Grand Manan and the Great War (Part 1)

26thbattalion

Part 1 – Marching off to War 

Compiled by Roger P. Nason 

 Some readers may not be aware that an important anniversary is approaching us in 2014. On August 4th of next year it will be the 100th anniversary since the beginning of the Great War or First World War when Great Britain declared war on Germany. As part of the British Empire, Canada joined the effort and enthusiastically supported the campaign through the formation of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) to “end the war of all wars”. The CEF eventually came to number almost 620,000 Canadians, Americans and British immigrants who settled in Canada. Nearly 61,000 would be fatalities in the coming years.

The communities on Grand Manan were equally supportive as their counterparts in other parts of Charlotte County, across New Brunswick and throughout the region. Island residents were some of the first to have their sons and daughters enlist to help turn back the tide of the opposing Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungarian Empire in Europe. The press of the time reflected the belief of many Canadians that this conflict would be short and victorious, and everyone would be home by Christmas, 1914. Little did they know what prolonged sacrifices would eventually be made by families, communities and the local economies like Grand Manan to bring a successful end to the conflict.

The most obvious starting point for research about Grand Manan’s participation in the Great War is demonstrated by the supreme sacrifice made by men and women killed in action. Memorials erected in North Head and Seal Cove in 1922 to the fallen over four years or more of conflict list twenty-two (13) islanders who lost their lives.  But this does not reflect a complete picture of the wide spread participation from across the Island. The following pages will try to draw on a variety of historical records, reports and newspaper accounts to gain a rounded account. I invite readers to provide comments, insight, stories, anecdotes and best of all photos, letters and even diaries which have been passed down. Taken together these items begin to draw a contemporary picture of life in the trenches and the impact on Grand Manan families back home.

For purposes of early discussion, I will initially make an alphabetical list of all the individuals who enlisted showing their residence or original birthplace to be Grand Manan at the time they filled out their application. This list was generated using a variety of sources including primarily military attestation records, recruitment committee announcements found in newspapers, casualty reports, family records and vital statistics.

The first official notification of declaration of war came to most people on Grand Manan through the St. Croix Courier in the Thursday morning paper for August 6th, 1914. The headline summed up the feelings of the majority over the coming months, “Since Germany Will Have It, She Shall Have It in Full Measure”. Support was clearly unanimous for King and Empire and whatever was needed to be done to defeat the enemy. Surprisingly, there seems to have been more front page attention given to news that Capt. John Anson Ingersoll had resigned as captain of the Grand Manan ferry. The full impact and reality of war had not yet reached the day to day lives of Grand Mananers.

The residents of Grand Manan listed on the right applied for enlistment in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. This list includes several individuals born on the Island but who had recently removed to other parts of New Brunswick, other provinces, or lived in the United States. I have indicated those soldiers who were killed in action by the designation, K.I.A.

By the closing days of the war, Grand Manan had provided 88 soldiers and one nurse to the cause. For comparison to its population in 1911, the island communities contributed 89 of its youngest men and women out of 2444 enumerated in that census year. If you conservatively subtract half the population as spouses and account for children and seniors, the contribution of young eligible men and women has to be impressive for the small island community.

It is my fervent hope that as we learn more about these veterans, a book of remembrance might be assembled to pay tribute to them in the anniversary year of the Great War, become a lasting memorial to the people, events and impact on community life. Subsequent installments to the Times will begin to examine the life and times of these people.

I look forward to comments, questions and suggestions to show how these enlisted people, as well those on the home front, experienced and contributed to the war effort. I can be reached directly through the Island Times or by e-mail at a special web site being established to commemorate Grand Manan and the Great War at info@grandmananfundyhistory.com