Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients: Captain Francis Alexander Caron Scrimger, VC

Today, our series First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients remembers the fourth Canadian Victoria Cross recipient of the First World War –Captain Francis Alexander Caron Scrimger, VC.

One hundred years ago, on April 25, 1915, Captain Francis Alexander Caron Scrimger was the doctor overseeing treatment at No. 2 Field Ambulance in a farmhouse near Wiltje, Belgium, on the St. Julien-Ypres road. It had been three days since the German army forced a major gap in the Allied lines. The German artillery had the area under intense bombardment and the enemy infantry were within sight of the dressing station. Scrimger, who earned a Victoria Cross for his actions on that day, remained through heavy fire to direct the evacuation of the wounded from the dressing station. As the last person to leave, he carried a badly wounded man, Captain Macdonald, out of the farmhouse and onto the road where the bombardment forced him to stop and protect Macdonald with his own body until a lull in the gunfire.

black-and-white photograph showing a young man, in military uniform, with a moustache and glasses looking directly at the photographer.

Capt. F.A.C. Scrimger, V.C. (C.A.M.C.) (MIKAN 3220991)

Captain Scrimger’s citation in the London Gazette tells the rest of the story:

When [Scrimger] was unable alone to carry [Captain Macdonald] further, he remained with him under fire till help could be obtained. During the very heavy fighting between 22nd and 25th April, Captain Scrimger displayed continuously day and night the greatest devotion to his duty among the wounded at the front (London Gazette, no. 29202, June 23 1915).

Captain Francis Alexander Caron Scrimger was born in Montreal, Quebec, on February 10, 1881 and earned his medical degree from McGill University in 1905. He served in the First World War as a Surgeon Captain with the Canadian Army Medical Corps, 14th Battalion, Royal Montreal Regiment. Scrimger survived the war and later worked as an assistant surgeon, then surgeon-in-chief, at Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital. He died in Montreal on February 13, 1937.

Black-and-white photograph showing four men standing outside the entrance to a building.  In the background, there’s a nurse and a man looking on the scene.

Group of delegates attending the Clinical Congress of Surgeons of America (including Colonel Scrimger, VC, second from the left in the foreground), 1920 (MIKAN 3260187)

Library and Archives Canada holds the Canadian Expeditionary Force service file for Captain Francis Alexander Caron Scrimger.

Other Resources

Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients – Lieutenant Edward Donald Bellew and Company Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall

The second installment of our First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients series remembers the actions of Lieutenant Edward Donald Bellew and Company Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall.

Lieutenant Edward Donald Bellew, VC

On April 24, 1915, Lieutenant Edward Donald Bellew, a 32-year-old officer with the 7th (1st British Columbia) Battalion, was fighting near Keerselaere, Belgium in the Ypres Salient to repel the German assaults on the Allied line following the first successful use of poison gas by the German army.

As those around him fell, either killed or wounded, and without hope of reinforcements, Lieutenant Bellew manned one of the battalion’s two machine guns. He and Sargent Hugh Pearless stayed with their machine guns, positioned on high ground overlooking the advancing German troops, despite being nearly surrounded by the enemy.

Bellew’s Victoria Cross citation in the London Gazette describes that even as Sargent Pearless was killed and Lieutenant Bellew wounded, Bellew “maintained his fire till ammunition failed and the enemy rushed the position. Lieutenant Bellew then seized a rifle, smashed his machine gun, and fighting to the last, was taken prisoner” (London Gazette, no. 31340, May 15, 1919). For his actions, Sargent Pearless posthumously received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

 

Black-and-white reproduction of a typed account of the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion during the period when Lieutenant Bellew performed the actions for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Extract from the War diaries – 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion (MIKAN 1883213)

Lieutenant Bellew remained a prisoner of war in Germany until December 1917, when, due to the ongoing effects of being gassed at Ypres, he was transferred to Switzerland. Shortly after the end of the War, in December 1918, he was repatriated to England, where he spent another two months in hospital before returning to Canada. He returned to British Columbia, where he worked as a civil engineer. He died in Kamloops on February 1, 1961.

Company Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall, VC

On the night of April 23, in the midst of fierce fighting in the Ypres Salient, Company Sergeant-Major Hall of the 8th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, realized that several of the men of his company were missing. Twice during the night, alerted by the moans of the wounded, he ventured out into no man’s land to retrieve the injured. Early in the morning of the 24th, as a wounded soldier called for help 15 yards from his trench, Hall and two others, Lance Corporal John Arthur Kenneth Payne and Private John Rogerson, crawled out to reach him. When both Payne and Rogerson were wounded, Company Sergeant-Major Hall persisted in his effort to save the wounded.

Black-and-white photograph of a young soldier, in military uniform, with a moustache sitting in a chair.

Sergeant-Major Frederick W. Hall, VC (MIKAN 3216472)

Company Sergeant-Major Hall’s citation in the London Gazette recounts that after his first attempt failed, “Company Sergeant-Major Hall then made a second most gallant attempt, and was in the act of lifting up the wounded man to bring him in when he fell mortally wounded in the head.” The soldier that Hall was attempting to rescue was also killed.

Sketch of a map of the trenches where the 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion was engaged in the first battle of Ypres.

Map extracted from the war diaries of the 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion. (MIKAN 1883215)

Frederick William Hall, and two other Victoria Cross recipients, Leo Clarke and Robert Shankland, lived on Pine Street in Winnipeg, Manitoba before the war. Pine Street was renamed Valour Road in 1925 to honour the three men.

Library and Archives Canada holds the Canadian Expeditionary Force service file for Lieutenant Edward Donald Bellew and Company Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall.

Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients – Lance Corporal Frederick Fisher, VC

The first profile of the series, Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients, honours Lance-Corporal Frederick Fisher of St. Catharines, Ontario.

Newspaper clipping of a grainy photograph of Lance-Corporal Fisher with the following caption: “Lance-Corporal F. Fisher (13th Canadian Battalion), who was awarded the V.C. His brave action cost him his life. Two of his brothers are in the Army.”

Lance-Corporal F. Fisher, V.C. (MIKAN 3215642)

Lance Corporal Fisher, age 20, was serving with the machine gun section of the 13th Battalion, Royal Highlanders of Canada when the Second Battle of Yypres commenced on April 22, 1915.

Colour poster of a Union Jack on its side with a notice for recruitment for the 13th, 42nd 73rd Battalions, known as the Royal Highlanders of Canada and allied with the Black Watch.

Recruitment poster for the Royal Highlanders (MIKAN 3635556)

On that day, the German Army released chlorine gas over a 6.5-kilometre front, mainly in a section held by French colonial and territorial troops. The French, who were on the Canadian left flank, had 6,000 casualties within 10 minutes of this attack, and many of those not immediately affected fled. The Canadian 1st Division troops moved to close the massive gap that opened in the line.

Reproduction of a typed page describing the troop activities for the period from April 22 to April 30, 1915.

Extract from the war diaries of the 13th Canadian Infantry Battalion from April 22 to April 30, 1915 (MIKAN 1883219)

The following day, as the defences around him collapsed, Lance-Corporal Fisher and six other men went forward with a machine gun and held off advancing German infantry under heavy fire, allowing the Canadian 18-pound field guns to be withdrawn. Four of the defenders died in the process. Later the same day, Fisher and four men of the 14th Battalion again went forward to fire on advancing German troops. Fisher was the only man to survive the engagement. He was killed later that day while once again attempting to repulse a German attack. His citation in the London Gazette, June 23, 1915, recounts that Fisher: “most gallantly assisted in covering the retreat of a battery” (London Gazette, no. 29202). Like many Canadian soldiers killed in the opening days of 2nd Ypres, Fisher’s body was never recovered. He is named on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, along with the names of more than 54,000 other soldiers from Britain, Australia, Canada, and India with no known graves. His Victoria Cross is held by the Canadian Black Watch Museum in Montreal. Library and Archives Canada holds the CEF service file for Lance-Corporal Frederick Fisher.

Images of Canada at Ypres now on Flickr

As the last major Belgian city in Allied hands during the First World War, Ypres provided a defensive position from which to protect French ports on the English Channel. It had to be held at all costs. Canadian forces were instrumental in numerous exchanges and battles in both the city and the surrounding area. Images of Canada at Ypres now on Flickr

First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross Recipients – Battle of Second Ypres

In the first week of April 1915, members of the 1st Canadian Division, including many of the earliest volunteers of the war, were moved north from Bethune, France to the active section of the line near Ypres, Belgium. A medieval Belgian city, Ypres was the scene of one of the war’s earliest and bloodiest battles in 1914 and had assumed great strategic importance. When the front stabilized in November 1914, the Allied lines bulged out around the city into the German line, forming a salient, surrounded on three sides by higher ground.

On April 22, 1915, in an effort to eliminate the salient, Germany became the first nation to use chemical weapons, releasing over 160 tons of chlorine gas across the Allied front. Members of the 1st Canadian Division, who had been in their trenches barely a week, found themselves desperately trying to defend a 6.5-kilometre gap in the Allied lines as the French division to their left crumbled in the face of Germany’s new weapon. The chlorine gas clung to the ground and filled the trenches, forcing the troops to climb out and into the path of heavy machine-gun and artillery fire.

A black-and-white photograph showing a city completely destroyed by war. A column of troops, most on horseback, are travelling through it.

A scene of the destroyed city of Ypres, showing the Cathedral, Cloth Hall, and Canadian troops passing through, November 1917 (MIKAN 3194491)

A black-and-white photograph of an ornate gothic building and other adjacent buildings.

The Cathedral and Cloth Hall in Ypres, before the Great War (MIKAN 3329077)

German troops moved forward but, having planned only a limited offensive and lacking adequate protection against their own chemical weapons, they were unable to exploit the break in the line. Throughout the night and the subsequent days, Canadian and British troops struggled to maintain the line. Canadians mounted a counterattack at Kitchener’s Wood (derived from Bois-de-Cuisinères) and endured the terrible fighting at St. Julian: their Canadian-made rifles jamming in the mud, and soldiers violently sick and gasping for air. Somehow, they managed to hold the line until reinforcements arrived on April 28. The losses were tremendous: 6,035 Canadians (or one in three soldiers) became casualties by the time the 1st Canadian Division was relieved. This toll among an army whose members had almost all been civilians just months prior.

At Second Ypres, the Canadians were initiated into the horrors of modern warfare, and from this moment on they would continue to develop into a highly respected formation in the Allied forces.

From April 23 to 25, as part of our series, First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross Recipients, we will tell the stories of Lance-Corporal Frederick Fisher, Lieutenant Edward Donald Bellew, Company Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall, and Captain Francis Alexander Caron Scrimger.

View the Flickr album – Canada at Ypres

The William Redver Stark sketchbooks: impressions and paper

In this part of the sketchbook examination, we are exploring two additional facets of page mapping. The first part will look at impressions left from the artist’s instruments on the drawing paper; the second will examine the paper and the bookbinding techniques in the sketchbooks.

Tool impressions

When an artist is drawing or sketching, his or her tools frequently leave deep impressions on the pages. These are great visual indicators that help to reposition out-of-order pages. The indentations on the paper surface appear as a repetitive pattern of a mark from one page to the next.

Colour photograph showing a sketchbook that has some deeply indented impressions on one of the pages.

Artist’s pencil impression; view from the verso of the drawing.

Other examples of impressions left on a paper surface are the binding materials used by the bookbinder. For example, after a text block is sewn, the bookbinder will apply an adhesive on the spine. He or she may apply too much adhesive, which then oozes through some of the sewing holes, forming a drop of glue inside the central folio. Upon drying and hardening, the drop can make an impression onto the adjacent sheet of paper.

Colour photograph showing the inside of a folio; the glue drop is clearly visible with the corresponding impression on the other page.

Glue residue in the binding structure that overflowed into the central folio leaving a mirror impression.

The sewing tapes and threads used in a binding can also leave impressions on the pages. The sewing tapes are glued underneath the paper of the inside covers. They often leave a repeating mirror impression of the tape, which helps determine the order of pages near the front or the back of a sketchbook. The sewing thread impressions found on detached pages also provide a good clue as to which sheets of paper are located in the centre folio of a section.

Colour photograph showing the detached spine of a sketchbook. The impression of the sewing tape is clearly visible on both the board paper and on the first page of the folio.

Detail of the sewing tape located under the board paper and the impression left on the adjacent page.

Colour photograph showing an open sketchbook lying flat on a table. An awl points to the sewing thread marks on the paper.

Visible transfer of the sewing thread mark onto the paper.

Page and paper analysis

A number of the Stark sketchbooks have soft, gradual convex and concave warping that extends across or along the edges of pages. This cockling happens when sketchbooks are in a high humidity environment. Here, the humidity causes a permanent distortion of the pages.

One of the sketchbooks was distorted along the edges of three sections. The undulating edges matched each other perfectly only when the pages were placed in the correct position. This gave us the verification needed for proper orientation and sequencing of the pages.

Colour photograph showing a sketchbook from the top; the bottom sections are clearly warped and distorted while the top ones are perfectly flat.

An example of cockling and undulation from the first to the third sections of the sketchbook and none in the last two sections.

Binding techniques

Paper can also reveal other clues to determine page order. One way to confirm page order is to look closely at the binding techniques, which leave very useful evidence.

When pages are first folded into sections, groups of three to eight sheets of paper are folded together. The folio on the inside of the section naturally has a sharper fold than each subsequent folio in the section. The folds become less sharp and incrementally wider as the number of folios per section increases. An examination of the fold of each half or complete folio can help determine the likely location within the sections: first, or centre of folio, second, third, fourth position, etc. An exact measurement of each page confirms the position as well.

Rounding and backing is another binding technique that provides an indication of page sequence. The technique is usually accomplished by using a hammer to shape a previously sewn and glued spine. Rounding and backing results in a slight bend of the sections close to the spine; the sections near the front of the book bend slightly toward the front; the central sections are fairly straight; and the sections near the back of the book bend slightly toward the back. Rounding and backing was clearly visible in the Stark sketchbooks and thus a helpful indication of the sequence of sections and pages.

Colour photograph showing an angled view of a sketchbook that highlights the curving produced by the bookbinding technique.

View of the slight bend of the section near the front of the text block showing the effects of the binding technique that can help determine the right page order.

In our next instalment on page mapping, we will look at the dates that are scattered throughout the sketchbooks and how they match up with other sources of information at Library and Archives Canada.

Visit our Flickr or Facebook albums to view more images of the conservation examination.

Newly discovered Robert Hood watercolours help tell Canada’s Arctic history

On April 16, 1821, midshipman Robert Hood made the last entry in his journal. A 24-year-old British Royal Navy petty officer under the command of Captain John Franklin, Hood participated in an expedition to chart the Coppermine River as part of the search for the Northwest Passage. Hood’s final journal entry ended his descriptions of the daily activities as the group of British sailors, Canadian voyageurs, Aboriginal guides and interpreters trekked from York Factory to Cumberland House and then on to Fort Enterprise and the Coppermine River. Although the journal entries discontinued, Hood continued to note weather conditions and navigational data in other expedition volumes, and to produce at least one more visual record.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to announce the recent purchase of four watercolours from a Hood family descendant.

Portraits of the Esquimeaux Interpreters from Churchill Employed by the North Land Expedition is likely the final surviving work of Robert Hood. Completed in May 1821, the watercolour depicts Tattannoeuck (Augustus) and Hoeootoerock (Junius).

Watercolour portraits of two young Inuit men wearing western-style clothing. One is captioned Augustus and the other, Junius.

Portraits of the Esquimaux Interpreters from Churchill Employed by the North Land Expedition, May 1821 (MIKAN 4730700)

Three other watercolours were acquired that were painted during the previous year while the expedition wintered at Cumberland House.

In January 1820, he drew a mink as it dipped a paw into the water along a rocky shore and a cross fox just as it caught a mouse in the snow.

Watercolour of a mink on a riverside dipping one of its paws into the water.

Mink, January 20, 1820 (MIKAN 4730702)

Watercolour of a fox having caught a mouse in a snowy landscape.

Cross fox catching a mouse, January 26, 1820 (MIKAN 4730703)

Two months later, Hood set out on a trek to the Pasquia Hills where he encountered a group of Cree. Invited into their tent, he recorded with extraordinary detail this watercolour, The Interior of a Southern Indian Tent [original title]. This image would be the basis of the print, Interior of a Cree Tent, which appeared in Captain John Franklin’s account, Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the Years 1819, 20, 21 and 22.

Watercolour showing the interior of a tent. Seven people are sitting around a fire. One is a mother with a child in a cradleboard. Pelts or meat are drying on a cross beam and a pot of food is over the fire. There is a musket and a bow and arrows leaning on the side of the tent. One person is eating and another is smoking a pipe while the others appear to be listening intently.

Interior of a Southern Indian Tent [original title] (MIKAN 4730705)

Unfortunately Robert Hood would not live to see his paintings published in Franklin’s account. Plagued by horrendous weather and insufficient supplies, the expedition resorted to eating lichens to survive. By early October 1821, it was clear that Robert Hood had become too weak from hunger to continue the journey. He was left behind with two British participants, while the others set off for Fort Enterprise in search of food and supplies. One of the voyageurs, Michel Terohaute, changed his mind and left Franklin’s group, returning to the Hood camp. On October 23, 1821, while the two other men were out searching for food, Terohaute shot and killed Robert Hood. Captain John Franklin managed to retrieve Hood’s journal and watercolours, which were given to Hood’s sister and distributed among her grandchildren. LAC was fortunate to acquire these four previously unknown watercolours which document a key expedition in Canada’s Arctic history.

Related resources

 

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of April 2015

As of today, 143,613 of 640,000 files are available online via our Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. The latest digitized box is #2057, which corresponds to the surname “Cussons”. Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Get the munchers!

The word “pest” certainly has many uses, but, at Library and Archives Canada, it refers to any of a number of creatures that can pose a threat to library and archival collections. Many insects like to feed on substances found in documents, photographs and books, such as cellulose, starch and glue. And mice like to shred paper for their nests. Pests can work very quickly, and in a short time precious documents can be irreversibly damaged. It is important, therefore, to be aware of such pests and to know what to do to prevent them.

An improperly disposed of muffin wrapper can provide enough nourishment to sustain a population of 9 female mice to produce litters of 5 to 10 pups each. Proper cleaning of areas where food is consumed makes the area less attractive to mice. Having garbage receptacles with tight-fitting lids is also a good deterrent.

One of the ways to discourage the pests listed in the table below is by controlling humidity within the facility, either by improving an existing heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, setting up fans in high-humidity areas, or installing weather stripping and door seals on exterior doors, etc. Installing dehumidifiers in areas of high humidity can also be very beneficial. It is imperative to always clean and remove any mould or mildew in areas containing excessive moisture. Careful cleaning and good general housekeeping will also contribute to minimizing pest problems in a facility. In areas where there is a pest problem, vacuum in addition to sweeping. If the problem persists, consider taking these additional actions: seal cracks in foundations, concrete or floors, repair any leaks from pipes, such as sinks, roof drains, etc.

The top five most unwanted creepy crawlers in libraries and archives

Pest Size Image Notes

Booklice
Psocoptera

1 mm  one Booklice will eat starch and fungi or mould and dead insects, especially if moist as they require damp areas in which to thrive.*
Springtail
Entomobryidae family
1 mm  two Springtail will migrate indoors in large numbers and die quickly, forming mould and detritus for other insects to eat. These organisms feed on decaying plant material, fungi, bacteria, arthropod feces, algae and pollen.*
Carpet Beetle
Anthrenus verbasci
2 mm to3 mm  three three1 Carpet Beetle larvae are particularly destructive and eat animal specimens, fur and feathers, and woolen textiles.
Sow Bug
Armadillidiidae family
8 mm to12 mm  four Sow Bugs will attract other pests and provide a food source for them.*
Silverfish
Lepisma saccharina
5 mm to15 mm  five Silverfish will actually graze across the surface of items, leaving a clearly defined pathway.*

*See damage below

Examples of insect damage

Colour photograph of an open book and the pathways of the bookworm can be clearly seen.

Booklice infestation (Wikipedia)

Colour photograph of a red book showing white patches where the silverfish have grazed upon the cover.

Destruction after grazing of silverfish (Wikipedia)

Colour photograph showing hundreds of springtails scattered over an area.

Springtail migration indoors—causes staining of documents and provides food for other insects ©Library and Archives Canada

Colour photograph showing a large group of sowbugs

Sow Bugs provide a food source for mice and other insects. ©Library and Archives Canada

Revolutionizing cataloguing – implementing RDA!

There’s been a revolution in cataloguing! Since 2010, RDA (Resource Description and Access) has been the new international standard for description. It was developed over many years through the cooperation of institutions such as Library and Archives Canada (LAC), the Library of Congress, the British National Library, the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, and other national and international committees (LAC employees sit on the Canadian Committee on Cataloguing, for example). Implementation of RDA began at LAC in late 2012 and is still ongoing, involving the entire cataloguing section. This has included hundreds of hours of training sessions, meetings, individual research and reading, and informal team discussions and consultations as we have to rethink a lot of our policies and practices to adapt to the new philosophies and rules for description represented in RDA.

So, what’s so different about RDA?

There have always been standards and rules for description of course. But the rules we were using were developed before the advent of the multitude of formats that are now collected by and available in modern libraries. This has forced cataloguers to try to treat everything like a printed book. You can imagine how frustrating that was at times! On top of that, the old rules were designed to help cataloguers fit all the essential information on a 3” by 5” card that was filed in a card catalogue drawer. This meant abbreviating words, omitting non-essential information, and making decisions based on the placement of information on the physical card. Now with online catalogues, linked data, and international databases available with the click of a mouse, we need to rethink how we do things. Some of this involves physically changing how the information is presented in the catalogue record (for example, RDA eliminates abbreviations unless they appear on the item itself). Other changes focus on thinking differently about the relationships between the content, the physical item (what we call the “carrier”), and the people involved in creating both.

What hasn’t changed?

As always, our goal is to create a bibliographic record for an item that accurately and thoroughly describes both the physical item and the content it holds, and allows users of our catalogue the best possible access to the item and our collection. The employees in the cataloguing section are committed to creating useful, accurate, credible metadata that is used by libraries across the country, and in international databases. RDA may be changing the “how” of cataloguing, but not the “why!”

Useful links: