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Kapuskasing Internment Camp

Kapuskasing Internment Camp

Note: For an updated version of this story please check out 100 Years Ago Today: Canada enacts the War Measures Act on my First World War blog “Doing Our Bit”.

While most Canadians are aware of the Japanese internment camps established during the Second World War far fewer know of the 24 camps or stations that held 8,579 individuals, the majority of whom were civilians, during the First World War.

Although these “enemy aliens” were classified as having Austro-Hungarian origins many of them were recent Ukrainian immigrants. In addition to those who were incarcerated an estimated 80,000 were forced to report regularly to authorities.

A large number of these camps were located in Canada’s hinterland with a large concentration in Alberta and south-eastern British Columbia. However this series of six images, all mounted on card, are of the Kapuskasing internment camp in northern Ontario. Construction of the camp began on December 14, 1914 and it was the final camp to close when it shut its doors on February 24, 1920.

Clearing the land

The internees were not only forced to work but also to clear the land and construct the camp itself. The camp was built next to the National Transcontinental Railway and not far from an abandoned surveyors’ camp at MacPherson Station. By the end of 1915 over 1200 prisoners were interred at the camp and working to clear 1282 acres of timbered land set aside by the Federal Government as an experimental farm. In the spring of 1916 a serious riot erupted at the camp leaving one dead and eleven seriously injured.

A May 30, 1917 article in the Pembroke Standard recorded the arrival of 400 prisoners of war from Fort Henry:

“The four hundred alien enemies who were transferred from Fort Henry are now safely installed in the new quarters. Kapuskasing Camp is the largest of any of the Canadian detentions camps and is said to be like a band of steel, escape being the next thing to an impossibility. The camp is located on the National Transcontinental line, beyond McPherson, but the train service is for those carrying proper credentials only. As to anyone riding the bumpers that is also impossible and as to anyone walking away there is no place to go, as there are no settlements east, west, north or south for many miles, and a man would have little chance of getting to a far-away settlement. The camp has its schools, stores, home and its own churches, which fact shows the gigantic nature of it.”

For more information I recommend this article on the We Will Remember website and the book In Fear of the Barbed Wire Fence (14.4MB PDF from the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association website) by Lubomyr Luciuk (from which the newspaper quote above was taken).

National Transcontinental Railway

Kapuskasing River

MacPherson Station (?)

The barbed wire

A Soldier of the Great War

An Unknown Soldier

A weary looking Sergeant of the Great War

One of the unfortunate consequences of searching for vintage photographs is the discovery of hundreds, if not thousands, of images of someone’s forgotten relatives.

It’s particularly sad to see a soldier’s photograph, knowing that nearly a century ago they held pride of place in homes across the country. If I’m fortunate enough to find a name or number I do my best to keep their memory alive by publishing their story online. Unfortunately sometimes there is no information to follow up.

I can’t afford to buy all of the photographs of unknown soldiers but I do rescue as many as I can.  I’ve created a photo set on Flickr as a tribute to, as tens of thousands of headstones so eloquently state, “A Soldier of the Great War, Known unto God“.

The postcard featured here is of a British [Edit: Private with a Horse Artillery Unit] with two wound stripes on his left forearm. This dates the postcard to 1916 or later. He looks tired and in need of that cigarette.

Concert at the Front, Dec. 22 1915

First Brigade CMR Programme

First Brigade CMR Concert Programme

This amazing piece of ephemera is a survivor of the First World War. The First Brigade Canadian Mounted Rifles landed in France on September 22, 1915 and was made up of the 1st CMR raised in Brandon Manitoba and the 2nd CMR raised in Victoria, BC.

The Brigade entered the front lines in early October and again in late November. The war diary entry for Dec. 22, 1915 includes the line “Brigade Concert at Bailleul“. The concert programme featured here measures 8″ x 10” when opened and includes the words “Caisse D’Epargne” on the cover.  This translates to Savings Bank and so I assume the concert was held in this building in Bailleul just behind the front lines. The programme includes a long list of performances by the men and officiers of the First Brigade and the back lists the organizing committee.

Nine days after this concert the Brigade was reorganized into infantry battalions of the 8th Infantry Brigade. Both the 1st and 2nd CMR saw action in most of the major battles of the First World War. The 1st CMR lost 80% of their men (killed, wounded or captured) when the Germans overran their lines at the Battle of Mount Sorrel between June 2 – 13, 1916. Three of the individuals listed on this programme lost their lives in that battle: Walter Chaplin Scarr, Norman Froud Weston and Ivor V. Withers. Many others who took part in that Christmas concert also lost their lives in subsequent battles. These included Ewart Martin Hallsmith, Norman Halliday Moncreiff, James McNeill and likely others who could not be positively identified from the initials in the programme.

First Brigade CMR Programme

Inside the Programme

I’ve linked to many different websites in order to show the many resources available to those who would like to research soldiers of the First World War.  I feature many more links on my tribute website: On Active Service.

S.S. Corsican – Sept. 26th 1916

SS Corsican berth card

SS Corsican berth assignment card

On September 26, 1916 the 136th (Durham) and 140th (St. John’s Tigers) Battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force set sail for England.  This little card (2.5″ x 4.25″), kept as a souvenir of the voyage, assigned this soldier to berth 2 in room 201 on board the S.S. Corscian.

The soldier wrote on the back of this card:

“From September 26, 1916 to October 5th, 1916. About 900 men and officiers 136th and 140th Battns. Corsican, Lapland, Leuconia, Southland, H.M.C. Roxborough”

I’m Jake!

For my first post I’ve chosen this tiny piece of ephemera from the First World War.  It’s a small stamp used to encourage Canadians to aid the war effort by purchasing Victory Bonds and I’ve used a slightly modified version of it as my avatar on several websites.  It was originally featured on a poster and is similar in design to the famous Lord Kitchener and Uncle Sam posters of the era.

I use the name Jakealoo or Jake_a_loo on many sites and on Twitter.  In the First World War Jake was slang for alright or ok, as in “I’m Jake” or “it’s all Jake”.  Jakealoo or Jakerloo is a variant but its origins are unclear.  One theory is it might have come about as it rhymed with “Bakerloo”, a line on the London Underground.  I once read that Belgian and French children shouted Jake and Jakealoo to Commonwealth soldiers as they marched past.  I’m not sure if the story is true but it’s a nice one and it stuck in my memory.  No one’s sure who introduced the term “Jake” but it is usually attributed to Australian or Canadian soldiers.  Although I have letters written by Canadian soldiers who use the term “Jake”, I can’t say I’ve seen the word used in Canada before the war.

Calendar of posts

July 2020

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