June 27, 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.

May 5 1916:

Mother: Just as I thought, when I wrote to you yesterday, your letter arrived this morning and I was very pleased to hear from you. I also received an Easter card, and last, but by no means least, a parcel containing two pairs of socks, chewing gum, box of cigarettes, toffee, tobacco and papers. Your letter was dated April 10, the Easter card, April 9, and all three arrived together. Well we are getting some dandy weather. I am writing this in front of our dugout with an old fire pail for a table. We have just had dinner which consisted of McConachie’s rations and a canteen of tea, a little bit of bread and a few hard tacks or dog biscuits…I hear that the 94 Battalion have made trenches on Mariday park and manoeuvre in them. Well, one night in the trenches here and they will learn more than they will learn if they stay in Canada another year.

The above extract comes from a letter received by Mrs. J. J. Moore from her son, Arthur Moore and published in the Fort William Daily Times Journal on June 1, 1916. The Fort William Daily Times Journal and the Port Arthur Daily News respectfully solicited letters from soldiers at the front – or extracts therefrom – during the First World War. Any reader who had a letter from a relative or friend with the British, French or Russian forces was invited to submit said letter for publication to the community. Soldiers’ Letters provide a unique perspective on everything from daily activities to food and general news or gossip. They also clearly reflect the positive spin that was often applied to communication sent home for the sake of loved ones or the letter’s author. A monthly snapshot of those published letters is accessible via the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project. Further, the cursive script included in the City of the Poppy logo denotes the important role of letter writing and personal connection throughout the First World War.

Equally valuable insight can be gleaned from the letters and postcards sent to the soldiers and personnel stationed overseas. Often those items were kept and came back home with an individual, providing an opportunity for them to be preserved in family scrapbooks and records. This type of dual perspective provides a rare view into the comparative experience of war for those involved in drastically different ways. Many letters, postcards and other ephemera have survived the years since the war and have been shared via the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project. One of those letters was written to Major Hal C. Fryer with the 52 Battalion on February 17, 1917:

Dear Hal, I have your card of February 8 1917 so shall send this to the Battalion as you must be on your way out by now. I was very sorry to hear (?) was making such poor recovery. Colonel Sutherland should be along soon shouldn’t he? I fancy he must have become entangled in the net of some fancy charmers. Well I don’t blame him as he has had close squeaks…Let me hear from you when you arrive.
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.