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Archivist recognizes the young boys of war'

 
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BerichtGeplaatst: 07 Nov 2009 16:24    Onderwerp: Archivist recognizes the young boys of war' Reageer met quote

Archivist recognizes the young boys of war'

here's a lot to be gleaned from a simple legal document if you read between the lines.

In her quest to document the details of local First World War soldiers, Pam Tessier has opened a forgotten chapter in local history and given a new identity to names once only written in stone'.

After over a year of compiling data obtained from official Draft Records -- individual summaries, certificates of medical examination and attestation papers -- the Penetanguishene archivist has completed World War I Documents -Penetanguishene Area Men & Women Enlisted or Drafted 1914-1918' recognizing 204 soldiers many of whom she says were only little French farm boys' from Penetanguishene, Lafontaine and Perkinsfield areas.

"Their names are on the Penetanguishene cenotaph but after talking to the Legion, I learned that there were no other records about them so that's when I began working on it," said Tessier.

"I decided to do it because every time I am working on military records, I feel a need to tell who these people were and what they did; they shouldn't just fade away," said Tessier.

"The individual summary paper gives me information on who they were, where they were born and all the records that are public. Attestation papers are legal documents with an oath signed by the person containing all the vital information about if they were married had children, etc.

"I found 204 and two of them were women Louise Gignac and Edna Jeffrey, both were Nursing Sisters.

"There are so many interesting little stories -some much more interesting than others.

"The Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) on-line helped me with some of the more interesting writing in the papers, terminology and stamps," she said.

Tessier has produced three copies of World War I Documents -Penetanguishene Area Men and Women Enlisted or Drafted 1914-1918. One has gone to the Penetanguishene Legion and will be on display on Nov. 11 along with memorabilia for public viewing and then the copy will remain there afterwards as records. A second copy will remain at the Centennial Museum and Archives as part of the archives collection and will be on display for the public for the month of November in a Remembrance exhibit.

"During this time, the book is available at the museum for anyone who wants to see it and admission to the museum will be free for Legion members and veterans. We will have a notepad out for anyone who wants to leave comments about the people they are looking up so that we can take that information and fill in the details," said Tessier.

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"The third copy of the document collection has gone to the University of Western Ontario in London for a research project being done there ... I am amazed at how many historian, teachers and professors out there are researching WWI soldiers."

The CEF Study Group is a discussion forum on the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in the Great War. Emphasis is on co-ordinated study, information exchange, constructive critiquing of postings and general mutual support in the research and study of the CEF.

Tessier found the CEF helpful especially when it came to the interesting case of George Buster' Eaton Scott alias William Elwood Williams. After sending away for Williams' records, she discovered Williams' service file consists of 14 sheets while Scott's is only one sheet.

Williams signed his Attestation papers on Aug. 11, 1915 and after receiving vaccinations joined the 83rd Battalion. In December 1915 Williams developed a hernia (overseas) from physical exertion' and was discharged on March 25, 1916. Scott enlisted in the 81st Battalion, CEF on March 30, 1916. His one sheet ofpaperbearsanote SeeDoc. Williams. Wm. Elwood 159781 -81st Battalion' and in a different handwriting is another note "medal created under Williams". Did he want to change his identity? Williams Attestation Papers were not included. Scott's Attestation Papers were signed March 30, 1916 in Toronto, just five days after Williams was discharged. Scott was issued service number 159781 but his Service Record is under the name William Elwood Williams #171705. His records say he was in the Governor General's Body Guard yet Williams was issued a medal. Both men are listed as salesmen for a trade before the war. Through details in the documents Tessier has pieced together a story.

"George Buster Scott had a sister in Toronto and Williams said his mother lived in Toronto on the same street -yet details prove they were two different people and Williams actually married Scott's sister. It's a real mystery and one I would like to solve," said Tessier.

Tessier said through the 204 records she learned many things including the fact that a majority of the soldiers were just "little French boys" anywhere from under-aged to 18, 19 and 20 years of age. Many of them had enlisted with different names and seventy-five percent of them did not know accurate birth-dates.

"Birthdays were not an important thing until you had to prove to the government how old you were in order to get the old age pension or enlist," said Tessier.

"Very few of them were married -only four out of 204, and they had no sweethearts at home waiting. Many didn't marry for three to five years after the war. Most were uneducated French farmers from big families. They didn't know about war they just wanted adventure because they had no future where they were -and then some died for it."

Tessier says almost all of the soldiers she researched had enlisted in the Simcoe Foresters - Central Ontario Regiment #157 Overseas Battalion and many witnessed each other's signatures during enlistment so she knows that they must have known each other.

Two of the soldiers died here in Canada -one of Meningitis and one with tuberculosis. There were five or six First Nation residents from Christian Island and two brothers enlisted as being Born in Ontario' and were not born in Ontario but were German immigrants brought in by Beck to work in the factory.

For Tessier putting her time and effort into finding the backgrounds of the local WWI soldiers was a rewarding challenge and one the community can truly benefit from in more ways than one.

"Each story is different and unique based on physical and medical history -almost everyone that enlisted had an identifying mark -a scar or birthmark listed in the medical records. They would have died of embarrassment to think that we knew such things about them."

http://www.midlandfreepress.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2149630
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