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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Herb Walker of Birtle

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at some of the Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.

http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/616752?George%20Herbert%20Walker

Private George Herbert "Herb" Walker was born in Sheffield, England. In 1893, when he was a teenager, his family came to Manitoba to farm three miles north of Birtle.

Walker was a farmer by trade, but also a well-known drummer and singer. On his attestation papers he lists three years volunteer service with a military band back in Sheffield. He was one of the organizers of the Birtle town band in the 1890s and served as its bandmaster in 1902. In 1910 he sang at the opening ceremony for Birtle's Town Hall.

http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/postcards/PC011368.html
Top: Birtle ca. 1910 (source)
Bottom: Birtle Recruiting Office ca 1915 (source)

In 1917 he enlisted in Winnipeg with the Canadian Army Service Corps and was later transferred to the Royal Winnipeg Rifles where he also played in the 8th Battalion Band.

He was killed on August 9, 1918 in the Battle of Amiens at the age of 45. I could find no details about his death. He is buried in the Manitoba Cemetery, outside Caix, France.

September 5, 1918, Winnipeg Free Press

On the evening of Sunday, September 1, 1918 a memorial service was held at the Union Church of Birtle, (now Birtle United Church), for both Walker and Vaughn Watt, another a local farmer and musician who was killed on the same day.

Walker left behind widow Mary Frances McKay, whom he married in 1905, and three children ranging in age from 8 to 12.

Sources:

Canadian Virtual War Memorial Veterans' Affairs Canada

Attestation Papers Library and Archives Canada

George Herbert Walker Walker History Web

A History of the Municipality of Birtle p. 423

This soldier's history has been pieced together using a number of sources. If you have additional information or would like to point out a factual error, please do so in the comments below or by email at cassidy-at-mts.net. 

© Christian Cassidy 2014

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Radio Edition for August 17, 2014 *Podcast

Nutty Club
West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition airs tonight at 7 pm on 101.5 UMFM or check here for the podcast !

Guest

Tonight, break out the Hawkins Cheezies and Jos Louis', we're going to be talking about the social history of Canadian snack foods with Janis Thiessen. She's also looking for people who were connected with the industry or who were on a local Old Dutch TV game show !

Show Links

The Cranberry Portage train wreck of 1943

A great bio of Winnipeg's Marjorie White

The Beatles' 1964 stopover in Winnipeg. See the video here and read a first-hand account here ! 

More about the life and writings of Frederick Philip Grove

A history of Towne Cinema 8

Coming Events

West End bus tour of community gardens and historic places with me ! Thursday, August 28.

Winnipeg General Strike Bike Tour, Saturday, August 30th

Winnipeg Architecture Foundation's Terra Cotta Walking Tour, Thursday, August 21.

Play List

Potato Chips Sam Gaillard and his Bakers Dozen
I'm on a Diet of Love Marjorie White, Richard Keene (Happy Days)
In My Life The Beatles
Not Guilty The Beatles

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Vaughn Watt of Birtle

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at some of the Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.

Image: September 5, 1918, Winnipeg Free Press

Lance Corporal Vaughn* David Watt was the only son of David and Jenny Watt of Birtle, Manitoba. the Watt family moved from Woodstock, Ontario to farm. They relocated closer to town when father David got a job as a grain buyer, then manager, for United Grain Growers. Mother Jenny was was a driving force in the Home Economics Society and the Manitoba Women's Institute, becoming its first secretary in 1910 and went on the become president of the national organization in the 1920s.

(* In most instances, his name is spelled Vaughan. That includes newspaper references, the Birtle history book and his Soldiers of WWI and Virtual War Memorial entry. If you look at his attestation papers, however, he clearly signs his name Vaughn and there is even a place where his name is written and the "a" clearly crossed out ! Most letters to the family from people who knew him use Vaughn. I will use the latter.)

Top: Birtle Recruiting Office ca 1915 (source)
Birtle ca. 1910 (source)

Growing up with his two sisters, Vera and Nell, Vaughn worked on the family farm, he also had a job at the bank, (most likely the Union Bank on Main Street), and played in the the Birtle band. At the time he enlisted in 1916, he was 24, single and listed his occupation as a farmer near Regina.

He was promoted to Lance Corporal in May 1918 and died on August 9, 1918 in the Battle of Amiens, just three months before the First World War ended. A friend or relative responding to a note from Jenny Watt provided some details of his death. Watt was shot through the heart and “died quite suddenly” and the friend lamented that he was unable to retrieve the body.

Watts' remains were eventually recovered. His is buried in the Rosieres Communal Cemetery Extension in France.

September 5, 1918, Winnipeg Free Press

On the evening of Sunday, September 1, 1918 a memorial service was held at the Union Church of Birtle, (now Birtle United Church), for Watt and Herb Walker, another a local farmer and musician who was killed on the same day.

http://www.umanitoba.ca/libraries/units/archives/canada_war/watt/website/Photos/Photo1_VD_Watt_fob-in.shtml

A century later, it is hard to get inside the mind of a soldier on the battlefield, less so with Watt. The Vaughan David Watt fonds at the University of Manitoba contains letters and cards home to his family and other written memorabilia. Much of it has been digitized, some inluding audio versions.

Sources:

Vaughan David Watt fonds University of Manitoba

A view of the Birdtail - A history of the Municipality of Birtle p 426

Canadian Virtual War Memorial page Veterans' Affairs Canada

Attestation papers Library and Archives Canada

Vaughan David Watt Canadian Great War Project

Watt and audio version of his letters home are also featured in this episode of West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition. Check out the podcast !

This soldier's history has been pieced together using a number of sources. If you have additional information or would like to point out a factual error, please do so in the comments below or by email at cassidy-at-mts.net.

© Christian Cassidy 2014

Monday, 11 August 2014

Gord Steeves' Abysmal Political Crisis Management Strategy



Who would have thought that a candidate's spouses' Facebook page would launch one of the most talked about moments of the young Winnipeg mayoral campaign ? 

By now, most people know about Lorrie Steeves' "shut the fuck up" to all those native homeless people that harass(ed) her on her way to work. (If not, read more about the whole affair at Around This Town blog.) I can only hope that she's found herself a nice little retail shop to work in on the Route 90 strip where she can feel better about her commute to work.

Some have argued that a spouse's comments or opinions have nothing to do with the candidate themselves. I disagree. A candidate is responsible for his or her campaign team and, like it or not, a spouse is part of that team, just like the campaign manager or a volunteer handing out leaflets. If one of them blurts out (or has posted) something negative about drunken natives, Jewish lawyers, car-bombing Muslims, it's the candidate's job to manage the fallout.


That brings me to the main point of my post: Gord Steeves' decision to disappear rather than deal with the issue. What was a smouldering fire that could have been stamped out was left to engulf the house. In the meantime, pundits, media and newspaper commenters are only happy to fill the vaccuum that was left, allowing his campaign to be thrown way off message and its image tarnished.

How bad has his disappearing act been ? Even his Facebook page has gone untouched for days, allowing the wall to be filled with the comments of those who don't appreciate his spouse's views.

His inability to deal with this issue shows poor political savvy, a poor communications strategy and might hint that when a tough or controversial issue comes up, which will happen when you are mayor, that he might prefer to duck out rather than deal with it. (Tuesday's Ed Burkhardt-esque appearance to speak to the issue will only help stop the bleeding, not heal the injury.)

Steeves' campaign slogan "Experience you can trust" obviously suggests that his time in municipal politics will be a plus in the mayor's chair. That experience is nowhere to be seen on his first tough challenge on the campaign trail.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Radio Edition for August 10, 2014: WWI Remembrance.

Winged Angel

Tonight on West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition,  join Katie and I as we take you back to World War I. We'll tell you about seven Manitobans who died, play some wartime poetry with a contemporary twist, and feature music from Henry Burr, Little Green Cars and the London Army Band and Chorus.

Tune in tonight at 7 pm on 101.5 UMFM or after the show check out the podcast.

Show Links

Decca Classic's new album: Forever The official album of the World War 1 Commemorations as endorsed by The Royal British Legion. Interactive site, selected tracks on YouTube.

University of Manitoba Library, Archives and Special Collections'  Vaughn David Watt fonds. His and other letters can be found at their Canadian wartime Experience website.

My blog series featuring 100 Manitoba soldiers who died in World War I.

For more about Nursing Sisters of World War I, see here and here.

The Play List

Poems:
In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, read by Victoria Cross descendants*
Last Post by Carol Ann Duffy, read by Vicky McClure**
The Last Laugh by Wilfred Owen, read by Sean Bean**
For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon, read by Ruth Golding for ChapterBox
* From the album Forever: The official album of the World War 1 Commemorations
** From the Channel 4  series Remembering World War I

Songs:
Rule, Britannia ! by the London Army band and Chorus
Rose of No Man's Land by Henry Burr

Letters:
From Vaughn David Watt fonds, courtesy of University of Manitoba Library, Archives and Special Collections

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Manitobans in WW I: C.A. Matheson of Brandon

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at some of the Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.


 Image source: Letters from the Front
Signature: Attestation Papers 

Campbell Matheson was a Brandon boy, the youngest of four children of Alexander and Jennie Matheson of 435 - 13th Street. Though they lived in town, his father listed his occupation as farmer. 

Sometime in 1912 or 1913, Jennie became a widow and it was just her and Campbell, a student, living in the family home.

Humboldt's Bank of Commerce ca. 1907

Campbell's brother Frederick moved to Portage la Prairie in 1911 to become a bank clerk with the Canadian Bank of Commerce. Campbell followed suit around 1914, but with the branch in Humboldt, Saskatchewan. 

Frederick enlisted in January 1916 and Campbell did the same in April with the 46th Battalion, Saskatchewan Regiment. They were two of the 1,701 Bank of Commerce employees that served during World War I. Sadly, Campbell was one of the 258 who died.

He was one of four trench runners for the regiment's "C company", with the dangerous role of relaying messages and doing reconnaissance along the front lines. He was killed in action on October 26, 1917 at the age of 19.

Another soldier, Private Clarence Middleton Briggs, came across Matheson's body. He was from Togo, Saskatchewan, just across the Manitoba border, but listed his occupation as a farmer at Russell, Manitoba at the time he enlisted. Briggs removed the personal effects from Matheson's body and buried him "in the best way possible, under the conditions." He sent the the photos he found, along with a letter, to the family. His mother shared the letter with the Brandon Sun:


It wasn't the only letter the family received. There was, of course, the official letter from his commanding officer, Captain S. H. Brocklebank, which started "It is my sad duty to inform you of the death in action of your son....

Another letter came from the remaining three runners of C Company: "Campbell…became a fond comrade of all the men in the company but more so to the runners as we were more often together. We often heard him speak very kind words of you and as we all have mothers at home longing for our return, we can realize what the sad news would be to you.”

http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/91800/YPRES%20%28MENIN%20GATE%29%20MEMORIAL
http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/91800/YPRES%20%28MENIN%20GATE%29%20MEMORIAL
Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial 

Matheson's exact burial site is unknown. His name is one of 54,389 Commonwealth war dead without a known grave inscribed on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. He is also commemorated on the Humboldt, SK war memorial.

As for Briggs, he survived the war, though I could find no post-war information about him in newspapers.


Frederick Matheson also survived the war. He earned a Military Cross for distinguished service for actions in October 1918.  He returned to Manitoba and his job at the bank in 1919.

© Christian Cassidy 2014

Sources:

Thoughtfulness on Battlefields 
Brandon Daily Sun, December 5, 1917

Matheson Missed by Officers and his Comrades 
Brandon Daily Sun, December 12, 1917

Campbell Arnett Matheson Attestation Papers 
Library and Archives Canada

Clarence Middleton Briggs Attestation Papers 
Library and Archives Canada

Frederick Matheson Attestation Papers
Library and Archives Canada

1916 Census of the West (Briggs) 
Library and Archives Canada

Letters from the Front
Canadian Bank of Commerce

City of Brandon Henderson Directories

Bank image supplied by
Humboldt and District Museum

This soldier's history has been pieced together using a number of sources. If you have additional information or would like to point out a factual error, please do so in the comments below or by email at cassidy-at-mts.net.

© Christian Cassidy 2014

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Carl Mather, Valour Road's forgotten hero.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at some of the Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.


Arguably the most famous group of First World War soldiers from Winnipeg are the "Pine Street Boys." Frederick Hall, Leo Clarke and Robert Shankland, who all lived at one time on the same block of Pine Street, (now Valour Road). All were awarded Victoria Crosses, only Shankland returned alive.

There is another young man from that very same block who made the supreme sacrifice, though he did not earn any awards has been forgotten.


Carl Mather lived at 669 Pine Street with his parents, Thomas and Bertha, uncle Jack and four siblings. His father was a civil servant with the provincial agriculture department at the time.

University of Manitoba 

In October 1915 Carl was entering is third year of studies at the University of Manitoba, he listed "law student" as his occupation on his attestation papers. He instead chose to enlist with the 61st Battalion, which at that time was stationed at Camp Sewell, (now Hughes.) 

Mather wasn't alone. He was one of 1,160 students and 14 faculty and staff from the U of M who enlisted. In the end, 123 never returned, including Mather.

On July 26, 1916 his mother received a telegram stating that her son was "dangerously wounded." He was at the 3rd Casualty Clearing Station when he died on August 2, 1916 at the age of 21. He is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.

The family remained at the home until the late 1930s. The address changed to 669 Valour Road in 1925.

Sources:
Canadian Virtual War Memorial Veterans Affairs Canada

Attestation Papers Soldiers of World War I Library and Archives Canada

University of Manitoba Roll of Honour 1914 - 1918

This soldier's history has been pieced together using a number of sources. If you have additional information or would like to point out a factual error, please do so in the comments below or by email at cassidy-at-mts.net.
© Christian Cassidy 2014