100 years later
By Jenn Watt
Published Nov. 7, 2017
This is the second year that we’re publishing our We Remember feature, composed of images readers send in of loved ones who served over the years.
Overwhelmingly composed of First and Second World War veterans, these pages feature images of people who put the welfare of others before themselves and risked their lives serving Canada.
Looking at their young faces you wonder what they thought of the path before them. It must have felt daunting. Were they frightened at the challenge ahead? Did the prospect of travel and adventure excite them?
Many of the men and women pictured are in their early 20s, just entering adulthood, their lives still forming.
Some of the captions provided by family members note that little information is known. While some died in war, others returned and lived out long lives in Canada. Yet many chose not to speak much of their experiences.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of several particularly brutal events in the First World War including the Battle of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele, which both exacted stunning tolls.
In April of 1917, the Canadians played a pivotal role in capturing Vimy Ridge, an effort that is frequently referenced as the first time this country made its mark in a big way. More than 100,000 French troops had already died at Vimy.
While the Canadians were triumphant in the battle, which lasted from April 9 to 12, it came at a price. Seven thousand were wounded and nearly 3,600 dead.
Passchendaele occupies a similar place in our country’s narrative and cost far more. Unable to push German forces, the British Expeditionary Force relied on the Canadians. Their involvement lasted from mid-October to mid-November, 1917: 100 years ago. Although the attack had been well-planned, torrential rains had turned the battlefield to mud. Rifles jammed and men and horses were sucked into the deep, stinking earth. More than 15,600 Canadians died by the time Passchendaele was captured. (Overall, British forces lost 275,000 troops there.)
Many men from Haliburton County fought in the First World War in the 109th and 252nd Battalions, which departed for Europe in 1916 and 1917. The Haliburton Highlands Museum has helped to preserve artifacts from that time, including photos that they share with the community. (See page 7.)
“[They] served bravely at the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Amiens, Lens and elsewhere,” Kate Butler, director of the museum wrote in a piece for the Echo in 2014.
“The way that these place names have echoed down to us a century later is a tribute to the horrors that those who served witnessed and the way they changed how people saw warfare and the world.”