Jeremiah “Jerry” Jones

This Black History Month, Library and Archives Canada highlights the service of black Canadians during the First World War. While all Canadians were equally caught up in the patriotism of the early part of the war and the opportunities offered by military service, black Canadians had difficulty enlisting due to the racism of the era. Although there was no official or explicitly stated policy of exclusion, the Canadian military left recruitment decisions to the discretion of individual commanding officers. Black Canadian volunteers along with those from other minority groups were left to enlist in whichever regiments would accept them. A special unit, the No. 2 Construction Battalion, was formed by members of the black community in Nova Scotia. The battalion, whose members weren’t allowed to fight, dug trenches, repaired roads, and attracted hundreds of recruits from across Canada and even the United States.

A sepia-coloured photograph of a man in uniform wearing an officer’s belt and cap holding a baton in both hands across his upper thighs.

Jeremiah “Jerry” Jones, First World War private taken by an unknown photographer, from the personal collection of the Jones family (Wikipedia)

Among those black Canadians who volunteered and served was Jeremiah “Jerry” Jones, a Nova Scotian soldier who enlisted with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) in June 1916. Born in East Mountain, Nova Scotia on March 30, 1858, Jones was over 50 years old when he enlisted and lied about his age in order to join the army. Jones was sent overseas, where he transferred to the Royal Canadian Regiment and saw combat on the front lines in France, including the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. During the battle, with his unit pinned down by machine gun fire, Jones moved forward alone to attack the German gun emplacement. He reached the machine gun nest and threw a grenade that killed several German soldiers. The survivors surrendered to Jones, who had them carry the machine gun back to the Canadian lines and present it to his commanding officer. It is reported that Jones was recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions, though no record exists to show that he ever received the medal. In the decades following the war, the Truro Daily News and Senator Calvin Ruck highlighted Jones’ bravery and lobbied to have the Canadian government formally recognize his actions. Ruck in particular argued that the racist sentiment of the time had prevented Jones and other black soldiers from being properly recognized for their heroism.

A nominal list showing the regimental number, rank, name, former corps, name of next of kin, address of next of kin, country of birth, and the place and date on which they were taken on strength.

Entry for Jeremiah Jones in the “Nominal Roll of Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men” of the 106th Battalion (MIKAN 2006098)

Jones was injured at the Battle of Vimy Ridge and again at the Battle of Passchendaele. He was formally discharged in Halifax in early 1918 after being found medically unfit. He died in November 1950. Jeremiah Jones was posthumously awarded the Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service on February 22, 2010.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of January 2016

As of today, 240,545 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. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 3962 and surname Halliwell.

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.

Hockey Marching as to War – the 228th Battalion

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) currently has an exhibition at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa, which runs until January 22, 2016. Hockey Marching as to War engages viewers in the many stories of hockey players’ involvement in Canada’s First World War effort—from the men who enlisted and served overseas to the women who took up sticks at home.

A particularly fascinating story is the emergence of highly successful military hockey teams. In 1916, Winnipeg’s 61st Battalion won the prestigious Allan Cup—the senior amateur hockey championship—and Montreal’s 87th Battalion was good enough to play an exhibition game against Montreal professionals, including players from the Canadiens.

No military team was more famous than the 228th Battalion, whose history is there for all to see in LAC’s rich collection of government records. Known as the Northern Fusiliers, the 228th mustered in North Bay, Ontario, under the command of Lt.-Col. Archie Earchman, and was so successful recruiting talented hockey players that in the fall of 1916 it was invited to join the National Hockey Association (NHA), the main professional league and forerunner of the National Hockey League.

A black-and-white photograph of a man standing. He is wearing a uniform, a cap and a Sam Browne belt, and holding a baton.

Lieutenant Colonel Earchman, D.S.O., Toronto, Ontario, undated (MIKAN 3215233)

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

As of today, 231,540 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. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 3789 and surname Greenaway.

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.

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

As of today, 217,062 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. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box #3121 and surname Fitzpatrick.

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.

Searching for the Service Files of Soldiers of the First World War

Database

You can find references to the service files of soldiers who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in our database Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918.

However, it is sometimes difficult to find a soldier for several reasons:

  • His given name or surname may be written in a variety of ways
    The information in the indexes is what was written in the archival records, which were often written by hand. There may also be an error in the database. The database search engine may find words with the same root. For example, “Worth*” will lead to a search for “Worth”, “Worthing” and “Worthington.”
  • Several soldiers had the same name
    To identify your soldier, you need to check the attestation papers (enlistment forms) because they contain personal information about him.
  • He gave an incorrect date of birth
    To be able to enlist in the army during the First World War, a recruit had to be between the ages of 18 and 45.

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Born to Serve: Georges P. Vanier

Born in Montréal on April 23, 1888, Georges Vanier would feel the influence of his bilingual parents throughout his life. After graduating from high school, he attended Loyola College and then the Université Laval where he received a law degree in 1911. He started practicing law thereafter, although priesthood was also on his mind. It was the outbreak of the First World War however, that eventually grabbed his attention and he enlisted in the Canadian Army. He was a strong recruiter and played an important role in the creation of the French-Canadian 22nd Battalion. It was also during the war that he was injured and had to have his right leg amputated.

A black-and-white photograph showing a man smiling broadly in an officer’s uniform with cap.

Major Georges P. Vanier of the 22nd Battalion, June 1918 (MIKAN 3192070)

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Multiple Contexts: Library and Archives Canada at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

Five pieces from the rich collection of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are currently part of the new exhibition space at The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. These objects including a commemorative medal, stamps, a map, and a land treaty will help illustrate the complex experience of immigration that continues to shape Canada’s past and present.

Attestation papers—informative documents from Canada’s history

One of the items from the Library and Archives collection included in the exhibition at Pier 21 is a document known as an attestation paper. An attestation paper was a form that recruits filled in and signed to show their willingness to serve overseas in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in the First World War. Library and Archives Canada currently holds 620,000 attestation papers, all of which are digitized and available online.

A black-and-white image of a typed form describing Joseph Wilder’s personal and physical information. It is signed by him and witnessed by a medical officer.

Joseph Wilder’s attestation paper (MIKAN 46114, Box 10355-39, 312833)

The details these papers provide allow us to learn a lot about individual soldiers. For example, each form provides details about their physical appearance such as height, eye colour, and chest measurements. Recruits also had to state their “trade or calling” (job), place of birth, next of kin and present address, among other information. When trying to learn about individuals from the past who did not leave a lot (or any!) documentation behind, attestation papers can be incredibly helpful in piecing together histories.

Joseph Wilder—Medical Sergeant and pharmacist

The attestation paper included in the exhibition at Pier 21 belonged to a man named Joseph Wilder. From this document, we learn that he lived at 140 Alfred Avenue in Winnipeg, Manitoba, was born in Romania, and made his living as a druggist (pharmacist). The information about Joseph Wilder that can be found on his attestation paper is valuable to a number of interest groups such as his later descendants, members of Winnipeg’s local community, and Canada’s national history. It also complements the information available about Wilder in his two books Read All About It: Reminiscences of an Immigrant Newsboy and Lotions, Potions and Liniments Pure: A Look at the Drug Trade in Winnipeg in the 1900’s.

You can find out more information about the Soldiers of the First World War database and the large-scale digitization initiative to make these documents available online.

Nursing Sisters

The incredible contribution of Canadian nursing sisters in the First World War can be best appreciated by examining their experiences during service. Women left their families and homes to answer the call to duty and serve their country. Their dedication to their work, to Canada and, most importantly, to their patients, serves to measure the profound effect they had on the Canadian war effort.

A black-and-white photograph showing a woman in a nursing sister uniform sitting on the edge of a table. She is looking directly at the photographer and has a slight smile.

An unidentified nursing sister (MIKAN 3523169)

Library and Archives Canada holds a variety of materials on the history of military nurses, both published and archival. Below you will find a few examples:

A closer look at their daily lives

There are several recent publications that shed light on the varied experiences of nursing sisters during the Great War. Some focus on the individual accounts of nurses:

Pat Staton’s It Was Their War Too: Canadian Women and World War I offers a more general perspective of their contribution to the war effort.

A black-and-white photograph showing two nursing sisters standing by the bedsides of two wounded men.

Two nursing sisters with wounded soldiers in a ward room at the Queen’s Canadian Military Hospital in Shorncliffe, Kent, England, ca. 1916 (MIKAN 3604423)

In the archival collection, we are lucky to have the complete fonds for six of these nursing sisters, which allows us to delve deeper into what it was like for these women in the field. Learn more about Sophie Hoerner and Alice Isaacson who both served in France, or Dorothy Cotton who served in Russia. If that is not enough, you can learn about Anne E. Ross, Laura Gamble and Ruby Peterkin who all served in Greece.

Looking for a specific nursing sister?

If you are looking for information about a nursing sister who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, you will likely find it in the database Soldiers of the First World War. Generally, nursing sisters can easily be identified by their rank, usually indicated by “NS”. It is also important to note that that many women served with the British Forces through the Victorian Order of Nurses or St. John Ambulance.

Other resources:

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

As of today, 171,771 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. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • A to Dagenais (boxes 1 to 2257)
  • Free to Gorman (boxes 3298 to 3658)

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, the following boxes were skipped in the digitization process, but will be done in the next few months.

  • Dagenais to Fredlund (boxes 2258 to 3297)

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.