Ontario Street and the St. Luke’s Precinct is one of Burlington’s most historic and prettiest areas. Many don’t know that a century ago it was the site of one of the last meals on Canadian soil for young men who had enlisted to serve in the First World War.
In the summer of 1914, troops quartered at Niagara stopped in Burlington on a two-week march to the Canadian National Exhibition grounds in Toronto. Camp cooks fed the men along the curbs before they whet their whistles at the hotels on Brant Street and continued on their way.
The Burlington cenotaph, a stone column topped by a bronze statue of a First World War soldier in battle dress, stands only a few hundred feet away, honoring the men from Burlington and Nelson Township who lost their lives in the Great War and succeeding wars.
The monument, beside city hall, bears the names of the 38 local men who fell in action during the ‘Great War’. Accompanying these names is a list of places where they fought — like as Ypres, the Somme and Vimy Ridge.
On the last Saturday of September, the Branch 60 Royal Canadian Legion Colour Party was invited to take part in the opening ceremonies for Doors Open Burlington at Civic Square, where Legionnaire Bill Reid recalled the sacrifices made by the boys who went to war 100 years ago
During the First World War, 300 men volunteered from this area, and many of them drilled in a shed at Locust Street and Water Street — now Lakeshore Road.
The Burlington Gazette’s archives show that on Monday, Aug. 17, 1914, 28 young men, who enrolled with the 20th Lorne Rifles Battalion, marched to the Grand Trunk railway station, followed by a procession of automobiles, rigs and citizens on foot.
The route was gaily decorated with British and French flags, bunting, etc. and the streets were crowded with people who cheered the boys as they passed along. It is estimated that over 500 people were at the station to see the boys off
Among the 28 was my mother-in-law Pat Ivanco’s uncle Douglas Henderson.
Burlington, which had a population of about 3,000 at the time, was incorporated as a town in 1915 during the Great War
The Great War ended in 1918. The Gazette reported that in February of 1919 W.D. Flatt, a local businessman and developer who was responsible for founding the Cedar Springs Community on Cedar Springs Road, invited all area ,men returning from the war to a splendid dinner at his Lakehurst Villa home. Capt. J.G. Church and Corp. H. Wilvert, however, were the only two present who had enlisted with the first contingent in August of 1914.
Two Burlington women, Ethel Edey and Lindsay Margaret Holton, were contributors to the book Engraved: Canadian Stories of World War One, a collection of stories and essays about Canadians during the First World War, with an underlying focus on how that war changed Canadian society.
Many of the stories are about ordinary men whose absence transformed their families. Even those who returned were never the same.
Edey, who moved to Burlington 30 years ago from Spirit River, Alberta, writes about the war experience of her uncle Harry Jones, as told to her by her grandmother Ethel Jones-Edey.
Harry Jones was a nine-year-old who was orphaned in England and sent to Canada to work on a farm and learn a trade.
Jones survived five major battles during the Great War, including Paschendale, Somme and Vimy Ridge, but sadly died as a result of Spanish flu only one month after he returned to Canada in December of 1918. What makes the story even sadder, he was engaged to be married to Cassie Bradley.
During the war, Jones became a lieutenant and received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for risking his life to bring back the body of the officer in charge of his unit who had been shot by the enemy.
More than 50,000 Canadians and 20 million people around the world died from the flu and, in fact, it claimed move lives than the war itself.
Holton’s six-page contribution to the book is entitled ‘The Frozen Goose’. The story takes a look at how the aftermatch of war affects families, through the eyes of two children, who along with their mother are trying to cope with the loss of a father and husband killed in the war.
The mother is trying to start a new life with one of her late husband’s army pals, who survived the war. A butcher by trade, he can’t find work and the children also witness their mother falling to pieces.
The 12-year-old daughter goes to work in an uncle’s grocery store to help support the family. He gives them a goose for Christmas and they try to make their way home in a storm across a frozen lake as the ice begins to crack with a pack of wolves on their heels.
During the Great War, The Gazette carried local news on the front page, but devoted a full page inside in each edition to war stories, collected from around the globe.