April 25, 2016
Chronicle Journal (A5)
Thousands of men and women from Port Arthur, Fort William and the region served in the armed forces during the First World War. The poppy was adopted as a national symbol of remembrance in Port Arthur in 1921.This monthly column will share stories and photos about life here in Thunder Bay and overseas during World War One.
One of those stories belongs to Lieutenant Stanley Arthur Rutledge, born in Fort William in 1889 to former mayor Edward S. Rutledge. Following the completion of high school, Stanley worked in both the banking and publishing industries. He then entered law school to pursue a legal career. He enlisted in the war effort in 1915, during the final year of his studies. By March of 1916 he found himself in the trenches at Ypres. Stanley gained experience as a sniper and then as a qualified pilot with the Royal Flying Corps. Unfortunately he suffered a fatal accident while training in November 1917.
Much of his Great War experience is conveyed through the letters, or pen pictures, he wrote home to family and friends. Lieutenant Rutledge’s parents had many his letters later printed in a book to share with others, called Pen Pictures From The Trenches. The material is divided into two parts and offers a glimpse into life during the Great War. This publication can be found at the Thunder Bay Public Library in the Special Collections. Additional material related to Lieutenant Rutledge and his family can be found online through the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project. There you will access biographical information, photos, and letters not included in the above mentioned book. Further reading will shed light on the experience of Stanley’s brother, Wilfred Laurier Rutledge, who was on the front lines alongside his brother. Two years younger than Stanley, Wilfred enlisted in 1914 and was awarded the Military Medal and Bar in 1916 for gallantry. He went on to join his brother as an aviation instructor with the Royal Flying Corps. Following the war, Wilfred returned to Canada with his family and eventually moved back to Fort William in 1934.
In the pursuit of experiential history from the First World War, letters are often one of the most accurate depictions we can now access. They are as close as we can get to speaking with someone from that time and learning how to read between the lines to get at what they truly had to say. Resources can be spread across multiple organizations and individuals but with a little bit of digging they start to come together to pen a picture of lives that mattered and of the people who cared.
This article runs on the fourth Monday of each month. Jesse Roberts is a member of the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project committee. Please visit www.tbayworldwarone.com for more information about this project or to contribute personal stories and photos.