Captain John MacGregor, VC

By Ashley Dunk

In Library and Archives Canada’s Victoria Cross blog series, we profile Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients on the 100th anniversary of the day they performed heroically in battle, for which they were awarded the Victoria Cross. Today, we remember Captain John MacGregor and his bravery during the Battle of Canal du Nord near Cambrai, France, between September 29 and October 3, 1918.

A black-and-white photograph of a smiling soldier in his service dress uniform.

Captain John MacGregor, VC, April 1919 (a004598-v8)

Born near Nairn, Scotland, on February 11, 1888, John MacGregor moved to Canada in 1909. He was a carpenter before he enlisted with the 11th Canadian Mounted Rifles of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) on March 26, 1915. MacGregor had served for three years with the Garrison Artillery in Nairn. During the First World War, he was a decorated soldier, earning several military awards including the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the Military Cross and the Bar to Military Cross.

MacGregor rose quickly through the ranks in the CEF, starting with a promotion to sergeant in 1916, then to lieutenant in 1917, and finally to captain in 1918. He was wounded twice in the line of duty and invalided for a period with influenza; his resilience helped him through the war and served him well in combat. By September 1918, he was assigned to the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion in France, fighting as part of Canadian Corps operations to break across the Canal du Nord and capture the roads leading into Cambrai.

A black-and-white photograph of four people standing and looking toward the camera.

Captain John MacGregor, VC, between two unidentified women, with Lieutenant R. Darcus, MC (a006914-v8)

During the Battle of Canal du Nord, MacGregor led the battalion’s “C” Company under intense pressure from the German defences. With the company’s advance hampered by debilitating machine-gun fire, he pushed on and located the enemy guns, despite being wounded during the fight. In broad daylight, he ran forward, armed with a rifle and bayonet, coming under heavy fire from all directions, and single-handedly put the enemy crew out of action. His bravery resulted in the deaths of four German soldiers and eight taken prisoner. MacGregor’s quick thinking and initiative saved his men from danger and allowed the advance to continue.

Afterward, he reorganized his command while facing continued heavy fire, and he offered support to neighbouring troops. As the German lines continued to resist, he defiantly moved along the front lines. Many other officers were wounded or killed in action, so MacGregor took command of platoons, organized waves of soldiers and pushed the advance forward.

During daytime reconnaissance under suppressive fire, MacGregor established his company in Neuville-St.-Remy, which greatly assisted the advance into Tilloy. Throughout the operation across the Canal du Nord and leading toward Cambrai, MacGregor showed strong leadership and bravery in the face of danger.

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier in service dress uniform, squinting in the sun and turned slightly away from the camera.

Captain John MacGregor, VC, date unknown (a007507-v8)

MacGregor survived the remainder of the war and was “struck off strength,” or released from service, in general demobilization on April 9, 1919. He went on to serve in the Second World War, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel; he commanded the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s), a reservist infantry regiment based on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. He died on June 9, 1952, and was buried at Cranberry Lake cemetery in Powell River, British Columbia.

A black-and-white copy of a typed textual record with titles underlined and some text organized into columns.

War Diaries from the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion, with McGregor’s name under “C” Company, September 1918, p. 26 (e001126713)

MacGregor’s Victoria Cross and other medals are on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Captain John MacGregor.

Do you want to experience military life during the First World War?

The War Diaries of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion are open for you to transcribe, tag, translate and describe their contents. Every addition to a record becomes new metadata, searchable within 24 hours, helping Library and Archives Canada’s records become more “discoverable” day after day. Visit the blog article explaining how you can give a hand to history!

Ashley Dunk was a project assistant in the Online Content Division of the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Samuel Lewis Honey, VC

By Ashley Dunk

In Library and Archives Canada’s Victoria Cross blog series, we profile Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients on the 100th anniversary of the day they performed heroically in battle, for which they were awarded the Victoria Cross. Today, we remember Lieutenant Samuel Lewis Honey and his bravery during the Bourlon Wood operations between September 27 and September 30, 1918.

A colour poster with “Fall in the Grenadiers” in large red text, with varying other black and red text. On the right, a uniformed soldier with a tall black hat, a red coat and a rifle slung over his shoulder stands at attention.

Recruitment campaign poster for the 78th Battalion, undated (e010697069)

Born in Conn, Ontario, on February 9, 1894, Samuel Lewis Honey was a schoolteacher when he enlisted as a private on January 22, 1915, joining the 34th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was a decorated and accomplished soldier, receiving the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal, and was later commissioned as an officer on July 2, 1917. In autumn 1918, he was serving in France as a lieutenant in the 78th Infantry Battalion.

On September 27, 1918, Honey was fighting alongside thousands of Canadian soldiers under heavy machine-gun fire from the German lines at Bourlon Wood. The operation to reach across the Canal du Nord with the ultimate objective of capturing Bourlon Wood and Village was vital for opening the road leading to Cambrai. When the commander and officers in his company became casualties to the unrelenting German attacks, Honey took charge. He commanded and reorganized the company and continued with the advance.

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier wearing a cap and a Sam Brown belt, part of an officer’s uniform.

Lieutenant Samuel Lewis Honey, undated. Source: National Defence and the Canadian Forces.

Under his leadership, the objective of capturing Bourlon Wood was achieved; however, it came at the expense of severe casualties. Machine-gun fire was causing significant damage and loss to his company. Honey located the machine-gun nest and rushed it alone, single-handedly capturing the guns and taking 10 prisoners.

Following this feat, Honey successfully resisted four enemy counterattacks. He later went out alone in the dark and located an enemy post. Honey and a party of soldiers captured the post and an additional three guns.

As recounted in the London Gazette:

On the 29th September he led his company against a strong enemy position with great skill and daring and continued in the succeeding days of the battle to display the same high example of valour and self-sacrifice.

London Gazette, no. 31108, January 6, 1919

A black-and-white photograph of three soldiers bent at the waist, searching around trees and through bushes for blackberries.

Canadian soldiers picking blackberries in Bourlon Wood after capturing it, France, October 1918 (a003275)

During this attack, Honey received fatal wounds and died at No. 12 Canadian Field Ambulance on September 30, 1918. Buried at the Queant Communal Cemetery in Pas de Calais, France, he was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. A plaque is dedicated to Honey in Mount Forest, Ontario.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Lieutenant Samuel Lewis Honey.

Tag pictures and give a hand to history!

The images in this blog post are open for tagging! Immerse yourself in the Canadian Expeditionary Force digitized files and transcribe, tag, translate and describe their contents. Every addition to a record becomes new metadata, searchable within 24 hours, helping Library and Archives Canada’s records become more “discoverable” day after day. Read the blog article explaining how you can give a hand to history!

Ashley Dunk was a project assistant in the Online Content Division of the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Lieutenant Milton Fowler Gregg, VC

By Ashley Dunk

In Library and Archives Canada’s Victoria Cross blog series, we profile Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients on the 100th anniversary of the day they performed heroically in battle, for which they were awarded the Victoria Cross. Today, we remember Lieutenant Milton Fowler Gregg and his courageous actions during the Battle of Canal du Nord on September 28, 1918.

Born on April 10, 1892, in Mountain Dale, Kings County, New Brunswick, Milton Fowler Gregg was a student before enlisting with the Canadian Expeditionary Force on November 5, 1914. Gregg earned the Military Cross in 1917 and was awarded a bar for the Cross for gallant actions in 1918. A decorated soldier, Gregg was serving as a Lieutenant with the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) in September 1918.

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier.

Lieutenant Milton Fowler Gregg, VC, undated (a006811)

From September 28 to September 30, 1918, the RCR was moving with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division on operations to cross the Canal du Nord, capture Bourlon Wood and Village, and advance to Cambrai, France. With the ultimate objective of opening the road to Cambrai, it was essential for the RCR to advance and gain a foothold. The RCR assault began at 5:40 a.m. and faced little opposition until it was met with heavy machine-gun fire from enemy soldiers positioned in nearby buildings. Three tanks were brought up as reinforcements; however, the persistent machine guns and anti-tank guns put them out of action.

During the Battle of Canal du Nord, Gregg performed heroically, as in previous operations. On September 28, 1918, both flanks of the brigade were held up by heavy enemy fire, pinned down by rapid machine-gun bursts, and trapped by twisted, uncut barbed wire. Crawling forward alone, Gregg eventually found a small gap in the wire. He led his men through the hole and forced his way into the enemy trench.

A black-and-white photograph of large mortars pointing upward, as a soldier leans over one to look down its barrel.

Trench mortar referred to as “minenwerfers” were used by the German armies in the Canal du Nord during the Canadian advance east of Arras, September 1918 (a003200)

A heavy counterattack from German soldiers saw increasing RCR casualties, and dwindling bomb supplies, leaving the brigade vulnerable. Gregg, who had been wounded during his forward push, retreated in order to retrieve additional grenades. He rejoined his party with much-needed supplies but suffered a second wound in the effort. Despite his injuries, he reorganized the men and led them against the enemy trenches. Under his leadership, they cleared the enemy trench and gained a footing in the Marcoing Line.

A black-and-white copy of a page with paragraphs of texts typed in black ink.

War Diaries, Royal Canadian Regiment, describing operations, September 1918, page 28 (e001072260)

As detailed in the London Gazette:

He personally killed or wounded 11 of the enemy and took 25 prisoners, in addition to 12 machine guns captured in this trench. Remaining with his company in spite of wounds, he again on the 30th September led his men in attack until severely wounded. The outstanding valour of this officer saved many casualties and enabled the advance to continue.

London Gazette, no. 31108, January 6, 1919

Gregg survived the remainder of the war, held a variety of political positions, and served overseas during the Second World War. He passed away on March 13, 1978, at the age of 85. His Victoria Cross is on display at the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum in London, Ontario.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Lieutenant Milton Fowler Gregg.

Want to experience life during a time of war?

The War Diaries of the Royal Canadian Regiment are open for you to transcribe, tag, translate and describe their contents. Every addition to a record becomes new metadata, searchable within 24 hours, helping Library and Archives Canada’s records become more “discoverable” day after day. Read the blog article explaining how you can give a hand to history!

Ashley Dunk was a project assistant in the Online Content Division of the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Lieutenant George Fraser Kerr and Lieutenant Graham Thomson Lyall, VCs

By Ashley Dunk

In Library and Archives Canada’s blog series on Canadian Victoria Cross recipients, we profile Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients on the 100th anniversary of the day that the actions took place for which they were awarded the Victoria Cross. Today we commemorate two Canadian soldiers awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions on September 27, 1918, during the campaign for the Canal du Nord and Bourlon Wood, France.

The Canadians Corps opened their initial attacks during the Battle of Scarpe on August 26, 1918, to ultimately crash through the heavily fortified Drocourt-Quéant Line on September 2nd. The over eight kilometres gained by the Corps resulted in high casualties amongst officers and soldiers alike. Following this offensive, it was strategized for the Canadians, with assistance of other battalions from the Allied forces, to capture the Canal du Nord and open the roads to Cambrai. The retreating Germans destroyed several bridges along the canal, leaving a few well defended for their own use, and no possibility for the Canadian arm to establish outposts on the other side of the canal.

After a month of planning and rebuilding bridges, the Canadian Corps were ready to conquer their next objective: Canal du Nord and Bourlon Wood.

It is during the Battle of Canal du Nord that two Canadian soldiers would perform heroic feats and earn one of the highest military commendations.

A black-and-white map showing boundaries and outlines of buildings and structures.

War diary of the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion showing Operations 1st and 2nd, September 1918, p. 48 (e001123533)

Lieutenant George Fraser Kerr

Born on June 8, 1894, in Deseronto, Ontario, George Fraser Kerr was a chemist before the outbreak of war. On September 22, 1914, at 20 years of age, he enlisted at Valcartier, Quebec, joining the 3rd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) as a private. After proving himself repeatedly in battle, he was commissioned as an officer on July 1, 1917, eventually rising to the rank of captain.

An unidentified newspaper clipping of a portrait of a soldier.

Lt. George Fraser Kerr, VC, undated (a007193)

He was a decorated soldier, earning a number of commendations: the Military Medal on August 23, 1916, for his courageous actions on Mount Sorrel; the Military Cross on December 2, 1918; and a bar for the Military Cross on January 2, 1919, for his gallantry and initiative during the Drocourt-Quéant attack from September 2 to 3, 1918.

On September 27, 1918, at 5:20 a.m., Canadian artillery pounded German positions in preparation for attack on Canal du Nord, with an objective to push through the German line. At 6:00 a.m., Kerr, serving with the 3rd Battalion, was in command of the left support company. While on the campaign to take Bourlon Wood and under heavy machine-gun fire, he showed great skill by outflanking a machine gun that was hindering the advance.

After advancing past Canal du Nord and pushing ahead, the advance was held up by a strong point near the Arras-Cambrai road. Kerr was ahead of his company and rushed to the German strong point. He single-handedly captured four machine guns and thirty-one prisoners, allowing the advance to continue until the company was held up just beyond Bourlon Wood.

After being wounded twice in action, as well as in an incident in which he fell from his horse after the Armistice, Kerr was discharged as medically unfit on July 16, 1919.

Kerr died on December 8, 1929. Today his Victoria Cross is on display at the Canadian War Museum.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Lieutenant George Fraser Kerr.


Lieutenant Graham Thomson Lyall

Born in Manchester, England on March 8, 1892, Lyall immigrated to Canada and settled in the Niagara Region where he worked as a mechanical engineer. He joined the 19th Regiment of the British militia before enlisting on September 24, 1915, at St. Catharines, Ontario with the 81st Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). Later, he would transfer to the 102nd Battalion, Canadian Infantry.

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier standing with his right hand in his trouser pocket.

Lt. Graham Thomson Lyall, VC, leaving Buckingham Palace, March 15, 1919 (a006698)

On the same day that George Fraser Kerr was leading his company toward Bourlon Wood, Lyall was serving in the 102nd Battalion, leading his platoon. The leading company was held up at a strong point, battling rapid machine-gun fire from the German position. With the support of Kerr and his platoon, Lyall and his company captured the point with a flank movement, staying back to weaken the enemy forces at the point with less offensive power. Because of this maneuver, he detained thirteen prisoners, one field gun, and four machine guns.

Later, his platoon, weakened by casualties, was held up by machine guns at the southern end of Bourlon Wood. With the available men, Lyall moved toward the strong point. Rushing the position single-handedly ahead of his platoon, Lyall killed the officer in charge. His bravery awarded them forty-five prisoners and five machine guns.

A black-and-white photograph of four women and four men wearing heavy coats and hats in front of Buckingham Palace. The man in the middle is wearing a military uniform and leaning on a cane.

Lt. Graham Thomson Lyall, VC, and family in front of Buckingham Palace, March 15, 1919 (a006708)

Lyall, achieving his objective and capturing an additional forty-seven prisoners, re-established his position, protecting the remainder of the company. Later, on October 1, 1918, in the neighbourhood of Belcourt and commanding a diminished company, he captured a strongly defended position, producing eighty prisoners and seventeen machine guns.

As summarized in the London Gazette two months later:

During two days of operations Lieutenant Lyall captured in all 3 officers, 182 other ranks, 26 machine guns, and one field gun, exclusive of heavy casualties inflicted. He showed throughout, the utmost valour and high powers of command.

London Gazette, no. 31067, December 13, 1918

The Canadian Corps achieved and exceeded their objectives on September 2, 1918, advancing further than expected under heavy machine-gun fire and terrible casualties. By the end of the day, they took Bourlon Wood, capturing the Red, Blue, and Green Lines.

After the Armistice, Lyall sailed for England in 1919, where he would enlist in the British Army.

He died on November 28, 1941, during the Second World War on a campaign in Egypt.

A plaque commemorates his acts of valour in the Lincoln and Welland Regiment memorial garden in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Lieutenant Graham Thomson Lyall.

Ashley Dunk is a project assistant in the Online Content Division of the Public Services Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Images of Lobsters now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of a man holding up a large lobster with his left hand.

Dougal Doucette holds up the first large lobster of the season, Miminegash, Prince Edward Island [MIKAN 3612492]

The crustaceans known as lobsters include clawed and spiny (or rock) lobsters, as well as reef, slipper, furry (or coral) and squat lobsters.

A black-and-white photograph of a coastal village, with lobster boats in the background, lobster pots in the middle distance, and floating markers in the foreground.

Lobster pots and markers on shore, Sandford, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia [MIKAN 3191692]

A colour photograph of two men, two women and a child around lobster traps as they look at some lobsters.

Two men, two women and a child beside lobsters and traps, Fundy National Park, New Brunswick [MIKAN 4293000]

The best-known lobster in Canada is the clawed Homarus americanus, found along the Atlantic coastline and the continental shelf from Labrador to North Carolina. This is the only species found naturally in Canadian waters. The largest Homarus americanus weighed over 20 kilograms and was caught off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1977.

A black-and-white photograph of a man helping a little girl sitting at a table with her lobster meal.

Jane Petrie and her lobster dinner, Prince Edward Island [MIKAN 4949865]

Considered a delicacy, lobster is a valuable seafood export for Canada. Exported around the world, the Homarus americanus is sent to markets in the United States, Japan, China and the European Union.

Visit the Flickr album now!

A deportation ledger and the story of a Japanese Canadian deportee

By R.L. Gabrielle Nishiguchi

A black-and-white photograph of a group of women with a child standing in front of luggage and crates.

A group of Japanese Canadian deportees, who had been interned during the Second World War, waiting for a train to take them to a ship bound for Japan. Slocan City, British Columbia, 1946. Credit: Tak Toyota (c047398)

For just one evening, on September 20, 2018, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) will exhibit a bound, time-worn 1946 ledger with a blue cover. This small exhibit is part of “Revisiting Japanese Canadian Redress: Conference on the 30th Anniversary of the Agreement,” an event co-hosted by LAC and the Ottawa Japanese Community Association.

Why is this ledger so important? The pink pages, imprinted with fading purple Gestetner ink, show the names of 3,964 Japanese Canadians—among them almost 2,000 Canadian-born children—who were deported to war-ravaged Japan in 1946. The deportees represented about one fifth of some 20,000 Japanese Canadians who were forcibly removed from the West Coast in 1942. Each person’s entry includes the following information: registration number, date of birth, sex, marital status, national status, the place of departure, whether the person had signed the survey form (more about this below), and remarks such as “mental hospital,” “mentally unbalanced [and] unable to sign,” “New Denver Sanitorium,” “illeg[itimate],” “adopted,” “common law” and “Canadian Army.”

The word “Repatriates” is handwritten on the cover in fountain-pen ink. “Repatriation” is the expression used by the Canadian government to describe what scholarship and research have shown amounted to deportation. This term is often paired with the word “voluntary” (as we shall see, it was not). By definition, Canadian-born children whose only connection to Japan was their racial origin could not be “repatriated” to Japan.

Beside certain names are handwritten ballpoint and fountain-ink annotations. LAC has other copies of bound ledgers similar to the one on display, but what makes this particular copy so valuable are the handwritten annotations it contains. These annotations appear to be citations from statutes or Orders in Council (e.g., Privy Council Order 7356, December 15, 1945) that indicate how Canadian immigration officials would be able to prevent certain deportees from returning to Canada.

Recognizing the value and the historical significance of the ledger, LAC immediately scanned the pages to preserve the information they contained.

By doing so, LAC took steps to preserve the power of a name in our country’s memory. The names and information about the deportees bear silent but powerful witness to the suffering of those 3,964 men, women and children who ended up in a defeated and starving Japan and who were effectively barred from returning to Canada solely on the basis of their racial origin.

A black-and-white photograph of three men lifting a crate.

Three Japanese Canadian men, one of whom could be 42-year-old Ryuichi Hirahara (Registration Number 02553), loading a crate. Mr. Hirahara and his 40-year-old wife Kazu Hirahara (Registration Number 02554) were both Japanese nationals and interned in Slocan City, British Columbia. The shipping label is addressed to “Ryuichi Hirahara” at an address in Wakayama City, Japan. Mr. Hirahara requested that his belongings be held for him at the Wakayama Train Station, since he could not be sure that his ancestral home had survived the war. He did know that train stations would be among the first buildings to be rebuilt, since trains were critical to rebuilding Japan’s infrastructure. The Hiraharas were deported to Japan in 1946. Credit: Tak Toyota [Translation: Dr. Henry Shibata] (c047391)

The deportee: Henry Shibata

At the “Revisiting Japanese Canadian Redress” event on September 20, participants not only will be able to view the ledger, but also can meet 88-year-old Canadian-born Henry Shibata, who was deported to Japan in 1946 and whose name is inscribed in the ledger on display.

In the ledger, beside his name and the names of all six of his Canadian-born siblings, we find handwritten annotations (which appear to be statute citations). If these citations are indeed equivalent to the annotations referring to Privy Council Order 7356—the order that barred the return of any deported naturalized Japanese Canadians—then the Canadian government’s intention was to bar Henry and his siblings from returning to Canada.

A black-and-white photograph of two men standing in front of an iron gate, with a London police officer behind them to the left.

The Rt. Hon. W.L. Mackenzie King and Mr. Norman Robertson attending the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, London, England, May 1, 1944. Around this time, Norman Robertson, Under Secretary of State for External Affairs, and his special assistant Gordon Robertson (no relation) developed the deportation plan approved by Prime Minister Mackenzie King. (c015134)

The survey that would change everything

In the spring of 1945, the government of Canada surveyed every Japanese Canadian 16 years or older, including those in internment camps and even patients being treated in a psychiatric hospital, and compelled each person to choose whether he or she would go to Japan or east of the Rockies. Signing a form—which was part of this massive survey—and choosing to go to Japan was treated as prima facie evidence of disloyalty to Canada by the federal government, and an automatic cause for segregation and deportation. This information was expressly not provided to the Japanese Canadians forced to make this life-altering choice.

They did not understand what they were signing: in effect, their application for deportation. In fact, several of the annotations in the ledger, written by a bureaucrat, even include the phrase “app[lication] for deportation.” The survey was conducted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Japanese Canadians who had been interned in detention camps in the interior of British Columbia, who found themselves forced to work on Prairie sugar beet farms to keep their families together, who were forced to work in isolated road camps, or who had been interned in prisoner-of-war internment camps for protesting their separation from their wives and children, were discouraged and afraid for their futures. Many had survived three long years in internment camps, where they could not move beyond camp boundaries without a pass.

A black-and-white photograph of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer seated at a table examining papers with many men around him

Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable checking documents of Japanese Canadians being forced to abandon their homes and go to internment camps, 1942. Credit: Tak Toyota (c047387)

A black-and-white photograph of rows of internment camp dwellings.

Internment camp for Japanese Canadians, Lemon Creek, British Columbia, June 1945. Credit: Jack Long (a142853)

Why did the deportees sign to go to Japan?

Pressure began with the community’s forced relocation from the West Coast in 1942. Then, starting in 1943, their property—held in trust by the federal Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property—had been auctioned off without their consent. Internees had been forced to live off the monies realized from these sales, essentially paying for their own internment. Moreover, internment camp supervisors were graded on how many signed forms they could obtain.

Those Japanese Canadians who ended up signing were the most vulnerable internees: persons with family trapped ‎in Japan, single-parent families and psychiatric patients (some of whom were too sick to sign). Some with limited English-language skills felt that they were too old or too destitute to start their lives over in typically hostile communities to the east. There were also some older Canadian-born children who felt compelled to accompany their aging or sick parents to Japan.

In the case of young Henry Shibata’s family, interned in Lemon Creek, British Columbia, parents Hatsuzo and Tomiko had family in Hiroshima and had not heard whether anyone had survived the atomic bomb. Henry’s father, Hatsuzo, also felt that his own lack of written English would make it next to impossible to start over at the age of 52 in Eastern Canada. With the birth of his child Hisashi in the Lemon Creek internment camp, Hatsuzo Shibata now had a wife and seven children to support.

During the “Revisiting Japanese Canadian Redress” event on September 20, the deportation ledger will be opened to page 394, the page with the Shibata family entry. At this event, Dr. Henry Shibata will see his name in this ledger for the very first time, 72 years after he sailed to Japan on the SS General Meigs. Now 88 years old and a renowned Canadian surgical oncologist, he will see the original ledger page recording his family’s deportation.

A black-and-white photograph of three men standing in front of a ship.

Japanese Canadians being deported to Japan after the Second World War on the United States Army Transport SS General Meigs at Canadian Pacific Railway Pier A in Vancouver, British Columbia. Left to right: Corporal R.A. Davidson, Royal Canadian Mounted Police; C.W. Fisher; T.B. Pickersgill, Commissioner of Japanese Placement, Department of Labour, June 16, 1946. (a119024)

Despite the brutal and unspeakable hardships endured by Henry and his family in Hiroshima—a city turned to cinders by the first atomic bomb—Henry managed to graduate from Hiroshima Medical School. Dr. Shibata returned to Canada in 1961, after spending four years in the United States studying to become a surgeon. Through his expertise, Dr. Shibata has helped save many Canadian lives. He retired as a Professor Emeritus of McGill University in 2015.

The above-mentioned ledger, with its annotations, was the practical means of barring the return of the deportees. A senior civil servant succinctly expressed the intention of the annotations. On May 4, 1950, Arthur MacNamara, the Deputy Minister of Labour, wrote to Humphrey Mitchell, the Minister of Labour: “The External Affairs Department seem inclined to agree that men who were born in Canada and who … were sent to Japan might now be allowed to come back. This seems to me a matter on which there should be masterly inactivity. Even in the case of men or women born in Canada it does seem to me that they should be ‘allowed to suffer for their sins.’ After all they chose to go to Japan; they were not compelled.” (RG27, Volume 661, File 23-2-18, Deputy Minister of Labour Arthur MacNamara to Minister of Labour Humphrey Mitchell)

Co-Lab challenge

LAC’s new crowdsourcing tool, Co-Lab, gives Canadians the chance to collaborate with LAC by using their personal computers. LAC plans to host the ledger images in a Co-Lab challenge in the coming months, but you can see these images right now using Collection SearchBeta.

Canadians who have been moved by the story of the deportations and who wish to help keep the names of the deportees alive will have the opportunity to collaborate with LAC and transcribe the 3,964 names and the associated information. LAC hopes that a searchable transcription of the ledger will enable reseachers to decipher the critical handwritten annotations and compile more statistical information on the deportees.

We cannot change history and prevent those deportations, but we can solve the mystery of the annotations. We can also make sure that each entry remains accessible to the deportees, their families and researchers around the world, so that all of us can experience the power of these names; so that we shall never forget the human suffering embodied in them or the talent and promise we prevented from enriching Canada.

In the meantime, LAC has compiled photographs of Japanese Canadian internment in a Co-Lab challenge and is seeking your help to write descriptions and add keywords that further contextualize these historic photographs and increase the “discoverability” of these records. Try the challenge now!

Know more about the Co-Lab tool and the Collection SearchBeta by reading this previous blog post: Introducing Co-Lab: your tool to collaborate on historical records

More on LAC’s website

Learn about the deportations, the internment camps in Canada and the Redress campaign, or consult our major collections, by visiting the Japanese Canadians web page.

R.L. Gabrielle Nishiguchi is an archivist in the Society, Employment, Indigenous and Governmental Affairs Section of the Government Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Images of the aluminum industry now on Flickr

Aluminum is one of the most widely recycled and used metals in the world, as it is light, strong, flexible, and non-corrosive.

A black-and-white photograph of a woman and two men lifting and maneuvering aluminum blocks with chains out of moulds.

Workers lift aluminum blocks out of moulds of the chemical production process (CCP) machine, Aluminum Company of Canada, Kingston, Ontario [MIKAN 3196454]

The aluminum industry started in Canada at the turn of the 20th century in Shawinigan, Quebec, when the Northern Aluminum Company established its first smelter.

A black-and-white photograph of three women working in unison to carry a long sheet of aluminum over their heads to the inspection table.

Workers carrying a sheet of aluminum to the inspection table at the Aluminum Company of Canada, Kingston, Ontario [MIKAN 3196474]

A black-and-white photograph of four women working together to stack square aluminum sheets onto a pallet.

Workers at the Aluminum Company of Canada stack aluminum sheets on a platform for the annealing furnace, Kingston, Ontario [MIKAN 3196034]

Over the next 50 years, along with name changes, mergers, and partnerships, a smelter and refinery network evolved in Canada. According to Natural Resources Canada, there are nine smelters in Quebec and one smelter in Kitimat, British Columbia. The refinery is situated in Saguenay, Quebec.

A black-and-white photograph providing an overhead view of an aluminum forge used to produce bomber propellers. There are several large pallets of propellers in the foreground.

View from an overhead crane of an aluminum forge producing bomber propellers at the Aluminum Company of Canada, Kingston, Ontario [MIKAN 3198113]

Canada is the world’s third largest primary aluminum producer after China and Russia.

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Spanish flu pandemic centenary: new Co-Lab challenge and travelling exhibit

By Jenna Murdock Smith and Alexandra Haggert

The Spanish flu, a particularly virulent form of influenza, struck Canada in 1918, killing an estimated 50,000 Canadians. It was an international pandemic; an additional 20 to 100 million people worldwide succumbed to the disease before it ran its course in 1920. The virus was brought to Canada by troops returning from the First World War, and soon spread to even remote parts of the country. Unlike most diseases, which typically target vulnerable members of the population, the Spanish flu tended to attack young adults in the prime of their lives. For a country that had already suffered the loss of 66,000 war dead, the impact of the Spanish flu was profound, leaving a number of families without a primary wage earner and thousands of children orphaned.

1918 marks not only the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, but also the centenary of the Spanish flu pandemic. It is an opportunity to reflect on this grim chapter in our history. Library and Archives Canada has a number of records in its archival collection documenting the political, social, economic, and cultural impact of the flu on the lives of Canadians.

Library and Archives Canada is also launching a Co-Lab challenge on this topic. Co-Lab is a crowdsourcing tool that invites the public to contribute transcription, translation, tags and description text. The public contributions then become metadata that improves our search tools and enhances everyone’s experience of the historical record.

The images that have been made available as part of this Co-Lab challenge make up a complete file created by federal public health authorities in response to the outbreak in 1918. At the time, public health was primarily the responsibility of provincial and local authorities, with the federal government coordinating quarantine services as a branch within other larger departments (i.e., the Department of Agriculture, and later the Department of Immigration and Colonization). The file includes correspondence documenting various attempts at quarantining ships carrying soldiers returning home from the front. Maritime quarantines, which had successfully contained the spread of infectious diseases in the 19th century, did not prove to be an effective means of controlling the Spanish flu.

A colour reproduction of a telegram discussing the Spanish flu.

Quarantine and Immigration: Spanish Influenza – general, RG29, vol. 300, file 416-2-12 (image 82)

Alt-text: A typewritten page discussing the Spanish flu.

Quarantine and Immigration: Spanish Influenza – general, RG29, vol. 300, file 416-2-12 (image 85)

The federal government was widely criticized for failing to provide supplies and coordinate a response to the pandemic. With no vaccine or effective treatment for the Spanish flu, medical practitioners attempting to assist patients and contain the disease looked to the federal government for help. The file demonstrates a lack of coordination by government authorities and a growing sense of urgency amongst medical officials working in quarantine stations across Canada, as the mortality rate rose. This illustrates the need for the creation of a federal department of health, which was established in 1919 as a direct result of this devastating pandemic.

A typed letter and the handwritten response about the Spanish flu.

Quarantine and Immigration: Spanish Influenza – general, RG29, vol. 300, file 416-2-12 (image 6 and image 7)

If you are interested in seeing more historical content on the Spanish flu, Library and Archives Canada is hosting a travelling exhibit by Defining Moments Canada, an organization dedicated to providing digital storytelling tools and commemorative activities for Canadians. From September 4 to 24, Struggle Without Rest: Stories from the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918–1919 will be available for free in the lobby of the Library and Archives Canada building at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa.

Jenna Murdock Smith is a senior archivist in the Government Archives Division and Alexandra Haggert is a project manager in the Public Services branch of Library and Archives Canada

Œuvres complètes. Tome I by Normand Chaurette

By Michel Guénette

The Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada exhibition presents an unpublished work by Normand Chaurette entitled Œuvres complètes. Tome I. This work was chosen by our specialist Michel Guénette, a performing arts archivist.

Who is Normand Chaurette?

First, a profile of the author, to understand his creative context: Normand Chaurette is a Quebec playwright who was born in Montréal in 1954. Along with Michel Marc Bouchard and René-Daniel Dubois, he is in the generation of post‑referendum writers who turned away from the nationalist and realist theatre of the 1960s and 1970s, and instead created dramatic works that focused on artistic and linguistic renewal. Chaurette’s play Provincetown Playhouse, juillet 1919, j’avais 19 ans (1982) was a huge success and established his name. His theatrical career includes La société de Métis (1983), Fragments d’une lettre d’adieu lus par des géologues (1986), Les Reines (1991), Le Passage de l’Indiana (1996), Le Petit Köchel (2000) and Ce qui meurt en dernier (2008). His plays have been performed abroad as well, including the Comédie-Française’s 1997 production of Les Reines. He is also well known for the widely popular play Edgar et ses fantômes (2010), and its 2018 adaptation in France, Patrick et ses fantômes.

In addition to plays, Chaurette has also written a book, short stories, film scripts, translations, radio scripts and an essay. His work, which transformed the theatrical and literary landscapes, has earned much respect across the Canadian and international artistic world. Chaurette has received numerous awards, including four Governor General’s Literary Awards, four “Masques” from the Académie québécoise du théâtre, and a Floyd S. Chalmers Award. He also received a writing bursary from the Association Beaumarchais in Paris. Chaurette was appointed to the Order of Canada in the fall of 2004.

Black-and-white photo of a young man sitting with a sweater across his shoulders.

Portrait of Normand Chaurette around 1976; photograph by Linda Benamou (e011180592)

Œuvres complètes. Tome I

The Normand Chaurette fonds acquired by Library and Archives Canada includes documents about his career and personal life. The majority of the documents are annotated manuscripts and typescripts, outlines, drafts, notes and final versions of his writings. They include the original of Œuvres complètes. Tome I, which is in perfect condition.

The work is a kind of artist’s book, an illustrated book containing handwritten texts, drawings, watercolours and cut-out images. This magnificent book is divided into sections, including “Les dieux faibles,” “Orgues,” “Lettres au superbe,” “Texte de Londres,” “Nouveaux textes de Londres” and more. Chaurette began writing this early work in 1970 at the age of 16 and completed it in 1975; he later added some more pages in 1977 and 1978.

We might assume that Chaurette had literary ambitions at this time; the book is both strange and fascinating, with enigmatic and repetitive sentences. Readers might even see the influence of automatists like Claude Gauvreau and surrealists like Guillaume Apollinaire. But such assumptions would be erroneous. Chaurette had no artistic ambitions as an adolescent. In an email dated April 19, 2018, he explains that he had dropped out of school and did not dream of becoming a writer, at least not until 1976, when he won an award for a radio script, Rêve d’une nuit d’hôpital, that was broadcast on Radio-Canada.

Images of two pages of Normand Chaurette’s book Œuvres complètes. Tome I.

Images of two pages of Normand Chaurette’s book Œuvres complètes. Tome I (MIKAN 4929495)

Images of two pages of Normand Chaurette’s book Œuvres complètes. Tome I.

Images of two pages of Normand Chaurette’s book Œuvres complètes. Tome I (MIKAN 4929495)

So why did he fill page after page of a book with tiny words when he had no expectation of publishing it? Chaurette was going through a difficult time in his life: he had dropped out of school, was questioning his future and wanted to be out on his own. With the help of certain substances, he searched for his identity and retreated into his own world. As he explained in a telephone conversation, this was the time of the October Crisis, strikes, demonstrations and schools being closed down; it was a dark and very uncertain time for him. He could not talk to his parents about his fears or share some things in his life, so he took refuge in writing, drawing and painting, where he expressed all of his uncertainties and fears. He spent sleepless nights sketching and writing in books that served as his diaries.

Knowing this creative context sheds new light on the book and explains certain passages. The dark tone of the prose aligns with what Chaurette was experiencing, as this extract from his poem “L’ode au désespoir” illustrates:

Ma parole est une prison

Ma parole est carrée comme une prison dont le rebord noir perce les pages de ce recueil…


My words are a prison

My words are like a square prison with black edges that pierce the pages of this book …


Readers are given access to the writer’s private thoughts. We also learn that the titles in this work are meaningful. For example, Chaurette had family in London, England, and he went to the city to learn English. So it is not surprising that some of his writing was done there. Chaurette envisioned a second volume, but the heavy demands of the first one led him to abandon this idea. With the passage of time, he moved on to other projects.

Chaurette wrote his texts in code, in tiny, almost illegible letters, worried that his journals would be discovered. He destroyed most of them as he went along so his parents would not find his compositions. Only the book Œuvres complètes. Tome I survives. Chaurette is pleased that Library and Archives Canada will preserve and make accessible to researchers the confidences of a troubled youth who became a major author. We can already see in this work the talents of a young writer who would develop over time.

Michel Guénette is a performing arts archivist in the Social Life and Culture Private Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Canada’s first declaration of war

By J. Andrew Ross

Among the rarest documents at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are those signed by Canada’s monarchs, and they represent some of the most important moments in the nation’s history. As part of our digitization programme, we recently scanned one such document that resides in the Ernest Lapointe fonds: a single sheet of paper that marks Canada’s entry into the Second World War.

A typed, one-page document asking the the king to authorize a proclamation of war on the German Reich on September 10, 1939.

Submission requesting the king’s approval to issue a proclamation declaring a state of war with the German Reich, September 10, 1939 (Ernest Lapointe fonds, e011202191)

Signed by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, the document is a request for permission to issue a proclamation declaring war against the German Reich. The king indicated his approval with a handwritten “Approved” and a signature: “George R[ex]. I[mperator].” Though a seemingly straightforward document, the date—September 10, 1939—raises a question. While this was indeed the day Canada declared war, as Lester Pearson (then working at Canada’s High Commission in London) observed, “some historian of the future will wonder how George VI and Mackenzie King could have been together on September 10th 1939.” (Pearson, Memoirs, 139) In the era before supersonic transatlantic air travel and the wireless transmission of documents it would have been impossible for Mackenzie King (in Ottawa) and the King George VI (in London) to have signed the same document on the same day.

The answer to this conundrum can be found in LAC’s collections, and further research shows that this document was just one of several that had to be created to resolve a problem Canadian officials had never encountered before: How do we declare war?

As the prospect of Germany invading its neighbours grew in 1939, Canada expected to have a role in the resulting conflict. Unlike the onset of the First World War, when British dominions like Canada had been assumed to be included in the British declaration of belligerency against the Central Powers, Canada now had the option of making its own decision. In 1926, the Balfour Declaration had established that the United Kingdom and the dominions were now autonomous in domestic or external affairs, and this had been formally enshrined in the Statute of Westminster of 1931.

Fast forward to September 1939. As the Blitzkrieg rolled across Poland, prompting the UK to declare war against the German Reich on September 3rd, it was now up to Canada to decide its own fate—to join in, or to stay neutral. Most Canadians generally understood that Canada would be involved, if not militarily then at the very least economically, but Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King wanted parliament to formally endorse the decision to enter the war. It did so on Saturday, September 9th.

Major policy announcements such as declarations of war also required a formal proclamation to be issued by the governor general on the advice of the Cabinet of Canada. This advice was in the form of a formal request signed by a cabinet minister, called a submission, to the governor general. To issue a proclamation in this case, there were two obstacles to overcome.

First, despite the independence given by the Statute of Westminster to Canada to make its own decision to go to war, it turned out that the Canadian governor general himself did not actually have the power to approve a proclamation declaring war, so the government required the permission of George VI himself, as king of Canada. After the House of Commons vote on September 9th, the Department of External Affairs asked Canada’s high commissioner to Great Britain, Vincent Massey, to arrange an audience with the king to get His Majesty’s signature on a document approving the issue of the proclamation. On the morning of September 10th, Massey hopped into his son Hart’s sports car and was driven to see the king at the Royal Lodge, the monarch’s country retreat on the grounds of Windsor Castle. Massey got the royal signature and cabled the news back to Ottawa, where Mackenzie King was anxiously awaiting the news and convincing himself that “the enemy” might have contrived “to destroy the [transatlantic] cable between Canada and England.” (WLMK Diary)

The other obstacle was that the two-page document that the king had approved had been written out in longhand from a telegram and was not signed by a cabinet minister, as was required. For this reason, External Affairs referred to this as an “informal approval” document and promised that a formal (signed) submission would soon follow.

Even before the king’s approval had been received, the proclamation had been drawn up and signed by Governor General Lord Tweedsmuir (in the name of the king), Prime Minister Mackenzie King, and Minister of Justice Ernest Lapointe.

A proclamation, bearing the Great Seal of Canada, announcing that Canada was at war against the German Reich.

Proclamation of war against the German Reich, September 10, 1939. Note that the day (“tenth”) is handwritten in the document (Registrar General sous-fonds, e011202192)

The staff of the Government Printing Bureau also produced a published version as an “Extra” edition of The Canada Gazette, the official organ for conveying government announcements. The Printing Bureau staff were locked into their office on Saturday and Sunday, to preserve secrecy, and were released only after the arrival of the published Gazette at the offices of External Affairs (then in East Block on Parliament Hill). The time of delivery was 12:35 p.m. EDT (another source says 12:40 p.m.), and by pre-arrangement this was agreed to be the moment that Canada could be considered to be officially at war against the German Reich.

But was it?

A printed, bilingual declaration of war against the German Reich bearing three signatures across the page.

The Canada Gazette “Extra”, September 10, 1939, the published version of the proclamation of war against the German Reich. Curiously, this copy is autographed by Tweedsmuir, Mackenzie King, and Lapointe (Arnold Danford Patrick Heeney fonds, e011198135)

On October 24th, six weeks after Canada’s announcement, Massey cabled External Affairs asking when the formal submission with a minister’s signature would be received, as had been promised. The king’s private secretary, Sir Alexander Hardinge, had told Massey he was concerned that “the document which the King signed on the basis of cabled representations may well have no constitutional validity owing the fact that it did not and could not bear the actual signature of the minister.” In other words, there was some question as to whether Canada was technically at war at all.

External Affairs went into action and sent a typewritten document signed by the prime minister and backdated to September 10th. King George VI signed this on November 27th and returned it to Ottawa. So it took two-and-a-half months after Canada had declared war for the official documents to catch up to the event!

In the end, there are four key items that document Canada’s first declaration of war: the informal approval created from a telegram and signed by King George VI; the proclamation issued by the governor general; the “Extra” of The Canada Gazette; and the backdated formal submission signed by both Mackenzie King and the king. Three of these documents reside in LAC’s collections and are reproduced above, but the whereabouts of the first—the informal approval from the King—is unknown. There is a clue, however: we know that over the fall and winter of 1939–1940 Massey had actually refused several requests to send the document back to Canada, saying that Buckingham Palace did not want it “embodied in the records of the Canadian government” because of its dubious constitutional status (Pearson, Memoirs, p. 140). Lester Pearson, who was second-in-command to Massey, later wrote that he understood that the document had remained in London, “though whether in the possession of His Majesty or the Canadian High Commissioner, I never learned.” (Ibid.)

By J. Andrew Ross, archivist in the Government Archives Division, with contributions from Geneviève Couture, archival assistant in the Private Archives Branch, Library and Archives Canada.