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.

May 2018 Posts:

28 May 2018

The impact of the war on Manitoba's farms, May 1918

While many of our blog posts focus on soldiers’ letters and diaries, the impact of the First World War at home in Manitoba is also documented in other types of records held at the Archives of Manitoba. In the records of Valentine Winkler, MLA for Rhineland and Minister of Agriculture and Immigration in Premier T. C. Norris’ cabinet during the First World War, there are some interesting records about the impact of the war in Manitoba, particularly to Manitoba farms and farm families.

In our 27 November 2017 blog post, we featured letters written to and by Premier T. C. Norris regarding the impact of conscription on Manitoba’s farms and farmers.

An exception for farm workers had been granted for the 1917 harvest and then the 1918 planting, but this exemption was lifted in April 1918. In May 1918, farmers were writing to Manitoba Minister of Agriculture and Immigration Valentine Winkler, MLA for Rhineland, to ask him to intercede on their behalf.

Letter from Dr. McConnell to The hon. Wal Winkler, dated May 5th 1918. Sir/ I enclose a letter which Mr. Sandercock had me write for him and trust that you may be able to do something for him. I have also made application to Professor Reynolds. I do not think any explanation is necessary as you are aware of Mr. Sandercock's sterling qualities better than I can explain them. I have the honor to be a remain Sir, Yours &c.
Letter from T. Sandercock to The Hon. Valentine Winkler and Dr. McConnell. Dear Sirs/ I am in great trouble and I turn to you my friends for help. My youngest boy Thomas Goldwin Sandercock is now in Minto Barracks in C. Company and it leaves me in very bad shape. We have 700 acres of land 400 of which is under crop and there is only my wife and myself left on the farm. my health is not good in that I have a very bad shoulder which prevents me lifting and I can hardly harness the horses and I also have a double rupture that causes me lots of trouble. In addition I am getting to be an old man and cannot work as I formerly did. Goldwin was a first class worker and took the bulk of the hard work from off my shoulders. I have 25 head of cattle 13 head of horses, 56 sheep, and 10 pigs and that all means work and hard work. I thought that if you two men who know me and who know that I would do as much for our country in her time of need as any man would go to the Military authorirites and explain the case that surely some arrangement could be made that Goldwin could get off until this crop was taken off when if necessary some other arrangements could be made. Go personally as that is the only kind of thing that avails. Thanking you in anticipation and knowing that you will do what you can I remain yours &c.
Archives of Manitoba, Valentine Winkler fonds, Valentine Winkler correspondence, pages 2577-2578, P7642/7.

On 5 May Mr. T. Sandercock from Morden wrote to Winkler (through a Dr. McConnell) to ask him to go to the military authorities to ask that his youngest son be exempted to work on their family farm. The son, Thomas Goldwin Sandercock, was already at Minto Barracks, but his father desperately needed him back because he was in poor health with 700 acres, 400 of which were in crop, and only he and his wife were left on the farm.

We do not know whether Winkler contacted the military authorities on Sandercock’s behalf but, from the First World War service files held at Library and Archives Canada, we can confirm that Thomas Goldwin Sandercock attested on 14 May 1918, served in France, and was discharged in summer 1919.

Letter from Valentine Winkler. Winnipeg, May, 21st, 1918. TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: This is to certify that I have known Lawrence Godkin all his life, their family being neighbors of mine. His father died recently, and their farming operations are quite extensive. There is nobody at home now, except his mother, who I am informed is not at all well. If this boy is taken away from the farm I cannot see anything else but a calamity for his mother at home, as there is absolutely no one to look after the harvest. If there is a possible chance, in any way, in the interest of our Empire, I think it is necessary that this boy should be released to continue the farming operations that he has undertaken on this mother's farm. Minister of Agriculture and Immigration.
Archives of Manitoba, Valentine Winkler fonds, Valentine Winkler correspondence, page 2590, P7642/7.

On 21 May, Winkler wrote a letter supporting another family in a similar situation. Lawrence Godkin’s father had recently died, leaving only his mother on the farm.

Winkler wrote:

“if there is a possible chance, in any way, in the interest of our Empire, I think it is necessary that this boy should be released to continue the farming operations.”

There is a First World War service file for a John Laurence Godkin from Morden, Manitoba who attested on 3 May 1918 and was discharged in January 1919. This may be the same Lawrence Godkin, but we cannot be certain.

There are many fascinating records from the time of the First World War in the Archives of Manitoba’s holdings, documenting the impact of the war both at home and away.

Search Tip: Search “Valentine Winkler” in Keystone for more information.

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22 May 2018

The S.S. Nascopie: Wartime Supply Vessel in the Arctic

During the First World War, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s fur trade business carried on in North America. A number of our blog posts have featured the HBC’s steamer Nascopie and its role as a wartime supply ship in the service of European governments (12 Jan 2015, 15 June 2015, 10 July 2017, 2 Oct 2017).

Like most of the HBC’s ships employed in war business, the Nascopie also continued to carry out its duties as a supply ship for Arctic HBC fur trade posts between voyages overseas. On June 22, 1918, after delivering its cargo, the Nascopie left Archangel, Russia for Montreal, docking there on July 8. It left Montreal on July 20 and, after a brief stop in St. John’s, began its tour of posts along Hudson Bay and Straits on July 27.

While the Nascopie had a few intense experiences in its trans-Atlantic wartime crossings, the ship’s Arctic expeditions proved to be just as harrowing. On July 30, 1918, Percival Patmore, the Nascopie’s purser, writes in his diary:

Passed icebergs & in ice field all day. Cold wind. Put on all my winter clothing.

Two days later, while anchored in Port Burwell on Killiniq Island, at the northern tip of Labrador, an afternoon gale caused the harbour to fill with ice. The crew of the Nascopie had been discharging cargo from smaller boats for the HBC’s Port Burwell post, and were now unable to return to the ship. The crew’s only option was to return to the Nascopie on foot.

Patmore writes:

diary entry
Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Archives of Manitoba, Purser's diaries for the "Nascopie," "Pelican," "Baychimo," and "Bayeskimo,” 1 August 1918, HBCA RG3/8/1.

Many funny sights occurred when jumping from floe to floe, but all got safely back, though some were slightly wet when he or they missed (partly) a floe & in order to save themselves from a dunking, sprawled ¾ on the cake they intended to jump on & the other ¼ being in the water. At dark Capt. Mack, R. Parsons and self armed ourselves with broom handles & dragging a canoe along with us made for the shore. At times we had anxious moments, but thanks to the broom handles & canoe got to open water. By this time a gale of wind had sprung up, driving our canoe many times against the ice. We finally got ashore & proceeded to the Co.’s post, a distance of about 1 ½ miles up the harbor. Climbing over rocks & stubbing our toes caused many words to be used which are not in a dictionary.

The Hudson’s Bay Company Archives has some Admiralty hydrographic charts which show the tracks of HBC ships’ voyages.

Here is a portion of a 1918 Nascopie track chart showing the ship’s path around the northern tip of Labrador and its stop in Port Burwell, along with notations about the events mentioned above:

close up of map of Northern tip of Labrador and Ungava Bay
close up of top of map of Labrador, with handwritten note “July 30th to Aug. 1st 1918 { Field ice from Table Hill to C. Childey Gray Strait packed. Unable to get through. Entrance Hudson Strait field ice and moving with the tide. Icebergs numerous.”
Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Archives of Manitoba, Hudson’s Bay Company Archives published maps and atlases collection, portion of track chart for Nascopie, 1918, HBCA G.5/34/1.

On November 11, armistice day, the Nascopie left Montreal for Liverpool. Although the war was over, the ship continued to make shipments to Russia’s north for European governments until 1921.

Search Tip: Search “Purser’s diaries” in Keystone to find out more about Percival Patmore’s diaries.

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14 May 2018

Mina Mowat receives the Royal Red Cross at Buckingham Palace

Wilhelmina (Mina) Mowat Waugh was born in 1888. She graduated from Brandon General Hospital's Training School for Nurses in 1913. She enlisted as a nursing sister in the Canadian Army Medical Corps during the First World War and served in England, France, and Belgium. She returned to England following an injury and was posted to Moore Barracks Hospital, Shornecliffe when she recovered.

In 1918, Mina Mowat was awarded the Royal Red Cross 2nd Class, a decoration which recognized an individual’s devotion to nursing duties. She was invested with the Royal Red Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace in July 1918. All of the women receiving the investiture were invited to meet the king’s mother, Queen Alexandra, at Marlborough House after the ceremony. These records – a telegram and a letter – document Mina Mowat’s invitations to the two events.

The telegram and the letter are in a scrapbook album compiled after the war by Mina Mowat’s husband, Richard Douglas Waugh.

handwritten telegram in scrapbook. “Buckingham Palace. Nursing Section Mina Mowat. No 11 Can Gen Hosp Moore Shorncliffe. Your attendance is required at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday next the seventeenth  inst at ten ock indoor uniform with gloves please telegraph acknowledgement. Lord Chamberlain Ldn.” The caption in the scrapbook is “Telegram from the Lord Chamberlain requesting attendance of Wilhelmina Mowat at Buckingham Palace where she was invested with the Royal Red Cross by His Magesty King George.”
Letter from War Office, Whitehall, S.W.1 to Miss M. Mowat dated 10-7-18. “Madam, I am directed to inform you that Her Majesty Queen Alexandra has expressed a wish that all ladies who attend an Investiture at Buckingham Palace to receive the decoration of the Royal Red Cross should afterwards proceed to Marlborough House to see her Majesty. I am accordingly to request that you will attend at Marlborough House at 12 noon on your return from Buckingham Palace. I am, Madam, Your obediant Servant. [signature]”
Archives of Manitoba, Waugh family fonds, Waugh family history scrapbook created by Douglas Waugh, [ca. 1900]-1934, P7973.

Search Tip: Search Waugh family fonds in Keystone to find out more about the scrapbooks and other records in the collection.

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7 May 2018

“Remember Us Over Here:” Augusta Boulton, the Russell Red Cross Society, and the First World War

The First World War was a significant turning point for the Canadian Red Cross. The Canadian Red Cross was incorporated in 1909 by the Canadian government to serve as the main humanitarian organization in Canada and with the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, the number of local branches of the Red Cross grew across Canada as membership increased.

Women, who were not allowed to join the military at this time, were particularly active in the Red Cross. Augusta Boulton of Russell, Manitoba, was active in the Russell Red Cross Society. The Charles and Augusta Boulton family records held at the Archives of Manitoba include letters from soldiers who had received parcels sent by Augusta during her work with the Russell Red Cross Society.

letter from Boyce Nicholson to Augusta Boulton
Archives of Manitoba, Charles and Augusta Boulton Family fonds, Boulton Family Correspondence 832-907, page 884, December 28, 1915.

In one letter dated December 28, 1915, Boyce Nicholson, a soldier serving overseas, sent a thank you letter to Augusta.

It was an unexpected surprise to receive the Christmas parcel from Russell this morning, it is really awfully good of the [Red Cross] society to remember us over here. …  Once again thanking you all for your kindness believe me.

letter from A. George Smellie to Augusta Boulton
Archives of Manitoba, Charles and Augusta Boulton Family fonds, Boulton Family Correspondence 832-907, page 889 January 2, 1916.

Parcels were often sent to individual soldiers but, as is often the case in war, they may have not been around to receive them. When such an event occurred, the parcel’s contents were often distributed among the unit’s soldiers, as this January 2, 1916 letter from A. George Smellie demonstrates:

Yesterday I received the parcel sent by the members of the Russell Red Cross [Society]. And I have distributed them to the best of my ability to the different addresses enclosed. The ones I could not find owners for I gave around among the boys.

Letter from Lieutenant O’Grady to
Archives of Manitoba, Charles and Augusta Boulton Family fonds, Boulton Family Correspondence 832-907, pages 887-888 December 18, 1915.

Due to the wartime trauma that soldiers experience, they would often describe their feelings about the War, as this December 18, 1915 letter from Lieutenant O'Grady shows:

We are still trusting that the war will go on to a satisfactory conclusion but it is hard work to make ones heart say so. To just go on with this endless killing, wounding and maiming of men is as hopeless a prospect as is possible to look forward to.

Throughout the First World War, the Red Cross sent medical supplies, socks, scarves, sweaters, and other articles of clothing. Other than donating large sums of money to refugees and local Red Cross societies such as the one in Russell, the Red Cross also packed food parcels for prisoners of war. In addition to Augusta Boulton’s correspondence, the Archives of Manitoba also contain the records of the Manitoba division of the Red Cross.

Search Tip: In Keystone, search “Boulton” to find the Charles and Augusta Boulton family fonds. Also, search “Canadian Red Cross” to find the records for the Manitoba Division of the Red Cross.

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