Catie Welch, Betty McLandress
2 years left: Liz Elliott, Dave Welch, Beth Goldsworthy, Brian Elliott

Thanks to those ending their board terms for their contributions to the society and museum:  
Austin Pitcher, Ken Reinke, Rob & Janice Ellis

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

World War Wednesdays: The People of Malta, WWII

Bomb damage in Malta
     Welcome back to another World War Wednesday! In case you're interested in a little life update, I'm settling into my last semester here at the University of Ottawa and regularly alternating between shock at how fast these four years have gone and desperation for it to end. It's been a pretty crazy life experience so far and I am looking forward to what's next (but mostly just being free from the horrors of grad school applications). For some reason, a few of my profs have decided to suddenly jump aboard the technology bandwagon and assigned regular blogs as part of our course work, which is great for me. However, a lot of the assignments say that a blog is only 300-500 words which makes me wonder if World War Wednesdays should be changed to Wordy War Wednesdays! In the interest of being a quicker, more enjoyable read (and the fact that I'm now pretty much constantly blogging) I hope to try and shorten things up in the future.

     This week's topic is something I've come across numerous times but never fully devoted my attention to until now. During the Second World War, the Mediterranean island of Malta was a military and naval fortress given its highly strategic location as the only Allied base between Gibraltar and Alexandria, Egypt (North African Campaign). It facilitated offensive action against Axis shipping and land targets in the central Mediterranean, and its proximity to Italy made it the headquarters of the British Royal Navy's Mediterranean fleet beginning in 1939.

     Malta is 27km x 14km with an area of just under 260km2 (100 sq mi). In June 1940, its population was around 250,000, with most people living in small, congested areas near Valetta, the capital. It was those locations that experienced the heaviest, most sustained and concentrated aerial bombing in history. According to, the bombing lasted a record 154 days and nights and involved 6,700 tons of bombs. There were hardly any defenses on the island because of a prewar conclusion that it was indefensible, and the British only had three biplanes on the island. These were nicknamed Faith, Hope, and Charity.

      Over the course of the war, Malta featured heavily on the enemy's agenda given its important role as an Allied base. German Stuka dive bombers based in Sicily sought to pound the island into submission, but the ultimate danger was not solely confined to the air. Italy conducted a siege between June and December 1940, consisting of both air power (the optimal method for attacking the small island) and sea attacks, and the Italians also considered a plan to invade the island using landing craft. The British responded to these with a steady stream of reinforcements when it became clear that the Italian air forces were limited and had only a marginal effect on the Maltese population.

     Malta's darkest hours occurred most significantly in 1941 and 1942, when the Germans intervened in the attacks. As a result of Italian defeats in North Africa and their failure to complete the destruction of Malta, Hitler had little choice but to rescue and reinforce his ally. In early 1941, the Italians and Germans actually had air superiority over the inexperienced and worn-out RAF. In April, however, Hitler was forced to intervene in the Balkans and therefore had to abandon operations against Malta despite the Luftwaffe's successes.

     In the meantime, the Allies were able to resupply to the extent of having an 8-15 month reserve and were able to direct numerous resources to the defense of Malta, even launching their own offensive operations from the island. Toward the end of the year, the Germans began to refocus on their Sicilian operations, and marked New Year's 1942 with yet another air raid against Malta. In April 1942, the Germans and Italians approved a plan for the invasion of the island, which was postponed as a result of hesitations by both Erwin Rommel and Hitler himself. However, the Germans resolved to continue asserting their air superiority, and beginning in April through summer 1942 they engaged in fierce combat with the RAF now recognized as the Siege of Malta. During that time, the island was pushed almost to the point of capitulation, with food and supply shortages in addition to the constant onslaught of German bombs.
George Beurling
  It was during this period that Canadian fighter pilot George "Buzz" Beurling became "Canada's most famous hero of the Second World War," "The Falcon of Malta," and "The Knight of Malta." He was credited with shooting down 27 Axis aircraft in just 14 days, with that total climbing to 31 before the war's end. Beurling hailed from Verdun, Quebec, which happens to be the hometown of my professor and mentor, Dr. Serge Durflinger, and is mentioned in his book Fighting From Home: The Second World War in Verdun, Quebec. It's a great read if you're interested in learning more about this Canadian hero.

     Miraculously, the bombed remnants of a supply convoy were able to limp into Malta's Grand Harbour on 15 August and save the population from submission and starvation. The Allies emerged victorious, with the Axis air forces all but depleted, and the siege was lifted. Supply issues and smaller-scale offensives persisted after that, and the last air raid over Malta occurred in July 1943.

     In recognition of the immense suffering on behalf of the Maltese people during the siege, King George VI awarded the George Cross (civilian equivalent to the Victoria Cross) to the entire island in April 1942 so as "to bear witness to the heroism and devotion of its people." The George Cross is now woven into the Maltese flag and can be seen whenever it is flown. Interestingly, because the award was a personal gesture by the King and not an official British government decision, the story was never officially published in the London Gazette. Despite this, it remains to this day an exceptional gesture in response to truly exceptional circumstances, and the experience of the Maltese people remains one of the war's most incredible stories.
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

World War Wednesdays: The Scoop of the Century: Clare Hollingworth

Clare Hollingwood in 1932
     I'm sad to report that we've lost another of history's most important people, and even sadder to admit that I hadn't heard of her before today. After reading her incredible story in the obituaries being posted online, I thought it important to make her name known to anyone who, like me, had not yet come across it.

     Her name was Clare Hollingwood and she was born on 10 October, 1911 to middle-class parents in an English village where her father ran a boot factory that was founded by her grandfather. Interested in politics, she studied Croatian at Zagreb University, international relations in Switzerland, and Slavonic studies in London. Following that, she worked as a secretary and then at a British newspaper's refugee charity in Poland while writing occasional articles about the tense political situation in Europe. Her work must have been exceptional, because friends convinced her to focus on journalism rather than politics.

     While working in Poland, Clare arranged for the evacuation of more than 3,500 political and Jewish refugees to Britain, which earned her the the nickname "the Scarlet Pimpernel" in the British press. According to her biography, written by her nephew, she had a natural talent for dealing with reluctant officials, incomplete information, and managing complicated logistics. After having saved thousands of lives by regularly circumventing British immigration bureaucracy, her time with the agency came to an abrupt halt in July 1939. While the exact reason is not clear, her nephew believes that Britain felt she had opened the doors to potentially dangerous immigrant spies and enemies of the state in her efforts to save the lives of people being persecuted by the Third Reich. Within a month of returning to Britain, she secured a new job as a war correspondent for the Telegraph and quickly returned to Poland, this time staying with a diplomat friend from the Foreign Office in Katowice, at the German-Polish border. [Interestingly, this is the same town where my good friend and Holocaust survivor lived, and she also was a witness to the earliest events in Germany's invasion of Poland.]
Hollingworth (left) with the Consul General's car she borrowed to cross the Germany-Poland border in 1939, South China Morning Post
     With the knowledge that war could erupt at any minute, Clare took advantage of the influence of a diplomatic flag on 30 August, 1939, when she borrowed her host's car and "motored off alone into Nazi Germany" to stock up on wine and aspirin. Driving back along the border, a fabric partition separating the two countries flapped briefly in the wind, revealing "scores, if not hundreds of tanks... thus I saw the battle deployment." (she later reflected on the event in her autobiography)

     After making that horrible discovery, she immediately understood its implications: "I guessed that the German Command was preparing to strike to the north of Katowice and its fortified lines and this, in fact, was exactly how they launched their invasion in the south." At that point, however, Poland was thought to still be in negotiations with Germany. 

     Three days later, on 1 September, 1939, Clare was awoken at 5 A.M. by the sound of tanks rolling past her window. She quickly called her editor, as well as the British and Polish Foreign Offices, each of whom responded with disbelief given that they believed the negotiations to still be ongoing. Frustrated with the response from the British Embassy, she actually dangled the phone out the window so that the official could hear the terrifying rumble for himself. "Listen!" she implored. "Can't you hear it?" After hanging up the phone with him, she called the Telegraph's Warsaw correspondent, who then dictated her story to London. When the story of Germany's invasion of Poland was finally filed, Clare's name was not included on the byline as was common practice for newspapers in those days. Here's what the original looked like:
The Telegraph
     At twenty-seven years old and as a rookie reporter, Clare Hollingwood truly had the scoop of the century. Amazingly, her remarkable life and career only continued from there: as the Nazis moved into Poland, she scrambled to escape their advance, often sleeping in cars, and eventually made it to Romania. Following that she spent much of her life on the front line of numerous major conflicts, including those in the Middle East, North Africa, and Vietnam, for British newspapers. During her remarkable career, she established herself as a fearless, talented, and respected journalist and won numerous awards for her work. She died on 10 January, 2017 at the age of 105 in Hong Kong, where she had been stationed as one of a few Western journalists sent to China in the 1970s. 
     Many thanks to TIME, CTV News, and the Telegraph for information and images. Further reading on this story can be enjoyed at: and
     I hope you found this story to be as incredible and inspiring as I did. Women like Clare are proof that it is not just the men who get to make history, and that heroes come in all forms.
     Thanks for reading,
     Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Friday, January 6, 2017

Family History Friday - Stevenson

Thanks to Sandra Sales for providing these photographs because she read a past blog post about the Stevenson family bible from July, 2014 donated to the museum by Jennifer (Stevenson) Worth.  Click here for that post.  If you have local family photos from West Elgin, Southwold, Aldborough and Dunwich townships we'd love to feature your family on the blog.  Just contact Angela at 519-762-3072 or email

  1. Likely Eliza (Williams) Stevenson wife of James Stevenson, b. circa Mar. 12, 1825 Watson’s Corners (near Burwell’s Corners), Gravestone inscription In memory of/Eliza/wife of/James Stevenson/died/March28, 1877 AE 52 y’s/& 16 d’s/Blessed are the dead/that die in the Lord. Fingal cemetery.
  1. Four generations - Myrtle May Waite b 1895, d. 1975, James Stevenson b. 1814 Stirlingshire, Scotland, m. 1842 Eliza Williams of Watson’s Corners, d. 1906 Watson’s Corners, Annie (Stevenson) Waite, Robert Stevenson.

  1. Robert Stevenson family – Back row: Ida Stevenson b. circa 1874, m. Radebaugh (a confectioner in Dutton), d. Aug. 1962 California, James P. (Jim) Stevenson b. circa 1874, d. June 28, 1945, Annie Stevenson, Maggie Stevenson, Henry (Harry) Albert Stevenson b. Feb. 8, 1877, m. Lois Bedford, daughter of preacher John Bedford Tyrconnell, d. Jan. 26, 1960. Front Row: Robert Stevenson b. 1843, d. Mar 9, 1919, Elizabeth Sarah (Lizzie) Stevenson b. 1882, m. Phil Bedford, d. 1978, Sarah (Crane) Stevenson b. Dec 17, 1844 Port Talbot, d. Dec 1925 Tyrconnell. This family had their own orchestra and entertained locally.

  1. Sylvia Ann (Annie) Stevenson b. 1870, m. Richard Waite 1895, d. Oct. 7, 1948 and Margaret (Maggie) E. Stevenson b. circa 1868, m. William Brush, d. Apr. 3, 1947 – daughters of Robert Stevenson – mentioned in the Patterson diary at Backus-Page House.

  1. Likely Sarah (Crane) Stevenson wife of Robert Stevenson, daughter of Peter and Mary (Willson) Crane Tyrconnell, granddaughter of George and Isabella (Findlay) Crane (who were Thomas Talbot’s first settlers 1806 Plum Point Dunwich), b. Dec. 14, 1844 Port Talbot, d. Dec. 1925 Tyrconnell.

  1. Stevenson reunion 1944 to celebrate Annie and Richard Waite’s 50th anniversary. Standing: George Waite, Allan Waite, Maggie Waite, Richard Waite, Annie (Stevenson) Waite, Earl Stevenson, (?), Jim Stevenson, John Robb, Maggie (Stevenson) Brush, Lois (Bedford) Stevenson, Henry (Harry) Stevenson. Kneeling: (?) (?) possibly Jim Stevenson’s two daughters, Dorothy (Stidwell) Stevenson and Wayne, Marion McFarlane (my mother), Neil McFarlane.

  1. A Crane family picnic on Aug. 22, 1901 at Tyrconnell Ontario. Children and their spouses of Peter and Mary (Willson) Crane of Coyne Road Tyrconnell. Back row: John E. Crane, Will Crane, Robert Stevenson, Ben Crane. Front row: Sarah Catherine (Mitchell) Crane, Sarah Jane (Austerhout) Crane, Sarah (Crane Stevenson, Belle (Crane) Haycroft, Emma Maria (Crane) Cole, Hattie (Morrish) Crane. 

  1. Annie Waite and Jim Stevenson with Mary Anne (Cutler) Crane wife of Edwin R. Crane, a 100-year-old woman they call their aunt, who was actually a distant cousin by marriage, the mother of James Wellington Crane of Wallacetown/Iona Station/University of Western Ontario, a medical doctor and philanthropist.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

World War Wednesdays: The Maple Leaf Belgium Scrapbook, WWII
     I hope everyone is having a smooth transition back to reality after the holiday season! Don't mean to brag, but I am still enjoying some R&R back at home before my final (!!!) semester of undergrad starts on January 9. While I'm still here, I wanted to share with you a fascinating item I received this week which is a great addition both to my personal collection and this blog. It is a Second World War souvenir scrapbook called "The Maple Leaf," which the cover states was "printed in Belgium at cost price to forces overseas." Essentially, it was a Canadian Army newspaper which kept soldiers informed on what was happening around the world and back at home while they were serving. My copy was given to me by my grandpa, who said that it came in a collection of papers from his parents' house (his father served in WWII). It was quite exciting to have a personal connection to the item since I had thought that his war memorabilia had already been dispersed among distant cousins, and I am always looking for more details on his service (like many other professions, historians can be researching any number of in-depth family histories for other people but have limited knowledge on their own). I've looked into the book a bit online and it appears to be quite rare, although the Toronto Public Library appears to have a copy should you be able to access it for yourself.

     A 2013 post on the online auction site includes what seems to be an excerpt from Barry D. Rowland's 1987 book, The Maple Leaf Forever: The Story of Canada's Foremost Armed Forces Newspaper, which gives a nice overview of the paper's history and is definitely being added to my reading list:

     “Captain MacFarlane, I want you to set up a newspaper for the Canadian Army,” said Lieutenant-Colonel R.S. (Dick) Malone, director of Public Relations for 1st Canadian Infantry Division during the Italian Campaign in November 1943.

     LCol Malone was reacting to the wishes of then Defence Minister, Colonel J.L. Ralston — a First World War veteran — who was deeply concerned for the welfare of the troops fighting overseas. But the impetus to deliver a daily Canadian Army newspaper to the frontlines in Italy was not a “top-down” decision; rather, it arose directly from the troops themselves who felt out-of-touch from home.
The Canadian soldier, also known as “Johnny Canuck”, expressed his angst through the chain of command. These concerns reached Minister Ralston’s ears as he arrived in Italy to speak to the troops after five months of hard fighting. Mr. Ralston knew well the fleeting nature of soldiers’ morale and pressed for ideas to shore-up fighting spirit. With Canadian soldiers complaining about their lack of knowledge on the home front, LCol Malone suggested the production of a daily newspaper, delivered directly to the frontlines with the soldiers’ rations.
The paper would be published in Italy with news from Canada and include stories and editorials prepared by military writers and war correspondents attached to the Canadian Division. The paper’s primary audience was the Canadian soldier. In return, the newspaper would not express opinions on domestic issues or report on internal military matters that might detract from morale.
And so Captain (later Major) J. Douglas MacFarlane, a former journalist with the Windsor Star and the Toronto Telegram, was appointed managing editor of the first Canadian Army newspaper. The newspaperman, who became a legendary figure in Canadian journalism following the war, was a natural fit for the job.
Mr. MacFarlane enlisted for wartime service with the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment as a provisional reinforcement officer. He embarked on a long and winding military trail, stationed in Wolseley Barracks, the Officers’ Training Centre in Gordon Head, Vancouver Island, and attended the Advanced Infantry Training Centre at Camp Borden. Capt MacFarlane was then summoned to Ottawa and attached to Army Headquarters as a Public Relations Officer. He proceeded overseas in 1943, where he was eventually attached to General Harry Crerar’s headquarters when he got the call from his superior, LCol Malone – another giant in Canadian journalism after the war – informing him of the new publication.
What to call the paper?
LCol Malone suggested The Liberator, The True North, Northern Light, Johnny Canuck, The Beaver, and The Invader. Capt MacFarlane came up with The Maple Leaf, a reference to Canadian identity.
The first edition of The Maple Leaf rolled off the press in January 1944 in Naples, Italy and was a four-page tabloid. Sports, news, a daily editorial and Sergeant Bing Coughlin’s hapless “Herbie” cartoon character were the main features. The papers were flown to a postal distribution centre near the frontline and delivered to the troops by any and all means available: truck, jeep, lorry, aircraft and mule cart.
Curiously, a French-language edition of The Maple Leaf had been proposed but turned down by French-Canadian soldiers as they didn’t want their exploits restricted to French-copy only; they wished English speaking readers to know of their achievements.
At its height, The Maple Leaf printed 16,000 copies per day.

     My edition was printed in Belgium in 1945. Its introduction includes much of the same story as above concerning the paper's history, and also discusses how the "clippings" or articles in the scrapbook were selected from various departments in order to portray the paper's "general tone and spirit." In this regard, the editor-in-chief wrote, "If you don't like the selection write the editors and give them hell." Clearly, this was an informal and much-loved element in the Canadian soldiers' experience, and there is much to be learned and appreciated from these pages.

     Without further ado, I'll give you a little glimpse into the scrapbook (sorry about the poor lighting!):
This page shows how the paper was assembled like a scrapbook, with numerous photos seemingly pasted together on one page

Of course, it is not without its pinups! This page includes the beautiful Esther Williams

"Here's to You, Canucks!"

Even General Montgomery read The Maple Leaf!
     Overall, the scrapbook is a compilation of comics, poetry, news stories, photos, and articles all assembled for the intended enjoyment of Canadian soldiers far from home. It is obvious just by flipping through a few pages how much comfort and entertainment it would have brought them, and I can't help but think of how thrilled my great-grandfather would have been to have that small enjoyment. It's proven to be an amazing souvenir for both him and myself, and I hope you enjoyed this little overview.
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)