#100DaysofVimy – March 25th, 2017

Each Saturday, we’ll share some reflections from our past student participants about the impact of their visit to Vimy Ridge and other sites of the First World War.

George Polanyi-Williamson

George Polanyi-Williamson ascends from the Maison Blanche tunnels, near Vimy Ridge.
Credit: The Vimy Foundation, 2014.

Since the end of the First World War, families have been making their way back to the battlefields to reconnect with lost loved ones. In 2014, George Polanyi-Williamson, a Beaverbrook Vimy Prize recipient, fulfilled his own Vimy Pilgrimage:

“I was able to connect with my own family’s past, retracing the steps of my great-grandfather, who fought at Vimy Ridge. Unexpectedly, when we were exploring a system of tunnels in a farmer’s field, I came across the emblem of my great-grandfather’s regiment etched into the wall of the cave. It was an incredible experience to stumble across your own history without even knowing it was there. This is just one of the things that made the Vimy trip unforgettable.

Just like George Polanyi-Williamson in 2014, families continue to make pilgrimages in an effort to connect with their lost loved ones. An estimated 60,000 from the United Kingdom did so in 1919 alone.
Credit: The Vimy Foundation, 2014.

Much like my great-grandfather, countless people gave their lives for our country, and made an unimaginable sacrifice for us. This trip helped me understand how quickly conflicts could erupt and change the course of the world. I will always remember what I saw in Europe, and how I felt when I learned about the events my ancestors had taken part in.”

 

#100DaysofVimy – March 24th, 2017

Each Friday, we will revisit an interesting poll result from the past few years. How do you compare to other Canadians? See our past poll results here: (http://www.vimyfoundation.ca/learn/poll-results/)

In last week’s poll question, we revealed that as of April 2015, 5% of Canadians were, or knew someone, planning to travel to France in 2017 for the centennial observance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. This week we want to take a poll and see how the numbers compare. Do you, or someone you know, plan to travel to France this year for the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge?

Recipients of the Vimy Pilgrimage Award attend the ceremonies at the base of the Vimy Memorial on April 9th, 2013.
Credit: The Vimy Foundation, 2013.

#100DaysofVimy – March 23rd, 2017

Each Thursday, we run a social media contest! Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and you can win a Vimy Prize Pack each week!

Contest for Thursday, March 23rd 2017:

Today we visited Sir Arthur Currie’s grave at Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, placing a Vimy Pin & Medal beneath the Cross of Sacrifice.
Credit: The Vimy Foundation / Jordan Slump, 2017.

 

The 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge is just over two weeks away! Share a photograph of your Vimy Pin and show your support for this monumental occasion in Canada’s history.

 

 

The inscription bears Currie’s motto “They Served Til Death – Why Not We?”, which after 1934 served as a rallying cry for the Vimy Pilgrimage of 1936.
Credit: The Vimy Foundation / Jordan Slump, 2017.

 

Guidelines:
Comment on our Facebook post, Instagram post, or tweet at us by 11:59pm PT on Thursday, March 23rd. Only one submission permitted per account per platform (i.e. if you have an account on both Facebook and Twitter you can enter twice; you cannot submit two entries through Facebook). One winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries received during the time period on all platforms. The winner will be contacted on Friday March 24th, 2017! These contests are not sponsored by Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

#100DaysofVimy – March 22nd, 2017

Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War. Today:

Mary Riter Hamilton

Trenches On The Somme
“It seemed to me that something was in danger of being lost.” – Hamilton, 1926.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1988-180-38.

Mary Riter Hamilton was born in Teeswater, Ontario and raised in Clearwater, Manitoba. Prior to the First World War, Mary studied art and painted in Europe, gaining considerable attention.

At the outbreak of war, Mary was in Canada, where she continuously attempted to gain permission to return to Europe as an official war artist for Canada. Finally in 1919, Mary returned with the task of  producing paintings on behalf of the War Amputations of Canada, providing them for “The Gold Stripe”, a veterans’ magazine.

Mary Riter Hamilton with Richard Wallace in front of a bombed-out church, France, ca. 1919-1922.
Courtesy Ron Riter & Library and Archives Canada.

From 1919 – 1922, Mary produced approximately 300 paintings, enduring harsh weather, makeshift shelters (at times living in old dugouts) and poor food in a war-ravaged countryside. When she returned, Mary was physically and emotionally drained, unable to ever regain the intensity with which she had painted during those three years. In a final gesture, Mary refused to sell her paintings, instead donating them to the National Archives (now Library and Archives Canada) ensuring that they remained the possessions and memories of all Canadians.

Of her need to visit Europe and record the scenes she saw, Mary said:

I came out because I felt I must come, and if I did not come at once it would be too late, because the battlefields would be obliterated, and places watered with the best blood of Canada might be only names and memories. Of course the great facts of the war would remain, and I could add nothing but my pictures to the essential tragedy and meaning of it all, but it seemed to me that something was in danger of being lost.

I do not think I could re-live that time; and I know that anything of worth or anything of beauty which may be found in the pictures themselves reflects only dimly the visions which came then; the visions which came from the spirit of the men themselves.
(Letter from Mary Riter Hamilton to Dr. Arthur Doughty, Dominion Archivist, 27 July 1926).

 

#100DaysofVimy – March 21st, 2017

Each Tuesday, we will feature a place in Canada (or international!) with a Vimy Ridge connection. Today we highlight:

The Sailors’ Memorial Clock – Old Port of Montreal

In 1919, the cornerstone of the Sailors’ Memorial Clock was laid by future King Edward VIII, in the Old Port of Montreal. The clock tower is dedicated to the memory of Canadian sailors lost in the First World War. The Vimy Pilgrims departed Canada’s shores from harbour sheds at the foot of the tower in 1936. Visitors today can climb the tower’s 192 steps for a view of the city and harbour along the St. Lawrence River.

Just as many had done during the war, the Vimy Pilgrims of 1936 departed for France from the Montreal Harbour. Depicted here are Sheds 18 & 19 beneath the Sailors’ Memorial Clock in 1926.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of Interior / Library and Archives Canada / e008439076 / PA-044196.

#100DaysofVimy – March 20th, 2017

Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour:

Ethelbert ‘Curley’ Christian

Curley’s cheerful disposition enabled him to become a champion of war amputees.
Courtesy: Private Collection.

Ethelbert ‘Curley’ Christian was born in the USA in the 1880’s (both the dates and location given vary). A man on the move, Curley traveled extensively in his early years while working. In 1915, Curley was in Selkirk, Manitoba when he enlisted with the 108th Battalion (Selkirk) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Once overseas, Curley was transferred to the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers). During the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Curley was severely wounded, possibly coming under artillery fire, injured, and left buried in mud and debris for two days (according to his family). When he was finally uncovered, gangrene had set in his wounds, prompting doctors to amputate all four of his limbs. While in Euclid Hall in Toronto recovering, Curley met a nursing aid, Cleopatra McPherson; the two would marry in 1920 and raise a child.

The First World War gave rise to the manufacture of artificial limbs for the victims of war. In this note, Curley claims that “the two artificial legs forwarded me by the limb factory at the Dunnsville (sic) Military Hospital are not satisfactory, and I want the privilege of selecting the style and make of my legs.” (Editor’s Note: He possibly means the Haldimand War Memorial Hospital, in Dunnville, Ontario est. 1920).
Credit: Personnel Records of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, Reference Number: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1695 – 54. Item Number: 100301.

Forever a man on the move, Curley returned to Canada as its sole quadruple amputee of the First World War and championed initiatives for the care of war amputees and disabled. In 1936, he boarded the S.S. Montrose and returned to Europe with the Vimy Pilgrimage, where he met and chatted with King Edward VIII at the unveiling of the Vimy Memorial.

Ethelbert ‘Curely’ Christian passed away on March 15th, 1954, at approximately 70 years of age. He is buried in the Prospect Cemetery section of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.

During the unveiling of the Vimy Memorial in 1936, Curley broke through the crowds and guards to introduce King Edward VIII to the blinded veterans.
Credit: Private Collection.
Nicknamed “Curley” by his mother for the curls in his hair, Ethelbert “Curley” Christian even signed his Attestation Papers as such.
Credit: Personnel Records of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, Reference Number: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1695 – 54. Item Number: 100301.

#100DaysofVimy – March 18th, 2017

Each Saturday, we’ll share some reflections from our past student participants about the impact of their visit to Vimy Ridge and other sites of the First World War. 

2016 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize recipient Hannah Hardy identifies the name of a missing soldier she has researched on the Vimy Memorial.
Credit: The Vimy Foundation, 2016.

One of the educational advantages of the Vimy Foundation’s scholarship programs is the capturing of a tight-knit group’s reaction to the hardships of war and sacrifice. Hannah Hardy wrote about one of these moments after taking part in the 2016 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize scholarship:

“The moments I experienced at the Vimy Memorial can never be recreated; not only were my emotions strong, but the friends who stood around me who shared their own soldier’s stories had the largest impact. To see other youth like me, so invested in the history and moved to tears by hearing of their sacrifice, was incredible. I am overcome with the motivation to bring this new knowledge back to my community and to try and help them grasp a sense of the experience as told through my stories.”

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize recipients are asked to research the life of a specific Canadian soldier, whom they are then able to visit at a memorial or cemetery, sharing their story and delivering a tribute to their sacrifice.
Credit: The Vimy Foundation, 2016.

#100DaysofVimy – March 17th, 2017

Each Friday, we will revisit an interesting poll result from the past few years. How do you compare to other Canadians? See our past poll results here: (http://www.vimyfoundation.ca/learn/poll-results/)

Next Sunday, we’ll be posting about the Vimy Pilgrimage of 1936, when over 6,200 Canadians travelled back to Europe for the unveiling of the Vimy Memorial, in what was the largest mass pilgrimage of Canadians to ever return to the battlefields of Europe. In 2017, perhaps for the first time, the original Vimy Pilgrimage may finally be outdone. In fact, an April 2015 poll found that 5% of Canadians say that they or a member of their family is planning to travel to France in 2017 for the centennial observances of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the unveiling of the new Vimy Education Centre.

Source: IPSOS Reid Poll for The Vimy Foundation, April 2015.

#100DaysofVimy – March 16th, 2017

Each Thursday, we run a social media contest! Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and you can win a Vimy Prize Pack each week! Contest for Thursday March 16th, 2017:

The Military Museums of Calgary will open their new exhibit, War Stories 1917 on April 9th, using the words of those who served to depict the three major Canadian battles of 1917 – Vimy, Hill 70 and Passchendaele.

Share A Specific Museum, Exhibit or Collection

On March 2nd we asked for your thoughts on private collections.  Many of you noted that museums tend to provide better access of viewing artifacts to the greater public, while private collections tend to maintain the very personal story of an object that would otherwise be lost in a larger display. In retrospect of this discussion, it is interesting to note that, on average, only 5 – 10%, (and as little as 2%) of a large museum’s collection is ever displayed. Considering this, share with us a specific museum, exhibit, or collection that has left an impression on you and which you think others would appreciate visiting.

War Stories: 1917 features a number of short documentaries on the many personalities who fought in the momentous battles of 1917. We highly suggest going to see the exhibit or visiting the website before it closes on August 25th!

Guidelines:

Comment on our Facebook post, Instagram post, or tweet at us by 11:59pm PT on Thursday, March 16th. Only one submission permitted per account per platform (i.e. if you have an account on both Facebook and Twitter you can enter twice; you cannot submit two entries through Facebook). One winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries received during the time period on all platforms. The winner will be contacted on Friday March 17th, 2017! These contests are not sponsored by Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

#100DaysofVimy – March 15th, 2017

Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War. Today:

Elsie Holloway

Elsie Holloway’s portrait photograph of her own brother Lieutenant Robert Palfrey (Bert) Holloway, upon enlisting with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in 1915. Elsie’s portraits of the “First Five Hundred” of Newfoundland’s volunteers are held at The Rooms in St. John’s.
Courtesy: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division, E 11-13 / / Holloway Studio.

Elsie Holloway was the daughter of Robert Edwards Holloway, a well-known photographer in Newfoundland & Labrador. Following the death of their father, Elsie and her brother Bert opened their own photography studio in 1908. By the outbreak of war, Holloway Studio had become revered for Elsie’s portrait photography. As volunteers flocked to the recruiting offices, they also came to the Holloway Studio at the corner of Bates Hill and Henry Street, eager to be photographed in their new uniforms.

Elsie’s work in those first months of the war has become an invaluable record of Newfoundland’s “First Five Hundred” – the volunteers who formed the first contingent of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. The majority of the First Five Hundred would not survive the attrition of the Regiment’s war experiences; the Holloway Studio portraits being the sole surviving record of their youth. Even Elsie’s family would not be spared the sorrow, her brother Bert being killed at the Battle of Monchy-le-Preux in 1917.