Visit this blog for regular posts about records at the Archives of Manitoba that date from the time of the First World War. Visit the Archives of Manitoba to see the records in person.

November 2017 Posts:

20 November 2017

The S.S. Pelican

photo of the S.S. Pelican ship
S.S. Pelican, ca. 1910-1920, Arthur M. Irvine fonds, HBCA 2012/1/271.

As the First World War entered its fourth and final year, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) continued its trans-Atlantic shipping and purchasing business with European allied governments, employing over 250 ships. Some of these ships, between wartime business trips, continued their usual Arctic runs for the HBC, supplying posts and transporting furs for the HBC’s Fur Trade Department. Others were temporarily taken away from their fur trade duties and were fully in the service of European governments. The S.S. Pelican was one of these ships.

The Pelican was bought from the British Admiralty in 1901 and converted into a cargo carrying ship. From 1901 to 1915, it was used to supply HBC posts in the Arctic and Labrador, and to transport furs back to London. In 1915, the Pelican was employed in taking cargo from New York to England. From December 1916 until April 1918, it was fully in the service of the French government. During August 1918, while on a voyage from Canada to Great Britain on behalf of the British government, the Pelican successfully fought off a German submarine. Watch for a blog post on this story in the coming year.

After the war, the Pelican continued to ship goods in Europe, sailing between France, England and Russia. In May 1920, it left Cardiff to return to its duties in Hudson Bay and Labrador. On August 4, while en route between Port Burwell and Lake Harbour, it got caught in fog and suffered irreparable damage from ice. This was the Pelican’s last voyage.

Search Tip: To find more images and other records of HBC ships, search the ship’s name in Keystone.

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14 November 2017

Messages by Wire: Telegrams from the Time of the First World War

During the First World War, telegrams were the fastest way to send written communication. Telegrams were used by governments and war correspondents needing to communicate quickly and efficiently. They were often used to send notice of a soldier’s death, capture or wounding. Soldiers sent telegrams to let their families know of their travels or that they had survived a battle.

photo of a Canadian Pacific Railway Co.S Telegram from Charlie Francis. It reads 337 RA 776 MARONI. Field PO APL 36-17. BFM Francis, Headingly Manitoba. Safe. Charlie Francis.
“Safe.” Charles Francis sent this telegram home to Headingley weeks after the Battle of Vimy Ridge, 30 April 1917. Charles Ross Francis fonds, Correspondence, Telegram 30 April 1917, P304/2.

Telegrams, also known as wires or cables, were expensive to send which meant messages were brief, some words were shortened and ‘unnecessary’ words were left out. One hundred years later, telegrams provide an interesting comparison to current forms of fast, abbreviated communications.

Together with our 1918 display, the Archives has also created a slideshow of telegrams from the war. The show can be viewed in the Archives’ foyer during business hours, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m and below.

The 20 telegrams featured were chosen from several collections of records at the Archives. Each was sent during the First World War. They include personal telegrams, often with news of Manitoba soldiers at the front; government telegrams from the files of Manitoba Premier T.C. Norris; and telegrams sent to the Canadian Press from war correspondent J.F.B. Livesay.

Search Tip: : Search “First World War” in Keystone to find a wide range of records.

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7 November 2017

1918: the last year of the war

By 1918, the First World War had been raging for almost 3 ½ years. Canadians had seen major battles and significant casualties and conscription had been enacted. Victory – and the end of the war – was not assured. Twelve months later the war was over and many Canadians remained in Europe to assist with the transition from war to peace.

SELECTED RECORDS FROM THE LAST YEAR OF THE WAR. By 1918, the First World War had been raging for almost 3 1/2 years. Canadians had seen major battles and significant casualties and conscription had been enacted. Victory - and the end of the war - was not assured. Twelve months later the war was over and many Canadians remained in Europe to assist with the transition from war to peace. This display features a selection of letters, diary entries and photographs documenting nine Manitobans serving overseas in 1918. These Manitobans include soldiers, officers and a nursing sister. The letters and diaries were written in the trenches, in hospital beds and in training barracks and provide both censored and un-censored accounts. The photographs provide a glimpse of the in-dividuals and their surroundings. This display traces the pro-gression of the year and the war, through winter, spring, summer, fall, Armistice (11 November) and the weeks following. These records are a small selection of records from the Archives of Manitoba related to the First World War. Search the Keystone database or visit our research room to find out more about these and other collections of records from the time of the First World War.
ARMISTICE 11 NOVEMBER 1918.
“A fine day – Armistice at 11. a.m.” Clarence Boswell, 11 November 1918. “Nov 11. Peace declared. Made a night of it”. James Uhlman, 11 November 1918. “The Belgian people are treating us first rate. We couldn't wish for better. Beds with white sheets every night. We are billeted right in their homes. They are very sociable and do everything they can for us.” Campbell Millar, 12 November 1918. “VICTORY is Ours…As I write these words the London uns have begun firing and cheers are breaking out everywhere/ To realize that horrible nightmare of nearly 5 years is over is not yet possible.” R.M. Dennistoun, 11 November 1918. “Yesterday we marched right through the city of Mons and the Germans were getting out on the ther side… One woman gave me some fried potatoes and I ate them on her steps…” George Hambley, 11 November 1918.
Panels from the new hallway display, 1918, at the Archives of Manitoba. (PDF)

This week, the Archives of Manitoba launches its final display in a series of First World War displays. This display, entitled “1918: the last year of the war” features a selection of letters, diary entries and photographs documenting nine Manitobans serving overseas in 1918. These Manitobans include soldiers, officers and a nursing sister.  The letters and diaries were written in the trenches, in hospital beds and in training barracks and provide both censored and uncensored accounts. The photographs provide a glimpse of the individuals and their surroundings.

This display traces the progression of the year and the war, through winter, spring, summer, fall, Armistice (11 November) and the weeks following to the end of the year. The display includes transcripts so that visitors can read the full text of the letters and diaries featured.

Visit the Archives of Manitoba to see this display or to see other records related to the First World War. We are located at 200 Vaughan Street in Winnipeg, and we are open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Search Tip: Search “First World War” in Keystone to find a wide range of records.

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6 November 2017

Cavalryman and diarist George Hambley at Passchendaele

George Hambley was another Manitoban who witnessed the battle of Passchendaele although he was not as involved as he had been seven months earlier at the battle of Vimy Ridge. (See the blogs of 23 March 2017 and 11 April 2017 for more information.) Recently returned to the field after a hospital stay, he took care of the horses while many of his fellow cavalryman had been sent with working parties up the line.

cover of George Henry Hambley's diary. The cover is black with no writing on it. The inner  the diary has writing : “Geo. H. Hambley Can. Light Horse. Diary. Sept 30th 1917. No 7. When he sent his great voice forth out of his breast, and his words fell like the winter snows, nor then would any mortal contend with Ulysses - Homer's Iliad - Preface to speeches and letters by Abraham Lincoln”
Archives of Manitoba, George Henry Hambley fonds, Diary (#7), 30 September 1917 23 November 1917, P7413/7.

Hambley recorded his experiences in his diary as he did for the rest of the war, and the rest of his life. Like many soldiers at Passchendaele, his first observations were about the mud!

two pages in George Henry Hambley's handwritten diary
Archives of Manitoba, George Henry Hambley fonds, Diary (#7), 30 September 1917 23 November 1917, P7413/7.

“A most beastly hole – mud about a foot deep everywhere – tent pitched on very damp ground and frogs beetles and bugs galore infest the place. The horse lines are paved with brick but everywhere else the mud is fierce – the ditches are all full of water…”

In what seems to be an account inserted at a later date, Hambley records some of the experiences of his fellow cavalrymen, writing about Tommy (Thompson) and Pete Stewart who walked past a big tent where bodies were packed in rows one on top of the other and:

two pages in George Henry Hambley's handwritten diary
Archives of Manitoba, George Henry Hambley fonds, Diary (#7), 30 September 1917 23 November 1917, P7413/7.

“Pete Stewart said ‘My God I wouldn’t want to be put in there’ but then he had his leg blown off and he said ‘give me a cigarette boys. I might as well be happy’ or some joke like that. Sure enough they did take his body back to that terrible morgue place. But Pete died like a hero – never a whimper or a complaint. ‘He was a real man.’ Gosh, Tommy said – ‘That was a terrible place for mud. When a shell tore a big hole it would be filled up with water in a few minutes and woe betide anyone who slid down into a shell hole. There were more men lost in the mud I think than were killed by the guns. We should never have been in there at all. The death toll there was terrible.’”

As the Canadian Light Horse left Passchendaele and the Ypres front, Hambley reflected:

two pages in George Henry Hambley's handwritten diary
Archives of Manitoba, George Henry Hambley fonds, Diary (#7), 30 September 1917 23 November 1917, P7413/7.

“The regiment will not soon forget Passchendaele – especially those who went in on either of the three working parties – I did not have the privilege but would have liked to have been on the machine gun party with Yates.”

For Hambley and the Canadian Light Horse there were more battles ahead.

Search Tip: Search “George Hambley” in Keystone for more information.

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