We Will Remember Them (Dr. Peter Farrugia)

Have you ever been to Vimy? Perhaps you have travelled there and seen the two pale hands of stone thrust heavenward from the ridge that dominates the surrounding French countryside. Or maybe you are fond of wordplay. In that case, you could well know that the term “chatting” was coined by Indian troops observing their British colleagues discussing matters high and low during grooming sessions when the quarry was lice. Certainly, more than one person has wondered – perhaps while poring over a byzantine tax return – what evil genius devised the temporary expedient of personal income tax and under what circumstances this unfortunate measure was undertaken.
            If you answered “Yes!” to any of these questions then you will likely be interested in the Great War Centenary Association of Brantford, Brant Co. and Six Nations. The GWCA was founded in 2012 and its primary purpose is to preserve and make available to the public, a permanent and evolving record of our community’s involvement during the First World War.
            Brantford has a strong connection to the Great War. It had one of Canada’s highest participation rates with a steady flow of volunteers signing up to serve in various capacities (from nursing sisters, to engineers to infantrymen). Support for the war remained strong, even after the imposition of income tax in August 1917. The Bell Monument – inaugurated October 24, that same year – was designed by the young architect Walter Allward, who later designed the monument commemorating Canada’s most famous victory at Vimy Ridge. And as the war progressed, people on the home front sought to keep abreast of trends from France and Belgium. How else to explain the popularity of a song thought to be a favourite of soldiers but which had little to do with the conflict directly (“A Long Way to Tipperary”)? In the same way, words and phrases like “No Man’s Land”, “blighty” and “chatting” crept into popular usage in Brantford as well as across the Empire at this time.
            As 2014 and the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of this terrible conflict approaches, the GWCA is preparing a series of initiatives designed to raise awareness of Brantford’s role in the First World War. The cornerstone of our effort will be an interactive website containing information on all the men and women from Brantford, Brant County and Six Nations who served. This selfless group includes Katherine Maud MacDonald. She was the first Canadian nursing sister killed in the War and efforts are underway to pay tribute to her sacrifice through the commissioning of a special stamp featuring her image. In addition to the website, the GWCA has been active in the community in other ways. Beginning this past February, it sponsored a lecture series held at Laurier Brantford that featured seven lectures on topics ranging from the submarine threat to sport in wartime. 
            Looking forward, in partnership with the Brantford Public Library, the GWCA will be organizing a WWI film series. Between November 11 and 13, 2013 three famous Great War Films – Lewis Milestone’s “All Quiet on the Western Front”, Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory” and Richard Attenborough’s “Oh What a Lovely War!” – will be screened and discussed. Other events in the offing include an antiques roadshow type event, a possible theater festival and musical concerts. Finally, we will be working in partnership with many dedicated local teachers to raise awareness of Brantford’s war experience among students. Through oral history, walking tours, special workshops, web based assignments and other methods we will seek to broaden and deepen students’ understanding of critical matters such as conscription, war production, internment of foreign nationals and commemoration. 
            Victory in the Great War took an alliance of many nations, as well as a coalition of forces within Canada. So too, success in this task we have set ourselves will only result from a concerted collective effort. If you are interested in assisting the GWCA in any way or would simply like information about future events, please contact us at 
info@doingourbit.ca. You might also want to check out our Facebook page: Doing Our Bit – Great War Centenary Association.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *