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.

August 2014 Posts:

25 August 2014

Cordial Communications

Despite their relative isolation throughout the early twentieth-century, Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) trading posts were able to keep tabs on diplomatic issues in far off Europe through communication channels available at the time.

York Factory post journal, 27 August 1914

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Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Archives of Manitoba. York Factory post journal,
27 August 1914 (HBCA. B.239/a/189)

On 27 August 1914, having finished unloading the annual shipment of supplies from the S.S. Nascopie, the post manager at York Factory wrote this entry in his post journal: “Norway House packet arrived. Return Indians with Mr. Ray war news received showing not going well with the Entente Cordial.” The Entente Cordiale (1904) was an agreement between England and France, and later Russia (1907), establishing their alliance against Germany. News sometimes traveled slowly, but as shown in this record, the unrest in Europe seems to have been on the minds of everyone, including HBC traders.

Supply ships like the Nascopie were a vital link in the communications network used by the HBC and its Northern staff; however, as highlighted in the passage above, post managers also had various other means of keeping abreast of current events. These other information channels were often informal, and rarely receive detailed explanation in written records, making it difficult to determine how information reached the HBC’s remote trading posts during the war.

The journal entry above raises the following questions: By what means did York Factory receive word of the troubles in Europe? Was the news brought from London by way of the Nascopie? Was it brought by Aboriginal people associated with the post? Or, did Mr. Ray convey the information to the post manager? All that the entry tells us for certain is that the news did indeed reach the post – by one means or another.

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18 August 2014

Enlisting

When war was declared in August 1914, many Manitoba men enlisted immediately, including the group of men from St. Boniface, shown below. This photo is dated 11 August 1914. L.B. Foote, a commercial photographer based out of Winnipeg, photographed many scenes documenting the First World War, including those who volunteered for service, military parades and departures from loved ones.

Some of these photographs are available for you to view in our current exhibit titled, At Home: Winnipeg, 1914. You can discover other compelling records documenting aspects of the First World War in the Archives of Manitoba Research Room. Check our website for hours of operation.

Group of enlisted men

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Archives of Manitoba, L.B. Foote fonds. Group of enlisted men, St. Boniface, August 11, 1914 (Foote 2185).

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11 August 2014

Taking the Plunge

There are several collections of letters from First World War soldiers at the Archives of Manitoba. Edna Chapman Robson’s records consist of letters from her friend, Charles Douglas (Dick) Richardson. Edna was from Ninga, Manitoba and Dick from Grenfell, Saskatchewan. They met in Winnipeg at the Manitoba Agricultural College and corresponded from 1915 until the time of Dick’s death at Vimy Ridge in 1917.

The following is an excerpt from the letter Dick wrote to Edna after enlisting at Camp Sewell in October, 1915: “Well, I have made the plunge, and feel better for it. It seems to ease my conscience a great deal to know that in a few days I shall begin what many others have been doing for a long time, and I hope to have some little part in putting the Kaiser where he belongs.”

Over the course of the next months, we will be digitizing more of Dick’s letters. Stay tuned!

handwritten letter from Dick Robinson to Edna Chapman

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Archives of Manitoba, Edna M. Chapman Robson fonds, Letter from Dick Robinson, October 4, 1915.

Search Tip: Search “Edna M. Chapman Robson fonds” in Keystone for more information about Edna, Dick and the records at the Archives.

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5 August 2014

War is declared!

On this day one hundred years ago, Britain (and Canada, by extension) declared war on Germany. This was the beginning of Canada’s involvement in what would become known as the First World War. On the 3rd of August, the following letter was written to the Premier of Manitoba, Sir Rodmond Roblin. C.E. Fortin writes:  “Sir, I beg leave to apply for the position of medical officer to the Contingent proposed to be raised from Manitoba.”  This letter is taken from a large series of records entitled “Premier’s office files.”

Fortin went on to become medical officer in the Lord Strathcona's Horse regiment. His notebook, written in 1915, was donated to the Archives in 1966.

Letter from Captain C. E. Fortin to the Premier, 3 August 1914

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Letter from Captain C. E. Fortin to the Premier, 3 August 1914
Archives of Manitoba, EC 0016, Premier’s office files, GR1666.

Search Tip: Search Keystone for “Premier’s office files” and “Captain C.E. Fortin field service notebook”.

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