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.

September 2017 Posts:

18 September 2017

“This war must be won by the people at home.”

The Kiwanis Club of Winnipeg was established in May 1917 as a business and professional men's club aimed at furthering business through networking and promoting ethical business practices as well as community service and leadership.

On 18 September 1917, the Kiwanis Club of Winnipeg hosted a luncheon and talk by Major C. W. Gordon, a well-known Winnipeg minister who wrote novels under the pen name Ralph Connor. One hundred and fifty men attended the luncheon at the Fort Garry Hotel; the event is described in the Kiwanis Club’s minute book.

Major Gordon was introduced by Premier T. C. Norris and went on to speak about the responsibility of Canadians to do their utmost to help the war effort. During this time Prime Minister Borden was advocating conscription and the Military Service Act had been passed into law on 29 August 1917 making it possible to conscript men between the ages of 20-45.

Minutes of Kiwanis Club meeting with summary of Major Gordon’s talk with 2 pages
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Kiwanis Club of Winnipeg fonds, Kiwanis Club of Winnipeg minutes, 1917, P7829/7

The Kiwanis Club’s summary of Major Gordon’s talk alludes to the contentiousness of the issue:

“We must give up everything for the successful prosecution of this war. To accomplish, what we are in honor bound to accomplish, if we are to keep our respect as Canadians, we must have unity in its broadest sense. The English-speaking Canadians must act in harmony with the French Canadians, and there must be no thought of civil strife. To bring about this union of forces the Major urged the necessity of unity of government.”

According to the Kiwanis Club’s account, Major Gordon’s speech was well-received:

“At the conclusion of the address the one hundred and fifty men present rose and gave three rousing cheers for Major Gordon, our Allies, the men at the front and democracy.”

Search Tip: Search “Kiwanis Club” in Keystone for more information.

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11 September 2017

Russian Revolution and the HBC: A Refugee Crisis

As the revolution in Russia persisted, the HBC’s agent in Archangel, H.A. Armistead, continued to report back to the Governor and Committee on the tumultuous situation in that country. Armistead worked closely with the French Ministry of Ravitaillement (Supply) and its director, Mr. LeBourgeois, overseeing the arrival and departure of HBC supply ships in Archangel’s harbour, commissioned by the French Government.

letter with 3 pages from H.A. Armistead to Mr. LeBourgeois
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Hudson's Bay Company Archives, Archives of Manitoba, Records of Hudson's Bay Company representatives at Archangel, Private and confidential correspondence, H.A. Armistead to HBC London (copies), 12 Sept 1917, RG22/26/4/4

In this copy of a letter dated 12 September 1917, Armistead reports:

“At Archangel we are more or less cut off from any source of reliable news, but the general feeling is that we are passing through very critical days.”

Armistead touches on the growing danger of being a foreigner in Russia. Steamers landing at Russian ports were being detained, and British subjects had been advised to stay away from Petrograd, the Russian capital at the time, for their own safety. Moreover, a refugee crisis was arising among expatriates living in Russia.

Armistead writes:

“A very considerable number of French refugees has arrived at Archangel, and are being despatched according to the accommodation on board the steamers in port. Mr. LeBourgeois has informed me that there is a great distress amongst many of these refugees, who not only lack the means for obtaining food, but in many cases also clothing. Some of the local French people have collected a small amount of money to assist those in distress, and I believe to have acted in your sense in sending to Mr. LeBourgeois a contribution in the name of the Hudson’s Bay Company of 500 roubles for this purpose.”

In this way, the HBC found itself involved in transporting refugees to safety through its shipping presence in Archangel.

Search Tip: For more information about HBC correspondence from Archangel, search “Records of Hudson's Bay Company representatives at Archangel” in Keystone.

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5 September 2017

Manitoban soldiers received support from British relatives

Records come to the Archives of Manitoba from a variety of different sources. Often family members donate records of a parent or grandparent. This has usually been the case with the letters and other records created by First World War soldiers. However, this is not how the records of Portage la Prairie resident Campbell Millar found their way to the Archives.

Millar’s records were acquired by the owner of The Curiosity Shop, Faye Settler, in the course of buying goods from estates for the shop inventory and were then donated to the Archives of Manitoba by Daryl Kuhl, the new owner of The Curiosity Shop, in 2005.

Campbell Millar was born in Portage la Prairie in February 1899 and enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in January 1917, just before his 18th birthday. He left for England in April 1917 and, after a year of training in England, departed for France in April 1918. Millar was in France when the armistice was declared and returned to Canada in March 1919.

one page letter from Campbell Millar to his mother
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Archives of Manitoba, Campbell Millar fonds, Correspondence from Campbell Millar to his family, July – October 1917, P2774/7.

His letters to his parents, siblings and to Janet O’Brien, a school friend and the woman he married after the war, document his time in training camps and at the Front in great detail. Millar also served in the Second World War and again wrote home to his wife, Janet, and their children.

In a letter dated 9 September 1917, Campbell Millar writes to his mother about receiving a package from Mrs Jackson of Glasgow, his grandmother’s cousin. In many of the collections of letters of Manitoba soldiers held at the Archives there are mentions of this kind of support from relatives who live in Great Britain. Sweets were especially well-received!

“In the box was some Scotch Ginger bread and some chocolates. Maybe the Ginger bread wasn’t good Eh! It was dandy. Fresh as though it had been out of the oven a couple of hours.”

Search Tip: Search “Campbell Millar” in Keystone to find out more about Millar’s correspondence from the First and Second World Wars.

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