Read a short description for each of the items displayed within our featured header image.
This is the temporary cross for Private Edwin Charles Smith from Merlin, Ontario (Service # 880860), killed in action on August 8, 1918. Many of the fatalities of WWI were buried and reburied, and it is not known where this photograph was taken. Private Smith’s final burial place is the Longueau British Cemetery, Somme, France where he is one of 204 burials, 14 of which are unidentified.
The British introduced the “tank” as a weapon in the hope of breaking the stalemate of the trench warfare on the Western Front in the Great War. The code name “tank,” chosen for the weapon’s similarity to a large water tank, was used in an effort to keep its production a secret; the name stuck. 150 tanks were produced in 1916 and by the end of the war England had 1391 tanks, France had 4000, and the Germans had 20. The Germans learned the value of the tank in the Second World War.
The S.S. Lapland was one of the ships that transported the Canadian Expeditionary Force to England in 1914. Launched in 1908, she hit a mine in April 1917 but survived. The ship was finally scrapped in 1934 in Japan.
A version of the Canadian Red Ensign (with a different crest) was used as early as 1871. One version of the flag was carried by the 5th Saskatchewan Battalion during the Battle of Vimy Ridge although the Union Jack was the official flag of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The version pictured was recognized as the “Canadian Ensign” in WWII.
Born on March 1, 1872 in Moraviantown, George Stonefish was not a young man when he took up the call of his country in 1914. When he left Chatham for Valcartier, Quebec on August 22, 1914, George was the father of two. Originally in the infantry, George took the role of a stretcher bearer. Sometime between July and September 1915 George transferred again, this time to be a sniper, and a very good one. He was eventually wounded and after his return to Canada life was not kind to him. He died tragically in 1920.
Robert McLaren was born on July 28, 1895 in Highgate, Orford Township, Kent County to Archibald and Mary McLaren. Robert was a public school teacher in Toronto when he enlisted in the army on May 1, 1916 (Service # 490789). He was commissioned as a lieutenant and made his way to England, transferring to the Royal Flying Corps. He was wounded in a training crash in 1917 and recovered, only to be shot down in enemy action the next year. After a second recovery, Robert was made an instructor in the newly formed Royal Air Force. After the war he would go on to be the longest serving superintendent of Rondeau Provincial Park.
Able Seaman John Lloyd Fox is an example of a WWII enlistment about whom much more information is needed. The fact that this young man joined the navy is all that has been recorded about him.
Born in Chatham, Ontario, Pauline Rose was a professional nurse when she enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps in September 1916. She served in Greece from May to December 1916, and then nursed in England until she was assigned to No. 3 Stationary Hospital in France where she served from July 1917 until March 1919. According to the IODE Books of Remembrance, her bravery in serving the wounded during the German bombardment of the hospital earned Pauline the Military Cross, which was presented to her by H.M. King George at Buckingham Palace.
Private Harry Parker of Chatham, Ontario appears on the Christ Church Honour Roll of Volunteers. He first enlisted in the Kent Regiment and went overseas serving with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Born in 1919, Harry passed away in 1999. His image is often used in Canadian military history books due its appeal as the image of what a young soldier in combat “should” look like.
The “Spitfire” was originally designed as a short-range interceptor aircraft by R.J. Mitchell. It was one of the more beautifully designed fighters of WWII. Although the Spitfire is often pictured as the primary British fighter of the Battle of Britain (July-October 1940), it was, in fact, the Hawker Hurricane, the less attractive of the two, that was the real “work horse” of that battle.
The poppies of Flanders in the Great War (1914-18) became the inspiration for Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Field.” McCrae wrote the poem on May 3, 1915 after presiding over the funeral of his friend, Alexis Helmer. The poem, and the poppy that inspired it, has become a way for us to remember not just the individual it was written for but all of those who have given their lives in the two great wars and other conflicts, in the service of our country.
WWII gravesites were better organized than those in WWI. This is the ‘temporary’ grave marker for Sergeant W. G. Taylor, Service number A21888 who was Killed In Action (K/A) on 19 August, 1942 which was the ill-fated attack on the port city of Dieppe, France. The nine hour ‘reconnaissance in force’ cost 900 Canadians KIA, 1,874 Prisoner Of War plus 10 pilots. The temporary crosses would be eventually replaced by stone gave markers. This cross the military cemetery Maubeuge Cemetery, Calais, France.
Production of the Vickers machine gun began in 1912. It was a water-cooled, .303 calibre (7.7mm) weapon that could fire 450 to 500 rounds per minute with a range of 2000 metres. It weighed 33 to 51 pounds (15-23 kilograms) and required a team of 6-8 men to operate. The Vickers machine gun was also used on WWI fighter aircraft, at first mounted individually, later in pairs, and was synchronized to fire through a spinning propeller. It was also used in WWII and wasn’t retired until 1968.