While on the Lens sector in the midst of winter, Sgt. Frank S. Iriam had another lively experience after coming out of the bathhouse:
“I had a hot time with an undershirt that I got one day. Just before we came into the line, we were rushed to the baths and then went directly from there into the trenches. I had drawn a very tight-fitting under shirt of heavy wool at the bathing house lottery and it was binding me in the armpits. I marched about a mile with full equipment and began to perspire a bit. Talk about (coming to life), I’ll say that shirt did nothing else but. I thought my skin was on fire. The thing was literally alive and moving. I had to strip right in the communication trench and get rid of that shirt quick. I flung it as far as I could in the snow and went shirtless until the next bath day.” (Iriam, In The Trenches – 1914-1918, p. 187).
On the heels of their success in the early morning of 28 June 1917, at 7:10 p.m. the same day, the second phase of the advance along the Souchez River resumed. Kicked off in the midst of a heavy thunderstorm, the surprised Germans were quickly beaten and objectives consolidated. North of the Souchez River, the 46th Division held Hill 65. On the southern side, the 4th Canadian Division had secured Eleu and most of Avion, while the 3rd Cdn. Div. established a strong flank astride the Avion-Arleux road. Flooding of the Souchez restricted the opportunity to exploit the advances and as the Germans regrouped from the initial surprise they put in strong counter-attacks. By the end of 29 June 1917, the advance had gained approximately half a mile, with British troops entering the western outskirts of Oppy.
The Vimy Foundation is playing a unique role in more than 15 citizenship ceremonies on July 1 by presenting each new Canadian Citizen with a Vimy pin to commemorate the battle’s Centennial this year. Welcoming new citizens to our country on this very special day, the Vimy Foundation is sharing with them a defining moment in our history. These ceremonies will be held at various locations across Canada.
Alberta: Calgary, Edmonton and Stony Plain
BritishColumbia: Fort Langley, New Westminster,Vancouver, Victoria and West Vancouver
Ontario: Niagara Falls, Niagara-On-The-Lake, St. Catharines & Windsor
Late in June 1917, as the 46th British Division attacked, German forces holding the Souchez River defences began falling back. The month-long battering by Canadian trench raids had taken their toll on the enemy, now facing a renewed attack. Sensing a weakening line, the 3rd and 4th Canadian Divisions immediately advanced to maintain contact with the enemy. Then on 28 June 1917, at 2:30 a.m., the British attacked to the north of the Souchez while the Canadian Corps attacked along the south, with the 3rd and 4th Cdn. Div. securing Avion Trench by daybreak. From the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders) Battalion, a patrol had reached Eleu dit Leauvette, a hamlet occupying the crossroads to Arras and Givenchy. A pause during daylight allowed the Canadians to muster for the second phase of the attack that evening.
This week we continue the humourous adventures of battling lice on the Western Front as Sgt. Frank S. Iriam, a Canadian sniper in the 8th (90th Winnipeg Rifles) Battalion shares his experience with “lively” clothing:
“The baths were some institution. There was usually an old stationary boiler that had been patched and made to stand a few pounds pressure of steam… fitted with short branch pipes that had a tin can perforated with nail holes to serve as a spray. We would disrobe in one room, throw our underwear through a window to an attendant and pass on naked in Indian file into the spray from the tin cans. After a very short time there you would hear a yell from the Sgt. in charge of operations. Then you moved out and a new suit of underwear was thrown to you as you passed another window. You had to take pot luck on what you got. If you were tall and broad you were sure to get an outfit to fit a runt and vice-versa [sic]. Sometimes we were able to trade off ill-fitting garments with some small guy who had drawn a big suit in the lottery. These clothes were supposed to be free from lice or vermin but it was only a dream. The first dose of lice I got in France was on a new suit taken from a pile of stuff that had never been worn since coming from the factory. It had been stored and handled over the floors of these baths, in close contact with infected clothing until it was literally loaded for bear. You did not notice anything wrong until you got warm or started to perspire. Then things got lively and interesting all at once.”
(Iriam, In The Trenches – 1914-1918, p. 178).
After Lt.-Col. Edward Stewart’s visit to Sir Fabian Ware in October 1914, his Mobile Unit’s work had gained support, and eventually official recognition in February 1915, becoming officially responsible for finding, marking and registering all graves in France (Summers, Remembered: The History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, p. 14). As the war’s attrition increased, public pressure from those at home had re-enforced the need for a registration such as Ware was proposing. Letters were being written to newspapers and government officials, both requesting information for the graves of loved ones, but also expressing angst that none was being provided.
“One such, on 9 January 1915, told of a woman who had tried to locate the grave of her brother and had been disturbed to find that every trace of the cross or other identifying marks described to her by his comrades had disappeared” (Summers, Remembered: The History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, p. 14). Renamed the Graves Registration Commission, they set to their work with haste and purpose. Nearly a year into the war, Sir Fabian Ware’s men were already facing a backlog of thousands of unregistered graves. The task of registration “meant locating and marking a burial site and where necessary erecting an inscribed wooden cross” (Summers, Remembered: The History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, p. 14). Once registered, the grave’s details were recorded by the officer responsible for that battle sector, who in turn created a report of all graves his sector (Summers, Remembered: The History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, p. 14).
A member of the Graves Registration Commission remarked that the work required “considerable patience and some skill as an amateur detective to find the grave of some poor fellow who has been shot in some out of the way turnip field and hurriedly buried, but I feel my modest efforts amply rewarded when I return a day or two later with a wooden cross with a neat inscription and plant it at the head of his grave, for I have the proud satisfaction of knowing that I have done some slight honour to one brave man who has died for his country” (H. Broadley, quoted in Longworth’s unpublished manuscript for The Unending Vigil, sourced from Summers, Remembered: The History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, p. 15).
During the period of May to October of 1915, Ware’s men registered 31,182 graves alone.
When you look at old black and white photos, the past seems very far away. This is especially apparent with First World War photographs. And yet in the course of time, it was only yesterday.
The Vimy Foundation, with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage and the R. Howard Webster Foundation is launching a unique and innovative project to colourize images of the First World War, a project aimed at re-engaging young Canadians in a defining moment in our history.
The images featured within this project will not only highlight the important battles in Canada’s history, but also life on the home front, wartime industries, the contributions of women, and advances in medical and communications technologies.
The First World War was a transformative experience for Canada and while the memory of the conflict and its impacts on our collective consciousness are slowly vanishing, these photos capture our attention. They provide us with a clearer understanding of what the First World War would have looked like to the people who lived it.
The First World War in Colour project will consist of colourizing 150 images from Library and Archives Canada as well as local archives from across the country. These photographs will help commemorate both the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War and the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation.
An original short film produced by the NFB in partnership with the Vimy Foundation
The Vimy Foundation is incredibly excited to have partnered with the National Film Board of Canada on an original short film featuring colourized First World War footage. The film, premiering early November 2017, will be the first time the NFB produces a film featuring colourized footage from their own archives!
We hope that Return to Vimy will resonate with all Canadians, especially youth, and help them better understand what the First World War may have looked like to the people who lived it. The film is an emotional journey back in time that we hope helps re-engage Canadians on their country’s First World War legacy.
The Vimy Foundation, with the support of the Government of Canada presents an exciting new travelling exhibit: THE GREAT WAR IN COLOUR: A new look at Canada’s First World War effort – 1914-1918.
The exhibit will feature colourized First World War photos in addition to historical information and educational resources. The exhibit will be made available to museums and galleries across the country.