Peterborough during the First World War 1914 - 1918.

Peterborough, Ontario during the First World War 1914 - 1918.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Globe and Mail: 27 October 1914

Buried on page 8 of the Globe and Mail on 28 October 1914 is a tidbit of info of an special farewell event for Norwood soldiers. They would be heading to Kingston, Ontario for basic training. By May 1915, they would be in England, and by September 1915 they would be in the Trenches of France.

Here is the extract:

Norwood, Oct 27 - Ten young men who are leaving for the front were bidden farewell at the Town Hall last night. Stirring addresses were given by several prominent citizens. Each of the boys was presented a box of warm clothing by the Home Guard, Gun Club, and Lacrosse team, also comforters and wrist-lets by the Daughters of the Empire."

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Assault with the Bayonet in the Great War

Recently at Peterborough's Museum and Archives, students from Sir Sandford Fleming Community College Museum Management program showcased micro-exhibits. An excellent First World War bayonet exhibit was created.

To honour this student's work and future as a curator, I've created a link to Paul Hodge's article,
‘They don’t like it up ’em!’: Bayonet fetishization in the British Army during the First World War.

This entry focuses almost entirely on the use of bayonet's in combat in the First World War.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Stunning Photo: German Soldiers during the Kaiserschlacht, May 1918

Click to Enlarge Photograph

German Post Card, 1918

                                                                                  "Sappe Stellung Chemin des Dames Jetzt ist die Stellung
                                                                         im Besitze der Franzosen." Trans.  Trench position Chemin des Dames. 
                                                                                                     Now Trench is occupied by the French.

                                                                                                             Credit: Flickr, Drakegoodman

The picture was taken during the German Kaiserschlacht Offensive of Spring 1918. The offensive was the last great German roll of the dice to secure a military victory on the Western Front. German High Command knew the stakes were high; they faced the inevitable French and British summer offensives, and they would soon face the newly arrived American Expeditionary Force. The offensive lasted from March to July 1918 and captured large swaths of territory but were unable to secure a lasting victory.

What the picture tells us:  

The corpse on the firestep is wearing a British uniform. The German soldiers are walking in recently dug reserve  trench. The walls of the trench are not reinforced, the prados are poorly constructed, and the position lacks dugouts. The muddy footprints above the trenches indicate that the assaulting party traversed the line, seeking out any remaining 'tommies.' Finally, the spent bullet casings found on the top of the firestep,  unexploded grenades in the trench, and the discarded ammunition boxes in the far right  are evidence of the ferocious struggle that took place to capture this trench.  

The photograph shows war in all its reality.  Men splayed out in undignified poses, lying where they died. Rifles and equipment scattered across the field. After the shooting ends, the looting begins. Speaking to a veteran of the Normandy Campaign, I was informed that many Allied soldiers were motivated to kill for wedding bands and French Francs. In this photo, the two German soldiers are robbing from the dead, taking British boots and socks, and one soldier is wearing a British sargent's overcoat.

Last words belong to Ernst Jünger, a German officer that participated in the offensive. During a lull in the fighting, he explored a British Dugout that his men had recently captured. 

         "There was a whole crate of eggs, which we sucked on the spot, as eggs were little more than a word to us at this stage. On shelves along the walls were stacks of canned meat, tins of delicious English jam, and bottle of Camp coffee, tomatoes and onions . . . It was a scene I often came back to later, when we lay for weeks in trenches, on meagre bread rations, watery soup and thin nondescript jam (243)."

During Jünger's advance on Vraucolurt, he stole British soldier's overcoat, similar to the blokes in the photograph. Unfortunately for Jünger, his stolen coat would prove to be costly. He was shot in the chest wearing the British coat by one of his own men.

Friday, 4 January 2013

First Nations Participation in Great War - Hiawatha's George Paudash

Depiction of Aboriginal,
Canadian Patriotic Fund
Poster, 1916

First Contingent Sailing from Canada, Oct 1914
Credit: Library and Archives Canada

By October 1914 the fleet that was carrying the first of the Canadian Expeditionary Force reached Plymouth Hoe, England.  Residents from the English towns and villages that surround the port city of Plymouth came out to the harbour to greet the soldiers from the distant cold colony that had come to the aid in the fight against ‘Prussian Barbarism.’

Civilians were surprised at what greeted them. According to one Canadian officer, R.F. Haig of Fort Garry Horse Regiment, English residents were disappointed that the Canadians were not wearing feathers and pelts, or wearing traditional headdresses. English citizens expected the Canadians of popular literature.  A country with a untamed wild frontier, filled with proud native warriors wearing war-paint mounted on horse back, living alongside hardworking farmers. Imagery of Canada and the ‘noble savage’ aside; the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) sent thousands of Aboriginal soldiers overseas during the First World War.

Depiction of Aboriginal,
Canadian Patriotic Fund
Poster, 1916

Aboriginal men had every reason not to want to fight for Canada. In the decades leading up to 1914, officials acting on behalf of the Crown and the Government enacted numerous laws and policies that oppressed Aboriginal people. Similar to the Indigenous population of Australia, contact with Europeans brought misery and hardship upon the native population. The once proud warrior nations that hunted buffalo in the Great Plains or traversed the Great Lakes of Ontario were brought to the brink of extinction by disease, war, and euro-centric policies that placed First Nations people into a system of reserves often located on unsuitable destitute land. European colonizers attempted to take all native children away from their families and place them into residential schools, where the children would be beaten, and in some cases sexually assaulted by predatory clergymen; all in an effort to have the ‘Indian’ taken out of them.

Minister Sam Hughes Touring Arras, 1916.
Credit: IWM
Despite the systematic oppression and societal exclusion, many Aboriginal men made the decision to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.  As wards of the crown, natives were not granted the rights of citizenship, and therefore were legally excluded from fighting overseas. The Minister of the Militia, Sam Hughes, a  xenophobic Orangemen, tried to further discourage the recruitment of natives by stating: “While British troops would be proud to be associated with their fellow subjects, yet Germans might refuse to extend to them the privileges of civilized warfare.” Many local battalion officers overlooked the Minister’s concerns and allowed Aboriginals to enlist.

Map of First Nations, Central Ontario
Credit: Ontario Aboriginal Affairs
Sgt. Mike Mountain Horse, awarded the DCM, explained his reason for enlisting in the CEF:

“The fighting spirit of my tribe was not quelched through reservation life. When duty called, we were there and when we were called forth to fight for the cause of civilization, our people showed all the bravery of our warriors of old.”

In Central Ontario there is several First Nations that near Peterborough and the Kawarthas, Northumberland, and Quinte Region. Aboriginal men from: Alderville, Curve Lake, Hiawatha, Chippewas of Rama and Georgina Island, and Mississauga of Scuggog, and the Tyendinaga Mohawks were all eligible to enlist in Peterborough in the No. 3 Military District.

                                                                             George Paudash

George Paudash, Nov. 1914.
In the November 1914, two brothers from the Hiawatha reserve located outside of Peterborough enlisted in the 21st Battalion (Eastern Ontario).  George Paudash, age 24; and Johnson Paudash, age 39; were trained and quickly sent overseas. The brothers arrived in France in the Autumn 1915, and spent several months in the M and N trenches south of Ypres in Belgium. The men of the 21st Battalion learned to snipe, scout, and exist under shell fire at the M and N trenches.

Months later the first rotations in the lines, the 21st Battalion would be pushed into their first actual pitched fight with the enemy, at the St. Eloi Craters. After the battle of the craters, the youngest brother, Corporal George Paudash, developed numerous abdominal pains and was sent to hospitals in England before returning home.

George’s older brother, Johnson Paudash, would find fame as one of Canada’s greatest snipers.
(Next Entry)

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Canadian Vimy Ridge Memorial

The Shell scared landscape of Vimy Ridge -90 years later

Canadian National Vimy Ridge Memorial
The Canadian National Vimy Ridge Memorial is a stunning piece of artwork and a landmark that looks over the Douai Plain and the Artois Region. The Vimy Ridge National Historic Site is visible for miles away, it towers over the landscape, the white granite monument is visible from the Notre Dame de Lorrette - France's largest National cemetery, which contains 40,000 French dead.

Notre Dame de Lorrette - France's largest Cemetery

This entry will showcase the Vimy Monument;  created by Walter Seymour Allward. Designer and Architect Allward was a renowned Canadian artist. Allward created monuments for the War of 1812, Boer War (South African War), Bell Telephone, Stratford War Memorial (1922), Brantford War Memorial (1933), and the Peterborough Citizens' Memorial (1929).

Mother Canada Mourning her lost sons.

Allward was a busy artist, while he was busy designing the Brantford and Peterborough Memorial, Walter Seymour Allward was also busy working on his latest commission from the Canadian Battlefields Memorials Commission in 1925 - Vimy Ridge. Allward and his labourers spent 11 years constructing Canada's largest Great War monument, on ground that many Canadians consider sacred. In the next few years Canadians will become very familiar with Allward and Vimy Ridge; Allward's work is now on the $20 tender.

New Canadian $20 tender
Credit: Bank of Canada & Global TV

                                          Walter Allward posing infront of his incomplete Vimy Ridge Monument
                                Credit: Library and Archives &

Aerial view of Vimy Ridge dedication, 1936.
Credit: Library and Archives &
Early 1930s - Laying foundation.
Credit: Library and Archives &

Inscribing names of 11,000 Canadian soldiers that died in France with no known grave.
Credit: Library and Archives &
Progress on the monument.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada &

Early 1930s - In 1922 France donated 245 acres, centred on Hill 145 to Canada.
Credit: Library and Archives &

Laying the base of the 24 foot tall monument base.
Credit: Library and Archives &

Monday, 5 November 2012

Peterborough’s Youngest Lost Soldier: Anthony Skarrizi

Tyne Cot Commonwealth Cemetery
Credit: Royal British Legion

The expression “old men declare war, but the youth who must fight and die,” comes to mind when visiting any Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery.  Rows of white tombstones mark the last resting place for a generation of young men of the British Empire. Studies of death records have found that the majority of soldiers died in their 20s, with the median age being 22-26 years old. Most of the soldiers were cut down in the prime of their lives, leaving young wives and children to cope with the loss of a missing partner and father.

14 year old and 8 month old Anthony Skarrizi

Researchers have come across the graves of soldiers from the Great War that were too young to marry, or even shave. Recently I have come across the story of Peterborough’s youngest fatality of the Great War, Anthony ‘Tony’ Skarrizi who died during the last days of the Battle of Passchendaele. Private Anthony Skarrizi was 16 years and 11 months old when he died on 3 November 1917 outside of Passchendaele, Belgium.
Peterborough Examiner,
 22 November 1917

Government Records show that Anthony Skarrizi was born in Italy in November 1900. Like many Italian immigrants at the turn of the last century, the Skarrizi’s moved to Canada in 1907 hoping of finding employment as labourers. The young Anthony Skarrizi decided to join the military in August 1915. Private Skarrizi falsely attested his birth year as 1897, making the adolescent appear to be 18 to the Recruiting Sargent at the Peterborough Armouries,  in all likelihood he was only 14 years and 8 months old.

Canadian Military Police Corps (Provost)
Private Skarrizi completed his military training in Canada, and embarked for overseas service. After sailing to Liverpool, England he was found to be underage and redeployed for permanent base duty. Military law states all soldiers must be 18 to enlist in the military and 19 years old for overseas service. Once his age was discovered, Skarrizi spent 6 months on base duty being assigned to several guard and provisional units; he became an unruly and irresponsible soldier. His young age combined long rotations in the much hated “bullrings” (reinforcement camps) likely contributed to his declining morale.  By the winter of 1916-1917, Private Skarrizi had several run-ins with the Canadian Provost Corps.

Great War Military Depiction of
Field Punishment No 1
He was arrested and court martialed four times for: neglecting to obey an NCO, absent without leave on two occasions, and absent from parade. The young soldier was punished by being restrained, having his pay docked, and after his second conviction for being absent without leave, he was given the dreaded Field Post No 1. According to the Manual of military law, the Field Post No 1 punishment consists of restraining an individual at the feet and hands and attaching the convicted soldier to a wagonwheel, or fencepost in a public area, whereby all other soldiers could witness the punishment.

Two months after the last conviction, Skarrizi was transferred to France with the 21st Battalion. One month after landing in Boulogne, France, the young private was attached to Kingston’s 21st (Eastern Ontario) Battalion billets in Villers Au Bois.  The question arises: why and how would a known underage soldier allowed to be sent overseas? No one knows. It is likely that Officers decided to send Skarrizi to France because serving at the front would stop the adolescent Italian-Canadian soldier from running away from the Canadian military camps.
Picture of Passchendaele
Credit: Archives of Ontario/RCL

Terrain of Passchendaele
Credit: Library and Archives Canada
Unfortunately for Private Skarrizi, he joined the 21st Battalion only several weeks before the Canadian Corps moved into Belgium to take part in the Battle of Passchendaele. The four month long British led Passchendaele offensive had almost ground to a halt. The British High Command jointly employed their “shock troops” of Australian and Canadians to help resolve the political and military mess that the British Generals had created in attempting to take Passchendaele. The Canadian Commander, Arthur Currie, planned to win the battle but slowly and in several phases in order to insure that the Canadians did not suffer needless losses of men. This article will not go into the general history of the Passchendaele campaign. It is interesting to note that during the research for this entry, I found there was a lack of contemporary historical analysis into the Canadian involvement at Passchendaele.

Aerial Photograph of Passchendaele,
displaying location of Crest Farm
On 30 October 1917, the first phase of the Canadian assault at Passchendaele ended. The Canadians launched the second phase of their attack on Passchendaele after the PPCLI and the 72nd Battalion provided miraculous results for the Canadian Corps. The 3rd Division captured two German strongholds, Meetcheele crossroads, which was lined with concrete bunkers and Crest Farm, a swampy redoubt of trenches and shell holes that overlooked the advances to the town of Passchendaele.

On the night of 3 November 1917 the 4th Canadian Brigade relieved the Canadians that captured the lunar swampy landscape that was Crest Farm at 2:45 AM. The relatively fresh 21st Battalion was sent in to guard the recently captured Crest Farm by the 4th Division. On the right was the 19th Battalion, and on the left the 21st Battalion was on left of Crest farm.

1917 Map and Location of Crest Farm
Credit: McMaster Archives
Contemporary Photo of location
 of Crest Farm Credit: Google Maps
At 3:45 AM, the German started to bombard Crest Farm and reserve and support areas. At 4:50 AM, Brigade HQ witnessed the 21st Battalion sending off  red S.O.S. flares. The attack by German Stoßtruppen (Storm Troops - Specialist Assault Troops) breached the Canadian wire charged right into the 21st and 19th Battalions. The 19th Battalion made quick work of the German attackers, while on the left; the 21st Battalion had to call in a reserve company to help dislodge the enemy. By 6:45 AM, the Germans had launched two small isolated attacks on the 21st Battalion, both of which were halted. Canadian After-Battle reports state German infantry laid in shell holes in front of the Canadian position but were unable to advance. During the defence of Crest Farm, the 19th Battalion provided valuable assistance to not only the 21st Battalion, which suffered 203 causalities, but also to the Australians on the right flank.  The 19th Battalion sent almost a company sized force to help shore up the Australian defences.

Menin Gate, Leper Belgium
During the defence of Crest Farm, 16 year old Private Anthony Skarrizi went missing. There is no record in existence that tells historians what happened to the young inexperienced soldier. All we know is that he never answered his company roll call again. His name is engraved at the monument to the missing at the Menin Gate at Leper (Ypres), Belgium. Like most of the missing of the Great War, Private Skarrizi was likely killed by a direct hit by an enemy shell. The impact of the explosion, and the confusion that followed the battle hampered efforts by stretcher bearers to retrieve the body of Private Skarrizi. After the battle, Anthony Skarrizi’s family at 656 Reid Street, Peterborough, would receive several telegraphs and letters informing them that their son was missing, and eventually declared dead. 

Author would like to acknowledge the assistance and great research work provided by the 21st Battalion Website. Please visit them at

Monday, 29 October 2012

Peterborough's Confederation Square: Winter 1914 - 1915.

Here is an image of B Squadron, of the 8th Canadian Mounted Rifles.

The picture is taken on the North-east corner of Confederation Square - facing the George United Church (then a Wesleyan Church) 

Untitled Photo. The picture fits the period when B Squadron of the 8th Canadian
Mounted Rifles was raised in Peterborough in December  1914  -  March 1915.
Credit: Peterborough Museum & Archives, Balsallie Collection of Roy Studio Images, 2000-12 (2634-1)

14 years after this photograph was taken, Peterborough's cenotaph would be unveiled at this very location. On 29 June 1929 by the Commander of the disbanded Canadian Corps, Sir General Arthur Currie, helped unveil the cenotaph. The monument to Peterborough's dead was designed by Walter S. Allward. After completing the Peterborough memorial, Allward sailed to France for his next project. Canada's national war monument - the stunning Vimy monument.