Victoria During the Great War
917 - August - December
In the Daily Colonist, August 4, 1917, a story on p.5 says, "Buried for six hours under a mass of shell-smashed debris and then blown fifty feet in the air -- that is part of the experience which Pte. Albert Palmer of Victoria had during his stay on the Western Front. [He] returned to Victoria with the latest party of veterans. He was naturally pretty shaken up and is still suffering somewhat from the effect of his harrowing adventures in France, his fall to the ground after being thrown in the air severely injured his spine and he is considerably stooped...but he feels that the Victoria climate will help a lot towards giving him back his normal physical ability."
There were 12 Canadian casualties August 4.
The front page of the Colonist, August 5, carries the headlines, "Tanks Make Record In Flanders Battle; Large Squadron Operating in Conjunction With British Infantry Score Many Victories -- Overcome Great Difficulties Presented by Mud and Shell Craters on Battlefield; Meeting Difficult Test With Complete Success; Some Individual Feats of Remarkable Character -- Extremely Useful in Clearing Enemy From Fortified Posts and Woodlands -- Sustain Practically No Damage." Tanks were a new instrument of warfare which would make a tremendous difference in the routing of German forces in the field.
On this third anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities an assortment of headlines on page one speak to the course of the war, "There Must Be No Next Time; Will Battle to End for Liberty and Right; Liberty Calls For Sacrifice." Canadian casualties were 40.
The Victoria Red Cross received coverage on the whole of pages 16 and 17. There are several stories of the accomplishments of the society through their many branches. From March 1915 until June 1917 they had raised $206,245.39. A balance sheet of the society's financial operations is presented - there was great transparency for the Red Cross.
Write-ups on individual branches include, "James Bay Branch" with the article, "James Bay sub-committee of the Red Cross Branch was formally organized Thursday, January 18, 1917, at an enthusiastic meeting of residents of that district...[who] elected officers [who are] actively engaged in the work carried on at the branch headquarters, 218 Menzies Street."
Under the front-page banner headline on October 28, "Allies Make Further Gains on Belgian Front," there are several stories telling of the advances made against the German forces. One of the sub-heads reads, "Canadians Overcome Vigorous Resistance." The story tells, "The Canadians this morning were digging themselves in...having gained this newly acquired height in the face of another fierce counter-attack last night. It gives the British dominating positions to which the Germans had clung tenaciously."
"Many Whales Caught by Victoria Fleet," pronounces a headline on p.24. In the article we read, "The entire fleet of the Victoria Whaling Company will be in at the dock of the local company with the return of the whaling steamers, White and Brown... The total catch for all [eight] vessels is in the neighborhood of four hundred whales." We learn that prices of whale oil and other products were high, surely an indication of the wartime market for lubricants to grease the machines of battle.
The banner headline on p.1 of the November 13, 1917 Daily Colonist is "Victoria Takes Half Million Dollars in Bonds." Sale of War Victory Bonds to raise money to maintain the fighting was happening across Canada, including Victoria. Corporations, municipalities, worker groups, and individuals all bought bonds. First day sales in Victoria were $500,000. A huge amount, 100 years ago in 1917!
"Canadians Make Further Advance," states a headline on p.2. In the article we are told, "After twelve hours of continuous desperate fighting the Canadian troops stand secure on Passchendale Ridge. From dawn until dark the salient has re-echoed to the roar of our guns in what has been the most tremendous artillery duel in the history of the Canadians in Flanders."
The Canadian casualty list for November 13 has 110 names. Many young Canadians died in those gruesome encounters. A full dozen Victoria casualties are listed on p.5.
The Fifth Regiment's band gave a concert at the Royal Victoria Theatre, first of a winter series, we read on p.6.
"Returned Soldiers From Hospital In Parade," says the caption under a photograph of an open overlength motor car filled with uniformed men. "Yesterday three motor tally-hos of them, these men who bear scars to show how they have done their bit, entered the parade to do what they could to put the Victory Loan over the top in Victoria."
The front page of the Daily Colonist, December 7, 1917, carries a large-type headline stating, "Conditions In Halifax Unequaled In War Zone; 2000 Killed By Explosion Of Ship In Harbor At Halifax." Between those headlines a banner photograph shows a huge area of devastation. In the accompanying article we read, "Chief of Police Hanrahan estimated tonight that the number of dead may reach two thousand. Twenty-five wagons loaded with bodies have arrived at one morgue."
Of particular interest to Victoria readers was the headline, "Victoria Boys Safe," with the article, "That there are Victoria boys...at Halifax and that, apparently, none of them have been injured in the disaster..., was indicated in a telegram which Premier Brewster...received from his son, Acting-Sergeant Brewster...who [had] reached Halifax last month."
On p.5 one headline is, "Twenty-six Soldiers Returned Yesterday." In the piece, "Eight of the returned soldiers who arrived on the morning boat were met by the Great War Veterans Association, ...who took them for breakfast in their club rooms at 714 Fort Street. Most of the men, however, were taken almost immediately on their arrival to the Military Convalescent Hospital Esquimalt."
Three notable Victoria athletes were recent casualties we find on p.9, "The toll taken by the war of British Columbia athletes grows apace. Lieut. Hugh Kennedy of the J.B.A.A. rugby team of 1910-1911 and also active in other branches of sport, of the 47th Battalion, has been reported killed. Jack McNeil, crack swimmer, is among the wounded. Archie Moore is reported missing...a familiar figure on local soccer fields. He has been with the rank of Flight-Lieutenant for some time."
On December 18 there was a federal election in Canada. The banner headline on the Colonist for that day is, "Canada Says Union; Government Returned To Power By 42 Seats."
Also on p.1, "Dr. Tolmie Carries Victoria by 4,552 Majority; Union Candidate Rolls Up Largest Count Ever Polled In City -- Laurier-Liberal and Socialist Lose Deposits -- Women's Ballots Play Big Part In Victory." Articles indicate citizens of Victoria were pleased with the election results. Crowds cheered in an assembly at the Princess Theatre as the majority mounted for the Unionists. Throngs braved a downpour to attend.
On December 30, 1917, a sad article is found on p.5 of the Colonist. "Coporal Everett E. Logan, son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Logan, 1114 School Street, who died at St. Pol Hospital, France, on December 16, was born at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, twenty-two years ago. He lived in Victoria the past eleven years. He attended Boys' Central School and...was always a favorite with his school fellows." Attached to the story is a photograph of a handsome young man.
So ends our coverage of 1917. It was a year of important developments. The 143 Bantam Battalion left for active duty in Europe. The Russian Revolution began. The United States declared war on Germany. The Canadians captured Vimy Ridge. As well they captured Passchendale and other critical sites.
There was almost a year of war still to be fought in 1918.
To be continued.