November 28, 2016
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.
The budding links between Thunder Bay and Orpington, England continue to grow.The first development has been the production of a short film by the Orpington Video and Film Makers titled Victor Lilia Goes To War. This seven minute film tells Victor Lilia’s story, including his birth in Finland in 1884, emigration to Canada in 1913, enlistment in the 78th battalion at Fort William in 1918, and his death in the Ontario Military Hospital, Orpington, in 1919.
The video features footage of Canadian troops on the Western Front, and a 1926 ceremony of remembrance at Canadian Corner – the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at All Saints, Orpington – where Victor was buried.
Victor Lilia Goes To War also has extracts from the April 2016 event commemorating the 100th anniversary of Canadian Corner. This included the planting of a cherry tree and a plaque in the churchyard at All Saints churchyard, next to Canadian Corner, which were blessed by the Bishop of Rochester. St Paul’s Anglican Church in Thunder Bay has reciprocated this symbol of friendship by installing two pavers in its labyrinth.
Victor Lilia Goes To War includes an interview with Mayor Keith Hobbs and City Manager, John Hannam, talking about the importance of the connection between Thunder Bay and Orpington.
The first public showing of Victor Lilia Goes To War was on Remembrance Sunday at St Paul’s Anglican Church. The video was introduced by the Venerable Deborah H. Kraft, Archdeacon of Thunder Bay. She contrasted the 100 year old history of St Paul’s with All Saints, Orpington, which is over 1000 years old.
All Saints has a War Shrine, listing the names of local men who died in the Great War. These shrines were originally placed on the roadside outside the church for passers-by to see. The mud splashed on them by passing vehicles is still visible. The names of the fallen were painted on by hand, as the casualty lists came in, with no distinction of rank. Orpington was a very small community at this time and the sign writer would have known many of the fallen, making his a very sad duty.
The memorial to the fallen at St Paul’s Anglican Church is very special because it was painted by Group of Seven artist A.J. Casson. It contains the names of 30 parishioners who gave their lives in World War One. A project is underway to remember each of these men through their Profile of Service.
This year it was the turn of John Hector Little who was born at Fort Rouge, Winnipeg, Manitoba in October 1895. He lived at 121 West Amelia Street, Fort William, with his parents Edward and May Little. John was an electrician and served with the 96th Lake Superior Regiment. He enlisted in October 1914 at Fort William and became Sergeant 73918 in the 28th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry.
John landed in France in September 1915, was badly wounded, and had his left arm amputated in November 1917. He was discharged from the army in August 1918 and returned to Canada. John died on 15 February 1919 age 23 and was buried at Thunder Bay (Mountain View) Cemetery.
This article runs on the fourth Monday of each month. John Pateman 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.