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.

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17 September 2018

“We are winning the war at the front but not at home these days”

Jack Quelch was serving with the 44th Battalion when he suffered a gunshot wound in battle in the summer of 1918 and was transferred to England to recuperate. He wrote letters to his family in Beulah, Manitoba describing his experience in England, and providing details about his wounds. Quelch wrote about his views on the labour unrest he saw and read about in a letter to his mother on September 26 from Bristol, England.

letter with 5 pages
(5 images)
Archives of Manitoba, Jack Winter Quelch fonds, P517/4.

We are winning the war at the front but not at home these days.  What do you think of this strike.  It will not be necessary for me to express my opinion of them here.  After spending two years in France to come back and see an exhibition like this “Well” it would give a man a pain.  The Labor Leader Thomas certainly gave them the right goods and resigned into the bargain.  I was reading his speech in the paper today.

I saw them holding a big mass meeting in Fishponds park last night when I was coming home in the train.  I would like to have seen old Fritzy drop a bomb on the lot.

Quelch also provided further information about the events that occurred after he was wounded.

You asked me how long I had to stay in the line etc after I was hit.  I was able to walk out with aid of one of the chaps.  Owing to my leg and loss of blood I wasn’t able to go very far by my self.  I had to beat it as fast as I could for a couple of hundred yards after I got hit as he turned a machine gun up the road.  I lay [in] the remains of an old cellar for a few hours and old Fritz peppered round it pretty lively with his five mines in fact he hit it but not the part I was in.  Then I tried to make it out with two runners that were going.  But we only got about half a mile it was pretty dark and we got tangled up in barbed wire entanglements.  And not being able to use my leg much we hunted up a punk hole and camped till day light.  Then we started out again and after about three hours made the first dressing station in a old ? about two miles out.  It wasn’t till then I found how much l blood I had lost when he cut of my shirt tail and the front of my pants it was well soaked.  Then I had to make another mile or so to the ambulance.

The collection of Quelch letters has been digitized and can be read online through the Archives’ Keystone database.

Quelch is one of several individuals featured in our hallway display. 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: All of Jack Quelch’s letters have been digitized and can be read online. Read Jack Quelch’s letters online by searching “Jack Winter Quelch” in Keystone.

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10 September 2018

War correspondent J. F. B. Livesay documents Canada's 100 days

In August 1918, Winnipegger J. F. B. Livesay, travelled to France to report on the activities of the Canadian Corps during what would be the final months of the First World War. Livesay traveled with Canadian troops until the Armistice and reported from the Western Front. Copies of some of his articles, can be found in a scrapbook in the J. F. B. Livesay records.

scrap book open to a page with many newspaper articles. headlines include: “Great Credit Due to Engineer Corps” “Reveal Part Truth to German People” “Canadians Had Hard Battle to Cross Canal Du Nord” “Canadians Turned Impregnable Post On Canal du Nord”
Archives of Manitoba, J. F. B. Livesay fonds, World War One scrapbook, 1918-1920, P7596/5.

Prior to travelling to Europe, Livesay was manager of the Western Associated Press, and had helped found the Canadian Press Ltd. E. H. Macklin of the Manitoba Free Press had advocated for Livesay's appointment as war correspondent since 1914, when the possibility of sending a journalist to report on Canadian military activities from the frontlines was first raised.

Letter from General Alexander Duncan McRae to E. H. Macklin. “Ministry of Information, Norfolk Street, Strand, London, W.C.2. 11th October, 1918. E.H.Mackline, Esq., Manitoba Free Press, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. My dear Macklin, Knowing how much you are interested in J.F.Livesay and also that you staked your reputation on him as Canadian War Correspondant at the Front, I am writing to say that Livesay is undoubtably making good. His articles which are appearing two or three times a week in the Times are not only excellent in themselves but are about the only detailed information that is appearing in the British Press on Canadian operations. I regard Livesay so far as the Canadian article appearing in the British Press are concerned, the livest correspondent we have had. Kind regards, Yours faithfully” signature
Archives of Manitoba, J. F. B. Livesay fonds, World War One scrapbook, 1918-1920, P7596/5.

Macklin forwarded a letter to Livesay that he had received in October 1918 from General Alexander Duncan McRae, a Canadian officer with the Ministry of Information in London, praising Livesay’s reports from the front:

“Knowing how much you are interested in J. F. Livesay and also that you staked your reputation on him as Canadian War Correspondent at the Front, I am writing you to say that Livesay is undoubtedly making good. His articles which are appearing two or three times a week in the “Times” are not only excellent in themselves but are about the only detailed information that is appearing in the British Press on Canadian operation. I regard Livesay so far as the Canadian articles appearing in the British Press are concerned, the livest correspondent we have had.”

In a postscript McRae adds:

“Livesay is making them take notice here.”

Following the war, Livesay published a book based on his work as a war correspondent entitled “Canada's Hundred Days: With the Canadian Corps From Amiens to Mons, Aug 8 Nov, Nov, 11, 1918”. In 1920 Livesay and his wife, writer Florence Randall Livesay, and daughters, Dorothy and Sophie, moved to Toronto where he took up the position of general manager of the Canadian Press.

Search Tip: Search “Livesay” in Keystone to find out more about J. F. B. Livesay.

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4 September 2018

Rumours of Captain Boswell's death reach Souris

In April 2018, we wrote about Captain Clarence Boswell of Souris, Manitoba and his younger brother John who were serving in France. In a letter to his mother dated 2 September 1918, Clarence wrote to tell her about being injured in battle on the 30th of August.

Letter with 4 pages from Clarence Boswell to his mother
(4 images)
Letter from Clarence Montague Boswell to his mother, Archives of Manitoba, Clarence Montague Boswell fonds, Correspondence – Family, 1918, Q 30841/10.

“Here I am in No 20 General Hospital B. E. F. France with a contusion to my left shoulder. It happened on the morning of the 30th when George F “C” Co and I with “A” Co had to take two trenches of the Hun, which interfered with a jumping off for a general attack. The 4th Brigade had already failed to take them and also another attack by the 3rd Bn. Ours was made at 5 am and was a great success largely on account of the fine barrage of the artillery. Our left flank was also looked after by a well known British Bn. Our casualties were comparatively light but included George. Davidson & one of the officers engaged. I didn’t know that Davidson was hit until he turned up on the next bed but one to me in the C.C.S. He had two machine gun wounds in his leg.



My injury is fairly slight but when the piece of shell landed on my shoulder and knocked me down I thought it was a house. Fortunately I had my pack on my back and I think that saved me. As it is there are no bones broken neither is the flesh but it is swollen and stiff. I spent one night in C.C.S. No 1 and am now at No 20 General Hospital. We get the best of attention.”

Interestingly, there is another letter in this collection which describes the reaction in Souris, Manitoba to rumours of Boswell’s death resulting from an error in the newspaper casualty lists. Boswell’s friend Samuel H. Forrest explains in a letter dated 8 September 1918:

Letter with 5 pages from Samuel Forrest to Clarence Boswell
(5 images)
Archives of Manitoba, Clarence Montague Boswell fonds, Correspondence – General 1918, Q 30842/15.

“We had a considerable flurry of excitement owing to a somewhat careless compositor and still more careless readers and for some day you were reported to be dead. Only a semi colon separated you from the list of the dead but it was sufficient.”

The news spread through town that Boswell had been killed:

“I was stopped twenty times in the next few hours by people who had been shocked by the news and in many cases was quite unable to convince them that the news was not true for by the end of the first hour details were known of your taking off and hot the news had come so that a simple denial was quite inefficacious. However the report showed one thing clearly, that you had a great many friends in the town and the district and I heard and overheard people talking in a way that would have warmed your heart if you could have heard them; and some of them people with whom you used to scrap pretty vigorously in the olden days.”

Clarence Boswell recovered from his wounds and went on to serve in Germany before he returned to Manitoba. Boswell is one of several individuals featured in our hallway display. 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 “Boswell” in Keystone to find out more about Boswell and his First World War letters.

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27 August 2018

A Soldier’s Belongings: the Arthur Rufus Morrison Wallet

Over 60,000 Canadian soldiers lost their lives in the First World War. One of them was Arthur Rufus Morrison. He served with the Canadian Machine Gun Corps from April 1, 1917, until his death on September 29, 1918.

The Archives of Manitoba houses several records belonging to Morrison from his time in the First World War. One of these items is a wallet, which contains a mirror, diary, and a pay book.

Photo of 2 wallets and 2 books
(3 images)
Archives of Manitoba, Norman Alexander Matheson fonds, Morrison Wallet, P4352/3C.
Note: there were also photographs inside the wallet, but they were removed and placed into folders to properly preserve them.

The diary and pay book are of particular interest in this collection. The diary starts when Morrison enlisted on February 27, 1917, and ends on September 26, 1918.

His last entry reads:

“Nights getting quite cold. On duty as runner for 87, headquarters.”

Runners relayed information between soldiers and commanders when radios were not available. The rest of the diary is empty as Morrison was killed in action three days later on September 29th.

The pay book contains a list of payments Morrison received while serving in France. It also lists the date he was killed and has the word “DEAD” stamped on the front cover.

close up photo of two books. One it titled “Army Book 64. Canadian Pay Book for use on Active Service” and stamped “DEAD”. Book entitled “The Soldiers Own Diary”
Archives of Manitoba, Norman Alexander Matheson fonds, Morrison Wallet, P4352/3C.

Due to the wallet’s good condition, it is unclear if it was removed from Morrison’s body after his death or if he entrusted it to another soldier before he was killed. In either case, the military made sure it was kept in good condition while being transported to Morrison’s family. His relatives took care of the wallet before donating it to the Archives of Manitoba as part of the records of Norman Alexander Matheson.

Search Tip: Search “Norman Matheson” in Keystone to find a description and listing of these records.

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