On Nov. 11 the bells will peal, and Queensborough will remember

Legion Bells of PeaceOn Nov. 11, 1918 – one hundred years ago this Remembrance Day – bells rang out across Europe and all over Canada. The bells pealed from every church steeple and clock tower to tell a populace heartsick and weary from four terrible years of war that the conflict we now call World War I was over at last. For many Canadians, the ringing of the bells meant that beloved husbands, sons and fathers would be coming home at last. That the horror and danger in which those far-off loved ones had lived the past years of their lives were over. That they could return to their farms, their trades, and their families.

It is almost impossible for us, who have never lived through such a time, to imagine what joy the sound of the bells must have brought those hearers in cities, towns and villages across our country.

But for many others, the ringing of the bells announcing the Armistice would have been bittersweet at best. Like their friends and neighbours, they would have been happy that the brutal, senseless conflict was finally over; but for them, there would be a son, husband or father who would never come home. The bodies of their loved ones would lie through eternity in cemeteries far away across the ocean.

Tilloy cemetery

“Between the crosses, row on row.” The British War Cemetery in Tilloy-les-Mofflaines, France, where Sgt. Winfred (Fred) Glover of Queensborough is buried. I told Winfred Glover’s story a few years ago (you can read it here), and his is one of the names that will be read out prior to the ringing of the bells on Nov. 11 in Queensborough.

As Canada marks Remembrance Day 2018 this coming Sunday, bells will toll again in many places. The Royal Canadian Legion and the federal government have partnered for the Bells of Peace project, urging communities and churches to ring their bells 100 times, precisely at sunset, to commemorate the end of the Great War and to remember those who served and, in so many cases, died in the conflict.

It is sure to be deeply moving to ring and to hear the bells, and to think about what that sound must have meant 100 years ago.

Here in Queensborough, we will be doing our part. At 4:46 p.m. Sunday – the precise moment of sunset in Queensborough on Nov. 11, 2018 – our community’s bells will start to ring, once every five seconds, until they have rung 100 times. And the community is warmly invited to come and take part, and to help ring the bells.

St. Andrew's Easter 2

Usually the ringing of the bell in the steeple at St. Andrew’s United Church is to signal the start of Sunday worship. This Nov. 11, however, the bell will ring 100 times as we remember those who gave so much in the Great War.

HQD QCC with Buddy Table

In the clock tower at the Queensborough Community Centre (formerly our one-room school) is one of the bells that will be rung on Sunday, Nov. 11.

Where are our bells? They are in the steeple of St. Andrew’s United Church, and in the clock tower of the Queensborough Community Centre, the historic building that was once our village’s one-room school. One hundred years ago there would have been more bells – those in the steeples of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Methodist churches, none of which are still operational – but we are fortunate that we still have two historic bells that can be rung, just as they certainly would have been a century earlier.

A flyer going out to mailboxes throughout Queensborough and area this week invites everyone to come and take part. But even if you live outside our area, you are welcome to join us and, if you’d like, to help ring the bells. Just come to St. Andrew’s (812 Bosley Rd.) or the community centre (1853 Queensborough Rd.) no later than 4:15 p.m. Sunday.

We especially hope children and teenagers will come and take part, as a way of learning about the Great War and the people from their own community who gave so much in it. Any who are too little to pull the bell ropes themselves are welcome to get a helping hand from a parent; there will be some veteran bell-ringers on hand to help out as well.

WW1 names from QCC

The World War I Honour Roll, showing those who attended or had graduated from Queensborough’s school who served in the war. The names will be read out on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Elaine Kapusta)

On the walls of both the community centre and St. Andrew’s, there hang plaques listing the names of people from Queensborough who served in both the First and Second World Wars. Those names will be read out prior to the bell-ringing, as we remember their service.

Descendants of those who fought in the Great War are especially welcome. Anyone who has photos or letters from the war era that they could bring to show is encouraged to do so.

After the bells have been rung, everyone will be invited to stay at the church or the community centre for hot cider and conversation. We hope this will be a way to bring together the members of our community – those who’ve lived here all their lives, along with those who’ve only moved to Queensborough quite recently – to share and celebrate our history.

Ring the Bells of Queensborough this Remembrance Day

The flyer going out to Queensborough-area homes this week. I hope you can join us on Sunday.

In asking that the bells be tolled at sunset, the Legion has cited a beautiful and well-known line of poetry: “At the going down of the sun and in the morning / We will remember them.”

The poem, entitled  For the Fallen, was written by a Briton, Robert Laurence Binyon, and published in the Times newspaper in the U.K. in September 1914 – very early in the war. Before it was over, so many more would fall. You can read the full poem here – it is quite lovely – but I particularly like two of the stanzas:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Indeed we will. I hope you can join us in Queensborough at sunset this Sunday as we do so.

The Queensborough boys at Vimy

Letters to William Wilkinson's mother

Local historian Brock Kerby put together this page showing William James Wilkinson, a young farmer from Queensborough who was killed 100 years ago today at Vimy Ridge, and two letters to his mother – one from a fellow soldier, the other from his commanding officer – upon his death, subsequently published in the local Tweed News.

One hundred years ago today, thousands of young Canadian men poured out of trenches and tunnels and onto the battlefield at Vimy Ridge in Northern France. It was “the first time all four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together as one formation,” as you can read on a fine summary of the battle and its importance on a Veterans Affairs Canada page here. The Canadians’ victory at Vimy, taking a strategically important point when previous Allied attempts had failed, has become legendary, and is widely seen as a key event in our nation’s history.

Today, on the 100th anniversary, ceremonies to commemorate the Battle of Vimy Ridge are taking place across Canada and, most notably, at Vimy itself. Here is a lovely piece about this morning’s ceremony there by The Globe and Mail’s Roy MacGregor; you can watch the whole event here.

Vimy Ridge memorial

The stunning and very moving memorial to Canada’s First World War dead at Vimy Ridge, France. If you have never visited it (as I have been fortunate enough to do), I urge you to try to do so. You will never forget the experience. Someday I would like to go back and find the names of William Wilkinson, Winfred Glover and other Queensborough boys on it. (Photo from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

On a considerably smaller scale, though equally important in a local way, there was a ceremony this afternoon in nearby Madoc, where a new plaque commemorating the battle and the men from this area who fought in it, was unveiled. One of the prime movers behind the project was Brock Kerby, a young man from the Ivanhoe area with a keen interest in local history. As I’ve written before, Brock is doing a wonderful job of preserving and sharing Madoc-area history through his Facebook page Madoc and Area Local History.

Brock contacted me a week ago to share some Queensborough connections to the Battle of Vimy Ridge. In turn, I want to share them with you, and to thank Brock for his research and his generosity with his time and with the findings of that research.

William James Wilkinson photo in oval frame

William James Wilkinson. The badge on his peaked cap is that of the 24th Battalion, the Victoria Rifles, which fought in many of the major battles in the First World War. (Photo tracked down by Brock Kerby from the Canadian Virtual War Memorial)

It is thanks to Brock that I now know something about William “Willie” Wilkinson of Queensborough, who was one of those who went over the top at Vimy 100 years ago today, and who was killed on that same day. “He was shot and instantly killed in the great attack in which our Battalion took part on the 9th last,” his commanding officer wrote in the letter to his mother that you can see at the top of this post. “I cannot tell you at present where he is buried but you will at least know that his grave is that of a hero amongst heroes and that he had a part in the greatest victory the Canadians have yet achieved.”

Willie Wilkinson, a farm boy from Queensborough, was 24 years old.

His enlistment papers (which Brock also found and shared) say that his faith was Anglican, so he would not have worshipped at Queensborough’s St. Andrew’s United Church (buillt as a Presbyterian church three years before Willie’s birth in 1893). However, his name, along with those of others from Queensborough who served in the Great War, is listed on a commemorative scroll that hangs at St. Andrew’s, the only one of Queensborough’s original four churches that is still in operation. After our Palm Sunday service there this morning, I had a closer look at that scroll …

They Heard the Call

and found Willie’s name, seventh from the top:

Names on They Heard the Call

Seeing the whole list of names made me think of two things: one, the name at the very top, that of Winfred (Fred) Glover, about whom I’ve written before; and two, another photo Brock had found on William Wilkinson’s page on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial. Here it is, along with the caption that comes with it on the website:

Queensborough boys

How I would love to know the names of the other young Queensborough men in this photo! I am hoping my readers might be able to offer some clues.

One or more of them might be Dyers; the four Dyer brothers from Queensborough all enlisted. Here they are, in another photo Brock found and sent me:

Dyer boys from Queensborough

Brock discovered that Bruce Dyer, listed on his papers as a cheese maker from Queensborough, was wounded at Vimy. Bruce served in the 38th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and is included here in a project by an Ottawa military historian to provide a biography of every soldier who served in that battalion. Brock has found Bruce’s medical records from the war and the papers showing his discharge because of his wounds. Here’s one page from the medical file:

Bruce Dyer Medical Case Sheet

And here’s a page from the discharge file. Nice to see that Bruce’s character and conduct are listed as “Very Good”!

Bruce Dyer discharge

Most of the images above come from a document that Brock has put together about Queensborough connections to Vimy and was kind enough to send me a few days ago. WordPress (the platform on which this blog is produced) won’t allow me to post it so you can see all of the pages, but if you’d like to know more, please email me (sedgwick.katherine@gmail.com) or message Brock on his Facebook page, and either of us can email it to you directly.

Brock Kerby – who’s about the same age as these young Queensborough men were when they served in the Great War – deserves huge thanks and congratulations for all the work he does to preserve our local history. Today especially, I want to thank him for his work on reminding us of the Queensborough boys who, as Willie Wilkinson’s commanding officer so aptly put it, “had a part in the greatest victory the Canadians have yet achieved.” One hundred years later, as Canada and the world remember Vimy Ridge, we here in Queensborough remember our boys with pride.

I know all the best coming events.

They heard the call…

“Our Men: They heard the call and answered,” says the headline on a very old certificate that has been hanging at the back of the sanctuary of Queensborough’s St. Andrew’s United Church for as long as I have known it, which is 50 years this year. On it are the names of young men from the community who volunteered for duty in the First World War. They and others like them from this area will be remembered at a special event at the Madoc Public Library this Saturday.

Yes, thanks to my readers and my close perusal of the local press, I do know all the best coming events. Haven’t I told you about church suppers and church services and down-home Christmas events, about garden tours and meet-the-author events, and so on and so on? And now I have another excellent coming event to tell you about.

It’s actually coming in the very near future: this very Saturday (the summer solstice!), June 21, at 10 a.m. at the Madoc Public Library. It is an event where you can learn about, and pay tribute to, the experiences and the sacrifices of local soldiers in the First World War. (This year, 2014, being the one hundredth anniversary of the start of what they then called “the war to end all wars,” which sadly it was most assuredly not.)

… and answered

A closer view of the list of names on that poster at St. Andrew’s. Note that Winfred (Fred) Glover, who never came home from that war, is at the top of the list.

Now listen: do you remember my post about Winfred (Fred) Glover, a young teacher from just up the road in Queensborough who enlisted for the Great War, who experienced hell and mud and camaraderie and homesickness while serving, and who wrote home to his family about all of it? And who never did make it back from the trenches of France? If not, you can read it here; and I hope it might make you realize how amazing, and how close to home, the stories of the soldiers from our part of the world are.

And that’s just what’s going to be talked about this Saturday at the Madoc Library. Local residents are being asked to bring in and share any memorabilia they may have of family members who served in, or had a connection to, that war; there will be some fascinating stories and artifacts to come out of this.

I got some advance notice (thanks of course to a reader) about some of those stories and artifacts: “A touching love story of my great-aunt Alma interrupted by war and death;” “a fabulous collection of sheet music from the Great War era…”

According to the library’s website, there will also be some special guest speakers (one of whom, I happen to know, will be the remarkable nonagenarian physician, veteran, former MPP and military historian Charles Godfrey) – and light refreshments. (For the uninitiated: refreshments are always good in the Central Hastings County area.)

So there you go. Raymond and I will be at the Madoc Library this Saturday morning, because we are always up for local stories and local history. And because it’s up to us – all of us – to share those stories, and to keep them alive.

And also this: because the sacrifices of people like Queensborough’s Winfred Glover must never be forgotten.

The Great War came, and took away a Queensborough boy

Sgt. Fred Glover

Fred Glover of Queensborough, in a photo taken sometime after he was promoted to sergeant in April 1918. He was killed in August 1918, a few short months before the Great War ended. (Photo from A. Stephen Glover’s account of Fred Glover’s life and service.)

A wonderful, moving piece of local history came into my hands just in time for Remembrance Day. It is the story of Fred Glover, a young man from Queensborough who went off to fight in World War I, and who never returned. He lies buried, like so many other Canadians killed in the prime of their lives, in a cemetery in Northern France – so far from the little hamlet that he knew and loved, his final resting place marked by one of “the crosses row on row,” as John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields so beautifully puts it.

Winfred (Fred) Alexander Glover was a 24-year-old schoolteacher in the hamlet of Eldorado (not far from Queensborough) when he enlisted for service in December 1915. He had not yet married, and so he died without children. Fearful that his story would be forgotten, his great-nephew, A. Stephen Glover, who lives in Barrie, Ont., in 2009 put together a remarkable account of Fred’s life and death, and his service in the Great War. It was reading that account, lent to me by a longtime friend in this area, that has indelibly marked this Remembrance Day for me. I am certain that I will think of Fred Glover’s story on every Remembrance Day from now on. It is a story that brings the Great War, fought so far off on the battlefields of Europe, home to tiny Queensborough.

Fred Glover's enlistment report

Fred Glover’s enlistment report. (Library and Archives Canada)

As Stephen Glover’s account – which he has very kindly given me permission to quote from – reports, Fred Glover was the seventh child in the large Glover family that lived just west of Queensborough. When I was a child growing up at the Manse and my father was the minister at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough, Fred’s two youngest siblings, brother Bill and sister Florence (Love), then quite well on in years, were stalwarts of the congregation, and I knew them well. Now, thanks to Fred’s great-nephew’s wonderful work, I feel like I know him too, even though he died more than 40 years before I was born. (I find it remarkable to think that in my childhood we were a lot closer to the time of World War I than, in the present day, we are to World War II. If that doesn’t make a middle-aged person such as myself feel old, I don’t know what will.)

Fred Glover was involved in many of the most important battles – in some of the most brutal conditions – of the war. He was at Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Hill 70, Amiens, Arras. He was killed not very long before the war ended, which to me makes his death that much sadder; he had survived so much fighting and horror, and was so very close to being able to come home to a peaceful life and his family and the place that he loved – the place that Raymond and I too now call home.

The account that Stephen Glover has put together includes something truly precious: some of Fred’s letters home. They are filled with longing: for home, for loved ones, for mail. Due to military censors (and doubtless also a wish not to provoke more worry than necessary among his family) he almost completely spares them the ghastly details of trench warfare: the mud, the deprivation, the horror of seeing friends and comrades blown apart. About as close as he comes are frequent references to the cold when he is “in the line,” as he puts it. And when things are not so bad, his letters sometimes give a sense of downright cheer that was probably more than he actually felt. On Christmas Eve 1916, writing from “Somewhere in France,” he tells his family:

I can’t help but think of past years at Xmas time and tonight as we lay in our bunks, Harold, Fred F. Bert H. & John O. and Clifford G. have been talking over old times. There is no drill tomorrow & I expect we will all have a great time.

The comrades Fred mentions are all young men from the Queensborough-Madoc area, friends from his youth with whom he was fortunate enough to be posted. “Harold” is Harold B. Harris of the Hazzards Corners area, Fred’s good friend; the Harris family is still very active at St. Andrew’s United Church to this day. One can tell from the letters how much it meant to Fred to be able to share stories of times back home with his friends; in February 1917, also from “Somewhere in France,” he tells his parents:

Harold is right beside me and I think he is writing home too. I am glad we have been able to stick so close together and also be with the other lads from home.

Harold was killed less than three months later, on May 9, 1917, at Fresnoy.

Fred’s references to his life back home in Queensborough are what clutched the most at my heart. I have visited some of the First World War battlefields in Europe, have seen the trenches – how shockingly close the lines of the two sides often were to each other – and the bomb craters and, at Vimy Ridge, the tunnels where the men waiting to be sent up to the front lines were shielded from the sight of those coming (or being carried) back in. I think I have some sense of the horror of what those young men went through, and yet I know the reality was a thousand times worse than anything I could ever imagine. When I think of young Fred Glover, in the mud and darkness and carnage and thunderous noise, dreaming of maple syrup time at his family’s farm in Queensborough – well, it makes it all seem so much more real. And close to home. Because it is.

There is one sentence in one letter that makes me want to smile and weep at the same time. On Jan. 20, 1917, again from “Somewhere in France,” Fred writes to his “Mother, Father & All:”

This is Saturday evening and I suppose if I were home I might be down street. But I am afraid I can just think of it this time.

“Down street” – or, as it is actually pronounced in Queensborough, or at least was when I was a kid growing up here, “down’t street” – is shorthand for being down at one of the two general stores that faced each other in the centre of our little village and that were the heart of town. (I wrote about all that here.) It was where people of all ages gathered until late into the night to shoot the breeze and share the news and just generally enjoy each other’s company and their community. I like to think of Fred being one of those gathered around the stove on many of those late Saturdays – perhaps having just come in on a cold winter night after playing shinny with friends on the nearby millpond.

I am haunted by the phrase “Somewhere in France.” Fred was so, so far from home. In February 1917 he wrote:

I have been away from home nearly four months, I think the longest I ever was at one time. And then imagine how far it is.

Winfred (Fred) Alexander Glover was killed at Arras on Aug. 26, 1918. He is buried in the British cemetery at Tilloy-les-Mofflaines, near Arras. A memorial service was held for him at Queensborough’s Methodist Church (the church for which our Manse was built) on Sunday, Sept. 15, 1918. The North Hastings Review newspaper reported: “The Church could not hold the people. The vestry was used to its capacity and the outside of the Church was surrounded by friends and acquaintances who wished to show their appreciation.”

Fred Glover and his family were faithful members of that Methodist Church. And thanks to Stephen Glover, I have just discovered that a memento of Fred is still there, at the site where a crumbling set of cement stairs is all that remains of that place of worship. When Stephen and I exchanged emails last night, as I asked his permission to write about his work, I sent him a link to a post I’d done about those stairs; you can read it here. In it I’d mentioned that when I was exploring them about a year ago, I came across some initials that had been carved into the cement while it was still wet, and I speculated about who those long-ago people might have been. High-spirited teenagers was my best guess.

One of those sets of initials was W.A.G.:


Which, as Stephen Glover points out, is almost certainly Winfred Alexander Glover.

Who was both a soldier in the Great War and a high-spirited young man from tiny Queensborough. And who, though buried so very far away, left his mark here, where it is to this day.

In the place he loved and called home. I only wish he could have come back to it.