Friday, 26 September 2014

The Early Days of War

As 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War, two exhibits at the Galt Museum & Archives will examine the impact of the war on the homefront, and the contributions of people in Lethbridge and area.

The first of these, Lethbridge's Experiences in the First World War (1914-1915)—on display until September 29—examines the beginnings of the war and its impact on the community and its citizens. Stories include initial response and mobilization efforts, Lethbridge's militia history, the spread of patriotism and the rise of xenophobia, recruitment, and the life of Lethbridge's most well known soldier: General J.S. Stewart.

We are sharing exhibit research by guest curator Brett Clifton here on the blog: the first installment looked at War Fever Strikes Lethbridge. This is The Early Days of War:


August 3, 1914 Lethbridge Daily Herald cover
Although patriotic sentiment was abundant in Lethbridge during the early days of the Great War, the social and economic climate of the city also played a significant role in the events that unfolded during the fall of 1914.

 Recruitment was not a problem, as the excited young men of Southwest Alberta lined up to take the few coveted spots available in the newly formed Canadian Expeditionary Force.  British reservists collected their families and returned home to rejoin their pre-war units, while an initial draft of twenty-five men from the local militia unit were sent to Valcartier, Quebec for training.

Galt Archives P19831018000

It was widely believed that the war would be over by Christmas and these young men did not want to miss out on the big adventure.


Galt Archives 20131017002

Since Lethbridge was in the midst of a severe economic downturn, the declaration of war brought a renewed hope for economic prosperity through lucrative military contracts and new employment opportunities.

Not everyone in the city was celebrating the news of war.  There was a silent, apprehensive group of immigrants, mostly those of Central and Eastern European descent for whom the future was uncertain.

The enthusiastic war supporters built a strong sense of nationalism and patriotism, which also served to dehumanize their former friends, neighbours and co-workers, who were now considered the enemy.

The next installment will look at the Lethbridge Detention Camp. The second exhibit Lethbridge's Experiences in the First World War (Local Contributions), runs OCT 11-FEB 8.15.
 
 


Guest Curator Brett Clifton was born and raised in Lethbridge, attending local schools as well as the University of Lethbridge. Graduating in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education, he now teaches Grade 7 and 8 Social Studies at G.S. Lakie Middle School. He has published two books documenting the lives and service of local men commemorated on our cenotaph, and is contributing a section on Lethbridge's war time experiences for an Alberta centennial publication coming out this year.  

IMAGES
Galt Archives
20141015
19831018000: The first contingent of Lethbridge volunteers left the city on August 18, 1914 bound for Valcartier, Quebec. The group included 25 members of the 25th Independent Battery, more than 50 British reservists, and a handful of other locals hoping to get on with one of the infantry battalions.
20131017002: On August 27, 1914 a second group of 100 eager volunteers boarded the train for the trip to Valcartier, Quebec. A large number of these men would serve together in Calgary's 10th Battalion, which was part of the first division and fought in the early battles in France and Flanders.
20141015: George Bathgate is believed to be the first Lethbridge man to enlist for service in the Great War. He travelled to Valcartier, Quebec with the first contingent from the 25th Independent Battery and served as driver on the lead gun team.
Galt Archives
19841009002
19841009002: Lieutenant C.R. Magrath Godwin was given command of the first contingent of Lethbridge volunteers to leave the city. He served overseas with the 2nd battery Canadian Field Artillery and was killed in action in Belgium on April 4, 1916.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

War Fever Strikes Lethbridge

As 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War, two exhibits at the Galt Museum & Archives will examine the impact of the war on the homefront, and the contributions of people in Lethbridge and area.

The first of these, Lethbridge's Experiences in the First World War (1914-1915)—currently on display until September 29—examines the beginnings of the war and its impact on the community and its citizens. Stories include initial response and mobilization efforts, Lethbridge's militia history, the spread of patriotism and the rise of xenophobia, recruitment, and the life of Lethbridge's most well known soldier: General J.S. Stewart.

Over the next five weeks we will share this exhibit research by guest curator Brett Clifton here on the blog, starting with War Fever Strikes Lethbridge.

August 1, 1914 Lethbridge Daily Herald cover

On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a young Serbian nationalist. A world away, the nearly 9,000 people who lived in the little prairie city of Lethbridge had no idea that this single act was about to touch off a series of events that would lead to the brutal conflict known as the Great War.

The Dominion of Canada officially joined when the British Empire declared war on Germany and its allies on August 4, 1914.  Since the majority of the citizens of Lethbridge claimed to be of British descent, there was little question as to the direction public opinion would take.

The much anticipated declaration of war lead to an outpouring of patriotism in communities across Canada.  War fever struck Lethbridge immediately, as frenzied citizens crowded around the offices of the Lethbridge Daily Herald.  The local paper reported that news of the war declaration was announced by megaphone to the eagerly awaiting crowds, who responded by cheering wildly and throwing their hats into the air.
 
Galt Archives 19891049200


Galt Archives 19752201394
In the hours that followed, the newspaper received continual updates by wire and telephone, publishing several special editions, which were quickly snapped up by the crowds in the street.  The Starland Theatre was packed with excited citizens who raised loud cheers as each new bulletin was flashed across the screen.

Later, the throngs of citizens outside the Herald office marched with flags, gathering at the bandstand, where members of the Citizens' Band had assembled to entertain the happy crowd with a wide array of patriotic music interspersed with fireworks, rockets and a water hose display offered by the Lethbridge Fire Department.

Galt Archives 19760220030

Galt Archives 19861078012
Mayor W.D.L. Hardie voiced the sentiments of the majority of those gathered in a rousing speech, proclaiming:
Ladies and gentlemen and fellow subjects of the British Empire, you are assembled now at the most momentous event in the history of the British Empire, to which it is our proud privilege to belong.  The war has been thrust on us, we have not sought it.  But now it has come we are ready and I know that every citizen of the City of Lethbridge is ready to do his duty at any sacrifice to himself.  The German Kaiser has been going around for some time with a chip on his shoulder and the time has come for us to knock that chip off.  The Kaiser has been seeking trouble and has now started something, and I tell you, citizens of Lethbridge, that by the time the trouble is over, there will be no Kaiser and we will have put the "Dutchman" where he belongs.
The next installment will look at The Early Days of War. The second exhibit, Lethbridge's Experiences in the First World War (Local Contributions), runs OCT 11-FEB 8.15.

Guest Curator Brett Clifton was born and raised in Lethbridge, attending local schools as well as the University of Lethbridge. Graduating in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education, he now teaches Grade 7 and 8 Social Studies at G.S. Lakie Middle School. He has published two books documenting the lives and service of local men commemorated on our cenotaph, and is contributing a section on Lethbridge's war time experiences for an Alberta centennial publication coming out this year.  


IMAGES
19891049200: The Lethbridge Daily Herald Offices at 323 - 6 Street S, August 1914. In the days before television, radio and the internet, newspapers were the primary resource of public information.

 
1975220139: The printing room at the Herald worked overtime during the early days of the First World War. In addition to the regular daily issue, several special editions were printed during the first weeks of August 1914, bringing news directly from the telegraph wires to the citizens of Lethbridge.
 
19760220030: As war fever swept into Lethbridge on August 4, 1914, members of the Citizens' Band gathered at Galt Gardens to entertain the growing crowd. The band played stirring renditions of popular favourites, like "The Maple Leaf Forever", "God Save the King", and "Rule Britannia".
 
19861078012: Hardie served as Mayor of Lethbridge throughout the Great War and was an active supporter of the war effort. His own son, W.E.G. Hardie, joined hundreds of other local men in enlisting for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.