Canada’s zombie army

By Andrew Horrall

In the early morning of October 24, 1944, one week before Halloween, Prime Minister Mackenzie King dreamed about close friends. King—who was fascinated by spiritualism—felt that his dream signified “the presence of relations interested in matters pertaining to myself, and wishing to let their presence be known” (WLMK diary, October 24, 1944, p. 1). During that day, King noticed further signs of otherworldly guidance, as he tried to resolve an issue that was splitting his government and the country.

At the start of the Second World War in 1939, King had promised not to introduce conscription, but now Canada’s army in Europe desperately needed reinforcements. King spent the afternoon chairing a heated discussion in Cabinet about whether to force young men into the military. He was especially annoyed when Thomas Crerar, the Minister of Mines and Resources, insisted that “Zombies ought to be sent overseas” to help end the war (WLMK diary, October 24, 1944, p. 8).

A colour poster of a smiling soldier with the caption: Come On, pal ... ENLIST!

“Come On, pal … ENLIST!” recruiting poster, ca. 1942 (c087427k)

Modern readers might ask themselves, did the government debate sending one-time humans, transformed by infection into cannibalistic undead monsters, into battle? The answer is no. The Cabinet discussion reflected how wartime tensions had transformed the relatively uncommon term “zombie” into a popular Canadian colloquial expression.

Zombies appear in many contemporary movies, comics, books and television programs; however, in the 1940s, zombies were much more obscure and still firmly rooted in Haitian folklore as mindless, mute automatons raised from the dead to perform manual tasks. Most North Americans first heard about zombies in a bestselling 1929 book, The Magic Island, whose author claimed to have met actual zombies in Haiti. Hollywood adapted the book three years later into the first zombie movie: White Zombie. Bartenders also began mixing the “zombie,” a potent rum cocktail whose stupefying effects put people in mind of the addled creature.

The story of zombies in the Canadian army is more complicated. At the start of the war in September 1939, King pledged that he would not introduce conscription for overseas military service. The issue had split the country in 1917, and it threatened to do so once again. Volunteers were instead asked whether they agreed to fight overseas. In 1940, the National Resources Mobilization Act gave the government the power to conscript men, but only for service within Canada. Individuals still had to declare their willingness to become General Service, or “GS” men. Tensions between the two groups—the GS men and those who refused to serve overseas—soon became apparent at basic training stations throughout Canada. GS men derided those who had elected to serve in Canada as “Maple Leaf Wonders” for not accepting dangerous front-line posts. After completing their training, many GS men proceeded overseas, while those who remained at home undertook administrative
tasks and guarded Canada’s coasts.

A colour photograph of three men climbing over a wooden fence clad in helmets, short-sleeved shirts, shorts, and socks and boots, and carrying rifles.

Troops in basic training, Lansdowne Park, Ottawa (e010778708)

Ongoing political, social and military tensions about conscription resulted in a national plebiscite in April 1942, in which English Canadians voted to give the government the power to force men to fight, while French Canadians opposed the idea in equal numbers. The deep divisions were apparent to King, who tried to chart a middle ground under the slogan “conscription if necessary, but not necessarily conscription.”

A black-and-white photograph of a man standing at a lectern that is wrapped in the Union Jack, in front of a large audience of workers. Policemen are in the first row.

James S. Duncan, President and General Manager of the Massey-Harris Company, urging workers to vote in favour of conscription in the forthcoming national plebiscite, 1942 (a164429)

By early 1943, men who refused to fight overseas were being ridiculed as “zombies” by GS men, women in uniform and the public at large. It is not clear when the insult was first used to depict these men as cowardly, passive and unable to think for themselves. The image was reinforced by English-Canadian newspapers and magazines, which reported on how zombies were the target of jokes and were linked to supposedly subversive elements in Canadian society, and how women refused to date zombies. A photograph in the Toronto Star in January 1943, showing a group of shipyard workers who had painted zombie faces on their welding masks, suggests that some men were proud of their decision not to fight and embraced the supposedly degrading term (“Shots behind scenes in Canada’s war factories,” Toronto Star [January 13, 1943], p. 17).

The idea of zombies was seared into the Canadian imagination in July 1943 by reports about a riot at a Calgary military base. Fighting broke out there after GS men taunted those who refused to serve overseas with “Salute to a Zombie,” a song that appears to have been commonly heard across Canada. The copy sent to Colonel J.L. Ralston, the Minister of National Defence, who strongly advocated sending zombies overseas, is preserved at Library and Archives Canada.

A typed poem with a rubber stamp marking on the side and some handwritten text on the bottom.

“Salute to a Zombie,” RG24, vol. 2197, file HQ 54-27-63-38

By the time King chaired the Cabinet meeting a week before Halloween in 1944, he faced intense pressure from ministers, military commanders and large sections of the public to send zombies into combat, because Canadian army casualties could no longer be replaced by volunteers alone. King resisted until November, when he decided to compel some 17,000 zombies to go overseas, causing a wave of desertions and a short-lived mutiny in British Columbia. In the end, about 2,500 zombies fought in Europe, where 69 of these soldiers died.

A generation of Canadians, mostly in English Canada, associated zombies with bitter social divisions caused by the Second World War. The term’s modern meaning and the creature’s prominent status in popular culture dates to the release of the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead.

Andrew Horrall is a senior archivist in the Private Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada.

King’s and Queen’s Counsel appointments in Canada

By Rebecca Murray

“A [Queen’s Counsel] appointment is a mark of recognition to honour lawyers who demonstrate exemplary service to Canadian society through their dedication to the law and to Canada’s justice system.” (Minister’s Transition Book, Department of Justice) Among members of the Bar itself, getting the designation is sometimes referred to in English as “taking silk.” This is because when you get the designation you become entitled to wear silk robes that are also cut differently from the plain black cotton robes. Appointments at the federal level are now restricted to federal public servants, but in the pre-Confederation era, appointments were granted through letters patent, now found in the sous-fonds of the Registrar General (RG68) held at Library and Archives Canada.

To identify these appointments via letters patent, follow these steps:

Step 1

Find the General Index for the period. For the pre-Confederation era, look at one of the following two indices:

Step 2

Next, find the entry in the alphabetical table of contents:

Step 3

Go to the corresponding page in the General Index. For example, you will find the index to appointments for pre-1841 records for both Upper and Lower Canada on pages 539 and 540. The post-1841 indices are on pages 316–318 for Lower Canada, and pages 318–320 for Upper Canada.

Step 4

Looking at page 540 of RG68 volumes 894 and 895, “General Index,” C-2883, as an example, we can read the list of names and select those of interest. Let’s take Alexander Buchanan as our example. The letters patent granting his King’s Counsel (KC) designation were issued on June 19, 1835, and can be found in liber 14 on page (folio) 279.

A black-and-white page of handwritten text in a ruled notebook.

Excerpt from page 540 of the General Index for pre-1841 records, specifically for King’s and Queen’s Counsel appointments.

Step 5

To find the specific liber within the record group (RG68), use Collection Search and follow the model below. The first and second screenshots below show the search screen and terms used while the third shows the item level result.

A colour screenshot of search results with the page title “Collection Search (Beta)”.

A screenshot showing the search terms and first results page in the Collection Search (Beta) function.

A colour screenshot of search results with the page title “Collection Search (Beta)”.

A screenshot showing filtered results by date.

A colour screenshot of data with the page title “Collections and Fonds – 1336219”.

A screenshot showing the item level result.

Step 6

From the results page, we see that the document is available on microfilm, and in this specific case, it is available on digitized microfilm.

We can then navigate through the reel until we find the relevant document and page.

A black-and-white page of handwritten text in a ruled notebook.

An excerpt of the text of the commission appointing Alexander Buchanan Esquire, King’s Counsel, in RG68 volume 110, file 14, page 279, found at image 514 of digitized microfilm reel C-3926.

When Alexander Buchanan received the designation “KC” in 1835, Canada was just years away from the arrival of Queen Victoria to the British throne. This means that if he had still been practicing law in good standing at the time of her coronation, Buchanan would have changed the “KC” designation to “QC”, to reflect the female monarch. Similarly, current QCs in Canada will change their designation to “KC” upon the coronation of a king.

Library and Archives Canada also holds the private fonds of numerous King’s and Queen’s Counsel appointees, such as the Ramon J. Hnatyshyn fonds (R10945) and the John Duggan fonds (MG29-E88). Here is a challenge for readers:

If you are interested in the history of King’s and Queen’s Counsel appointments in Canada, pre- and post-Confederation, I encourage you to review our holdings for related records and to do research to find out more about how the appointment is awarded in your home province or territory today.

Rebecca Murray is an archivist in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Images of the Steel Industry now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of workers supervising the pouring of molten steel into moulds.

Workers supervise the pouring of molten steel at the Atlas Steel Company, Welland, Ontario [e000760732]

Steel is an alloy mainly of iron ore with some carbon. Its production is a major industry in Canada, currently concentrated in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

A black-and-white photograph of three women railroad workers wearing heavy work clothing and gloves while posing with their shovels.

Portrait of three railroad workers posing with their shovels, Stelco Steel Company of Canada, Hamilton, Ontario [e000762848]

A black-and-white photograph of a worker standing beside a furnace directing the pouring of molten steel into a ladle.

Worker stands beside a furnace directing the pouring of molten steel into a ladle, Stelco Steel Company of Canada, Hamilton, Ontario [e000760223]

Steel is a versatile material and is used to make a variety of products, such as barrels, fasteners, structures, home appliances, vehicle parts and even food containers. Like aluminum, steel is easily recycled for reuse. Many of Canada’s steel plants make steel from scrap.

A black-and-white photograph of a worker holding a pyrometer over his eyes to measure the temperature of molten steel.

Worker uses a pyrometer to measure the temperature of molten steel at the Sorel Steel plant, Quebec [e000760214]

Semi-finished steel blooms, slabs or billets are processed into shapes by rolling or forging for commercial and industrial products. Steel was first manufactured in Canada in the 1880s. By the early 1900s, manufacturing centres were established in Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Sydney, Nova Scotia. Production of steel increased during the Second World War and rapidly expanded during the postwar period.

Visit the Flickr album now!

The George Ayoub fonds – a passion for ships

By Kelly Anne Griffin

Many people enjoy birdwatching, trainspotting or stargazing, but George Ayoub loved observing ships. Ship watching and nautical history fascinate many Canadians. This is no wonder, since our country has over 200,000 kilometres of coastline and almost 800,000 kilometres of freshwater shores.

George Ayoub was born in 1916 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. In 1930, he became a sailor at age 14, with a lifelong passion for ships and maritime history. His collection, held at Library and Archives Canada, gives us a glimpse into the nautical past and the waterways that helped shape our nation and build our economy. The fonds includes over 20,000 of his photographs taken between 1940 and 1990 at various locations along our seaways, most notably the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Great Lakes, the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal. The vast collection of images provides fascinating insight into the history of shipping as well as the use of leisure craft. The fonds also includes textual material that complements the photographs and that records not only the history of the shipping industry but also individual ships that sailed the waters.

St. Lawrence Seaway

The St. Lawrence Seaway, opened in 1959, transformed the shipping industry by opening the Great Lakes to ocean-going traffic. When the seaway opened, George Ayoub started to compile an important collection of records on the backgrounds of the different vessels that came to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway during the 20th century. He also photographed many of these himself. Today, the St. Lawrence Seaway is one of the great ship canals of the world, carrying freight between the heart of North America and the rest of the world. The George Ayoub fonds contains numerous images that reflect the variety of vessels that travelled the seaway.

A black-and-white photograph of a moored tugboat. The crew is on the deck.

Jean-T on the St. Lawrence Seaway, Iroquois, Ontario, September 28, 1975. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213397. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub

A black-and-white photograph of a large ship passing through the canal.

Kingdoc on the St. Lawrence Seaway, Iroquois, Ontario, September 5, 1965. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213399. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.

Rideau Canal and Ottawa River

Officially opened in 1832, the Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. The War of 1812 made clear the need to have a navigable waterway connecting Lake Ontario to the Ottawa River, because traffic on the St. Lawrence River was vulnerable to attack. The huge undertaking provided a secure supply route from Montréal to Kingston that avoided the St. Lawrence.

The Rideau Canal locks provide wonderful boat-watching opportunities. Around many locks, onlookers often watch in fascination as the locks move the vessels along. The George Ayoub fonds includes many excellent photos, taken over the years, of boats passing through the locks.

A black-and-white photograph of a moored leisure vessel on a canal beside a large building.

Korab in front of the National Arts Centre, Rideau Canal, Ottawa, June 14, 1971. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213400. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub

A black-and-white photograph of a small moored fire boat in a wooded stretch of waterway

St. John’s Fire Boat (Gatineau Boom Company) at a dock near Hull, Quebec, November 19, 1967. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213403. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.

A black-and-white photograph of a tugboat towing a sailboat across the water.

Sailing yacht Wild Harp pulled by tugboat TANAC V-222, September 10, 1972. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213404. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.

A black-and-white photograph of a medium-sized boat in the process of crossing a system of locks.

Templeton in the Rideau Locks, Ottawa, April 17, 1964. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213405. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.

Canada’s affinity with water is shaped by our vast and beautiful shorelines. Ship watching continues to be a major tourist attraction for many communities along waterways. From busy shipping routes to quiet, peaceful lakes, Canadian waterways truly help us live up to our motto, “a mari usque ad mare”: “from sea to sea.”

Related material

Kelly Anne Griffin is an archival assistant in the Science and Governance Private Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

From the Lowy Room: Rebecca’s Bible

By Michael Kent

One of my favorite things about working with rare books is that these books have a potential to connect me with history in ways that extend beyond their written content. One such example of this potential is the 1786 Book of Leviticus published by Lion Soesmans. What makes the copy now located in the Jacob M. Lowy collection special is that it contains the signature of one of its former owners, Rebecca Gratz (1781–1869).

A colour photograph of the frontispage of a Bible showing the third book of Moses.

Rebecca’s Bible (AMICUS 45161685)

While you may not have heard of Gratz, you quite likely have heard of a far more famous fictional Rebecca: Rebecca of York, the heroine of Walter Scott’s 1819 novel Ivanhoe. A work of historical fiction, this novel helped spur the popular images of Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, King Richard and Prince John. This Rebecca is a dark-haired beauty, a healer, and the central female character of the novel. Desired by men, kidnapped, tried for witchcraft, and ultimately fleeing England, Rebecca of York is an empowering fictional Jewish woman.

While the inspiration for Scott’s Rebecca is debated among scholars, many point to Gratz as the origin. As legend has it, Scott heard about Gratz while visiting his friend, writer Washington Irving, at his home in Abbotsford, Scotland, during 1817. Irving was reported to have had great admiration for Gratz, and he imparted these sentiments to Scott.

While the fictional Rebecca is no doubt an inspirational character, the real life Rebecca is far more impressive. Born in 1781 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, her family would move to Philadelphia during her childhood. In Philadelphia her family would become prominent in the Jewish community and in wider society.

From a young age, Rebecca would become a leader in philanthropy and community work. At 20, she helped found the Female Association for the Relief of Women and Children in Reduced Circumstances, a non-sectarian charity aiming to help poor families. One of her next major initiatives to help the poor came in 1815 when she helped establish the Philadelphia Orphan Asylum.

A black-and-white painting of a young woman dressed in fashionable clothes of the period.

Rebecca Gratz portrait by Thomas Sully. Courtesy of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.

Gratz was also heavily involved with Jewish charitable organizations. In 1819, she helped organize the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, which is presently the oldest continuously operating Jewish charitable organization in the United States. The goal of this organization was to provide assistance to Jewish woman in need. This organization functioned independently of any synagogue, but also sought to counter similar work by Christian organizations seeking to convert Jewish woman in need. Her quest to help the poor would continue in 1855, when she helped establish the Jewish Foster Home and Orphan Asylum. This organization would go on to become a model for foster care in the United States. She was also involved with United Hebrew Beneficent Fuel Society and the Hebrew Ladies’ Sewing Society.

Arguably, one of Gratz’s biggest accomplishments in the Jewish community was in the area of education. In 1838, she founded the Hebrew Sunday School Society with the sponsorship of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society. Inspired by the Christian Sunday schools, her school offered a free Jewish education to any Jewish child in Philadelphia. This school also provided one of the first opportunities for Jewish education for female students in the United States. Gratz’s model for Jewish education is still alive and well today in Jewish supplementary schools across Canada and the United States.

Perhaps most impressive is that Gratz accomplished all this charitable work while raising her sister Rachel’s orphaned children.

Learning about all her accomplishments, it is not hard to understand why Rebecca Gratz has been compared to Mother Teresa.

Whether or not Gratz truly inspired Scott, these two inspirational women—one real and one fictional— share a deep commitment to community service. In Scott’s novel Ivanhoe, the fictional Rebecca expresses this sentiment before leaving England, referring to herself in the third person: “. . . since the time of Abraham downward, have been woman who have devoted their thoughts to Heaven, and their actions to works of kindness to men, tending the sick, feeding the hungry, and relieving the distressed. Among these will Rebecca be numbered.”

Being able to handle this historic Bible, I am humbled to think of its former owner and her truly remarkable legacy.

Related link

Michael Kent is curator of the Jacob M. Lowy collection at Library and Archives Canada.

Private Thomas Ricketts, 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 Newfoundland’s Private Thomas Ricketts and his selfless bravery demonstrated at Ledeghem, Belgium.

A black-and-white copy of a newspaper clipping. “Proclamation!” is written in large, capital letters at the top of the clipping.

Seeking recruits to the 1st Newfoundland Regiment, The Daily News, August 22, 1914 (Source: The Rooms)

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Newfoundland was a dominion of the British Empire. In order to support the British Army and war effort, Newfoundland recruited a volunteer army, garnering enough men to outfit and sustain a battalion throughout the entirety of the war. Two additional battalions were later added: the 2nd Reserve Battalion, mostly stationed at Ayr, Scotland, and the 3rd Battalion, responsible for recruiting and training in St. John’s. In 1917, in recognition of their courageous actions and heroic participation during the battles of Ypres and Cambrai in France, King George V bestowed the regiment with the prefix “Royal”.

A sepia photograph of a soldier in uniform with a Victoria Cross and a Croix de Guerre pinned to his chest.

Private Thomas Ricketts, VC, undated (Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia)


Born in Middle Arm, White Bay, Newfoundland, on April 15, 1901, to John and Amelia (Cassels) Ricketts, Thomas Ricketts enlisted with the 1st Battalion, Newfoundland Regiment, on September 2, 1916. He was underage—only 15 years old—when he volunteered, but claimed to be 18 on his attestation papers. His deception went unnoticed and he was accepted. He embarked for England with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and during his service was shot in the leg in November 1917. Ricketts returned to his regiment in the spring of 1918, after recovering.

On October 14, 1918, the 1st Battalion was participating in the advance from Ledeghem, east of Ypres, in Belgium. The regiment had been fighting through rolling smoke and mist to push back the Germans and capture enemy pillboxes and weapons. By mid-morning, the mist had burned off, revealing a stream, the Wulfdambeek. Forced to cross it, the regiment was exposed to enemy fire. They suffered heavy casualties and soon after were pinned down by enemy shelling. Unable to call on their own artillery fire to combat the German shelling, the only solution was to disable the enemy battery and weapons and to kill the enemy soldiers.

Ricketts volunteered to run forward with his section commander, toting a Lewis machine gun in an effort to outflank the battery. They rushed forward in short advances under heavy machine gun fire, and soon ran out of ammunition, still 300 yards away from the battery. The Germans saw an opportunity to move up their gun teams to take out the advancing pair while they were vulnerable. Ricketts realized the situation and retreated 100 yards under debilitating machine gun fire to retrieve more ammunition. Upon his return with additional resources, he adeptly handled the Lewis gun, driving the enemy and gun teams back to a nearby farm. With the threats removed, the platoon advanced without casualties and captured four field guns, four machine guns, and eight prisoners. Later, a fifth gun was intercepted and captured.

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier in uniform, angled away from the camera.

Private Thomas Ricketts, undated (Source: National Defence)

As recounted in the London Gazette:

By his presence of mind in anticipating the enemy intention and his utter disregard for personal safety, Pte. Ricketts secured the further supply of ammunition which directly resulted in these important captures and undoubtedly saved many lives.

London Gazette, no. 31108, p. 309, January 6, 1919

Ricketts survived the remainder of the war and was discharged on June 17, 1919, for demobilization. He was invested with the Victoria Cross by King George V on January 19, 1919, at Sandringham, England, when he was only 17 years old, the youngest Victoria Cross army combatant recipient. He returned to Newfoundland a war hero. Upon his return home, he returned to school and later became a pharmacist. In addition to his Victoria Cross, Ricketts was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Golden Star for his gallantry.

He died in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on March 21, 1967.

Rickett’s Victoria Cross and Croix de Guerre is on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file for Private Thomas Ricketts.

Tag pictures and give history a hand

You can tag the images in this blog! Immerse yourself in the CEF digitized files and transcribe, tag, translate and describe their content. Every addition to a record becomes new metadata, searchable within 24 hours, helping LAC’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 of Library and Archives Canada.

Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie, VC

By Emily Monks-Leeson

On this day in 1918, Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie was killed in action northeast of Cambrai, France. His actions on that day would lead to his posthumous award of the Victoria Cross.

Wallace Lloyd Algie was born on June 10, 1891, in Alton, Ontario, the son of James and Rachel Algie of Toronto. He graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada and volunteered in the active militia with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and the 40th Regiment, serving as a lieutenant.

A black-and-white photograph of an officer wearing a peak cap.

Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie, undated. Source: Directorate of History and Heritage (National Defence and the Canadian Forces)

Algie was a bank clerk in Toronto before enlisting as an officer in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) on April 19, 1916. He sailed on the SS Laconia on September 25, 1916, and was attached to the 95th Battalion upon arrival at Seaford, England. He proceeded to the European theatre with the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion on May 26, 1917. He completed various officer training courses, including one on the Lewis Gun.

On October 11, 1918, the 27-year-old lieutenant was leading his troops in the 20th Battalion of the CEF near the village of Cambrai, France, when they came under intense machine-gun fire from a nearby village. His citation in the London Gazette, January 28, 1919, tells the story of the actions that led to his death and the awarding of the Victoria Cross:

“For most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice on the 11th October, 1918, north-east of Cambrai, when the attaching troops which came under heavy enfilade machine-gun fire from a neighbouring village. Rushing forward with nine volunteers, he shot the crew of an enemy machine gun, and, turning it on the enemy, enabled his party to reach the village. He then rushed another machine gun, killed the crew, captured an officer and 10 enemy, and thereby cleared the end of the village. Lt. Algie, having established his party, went back for reinforcements, but was killed when leading them forward. His valour and personal initiative in the face of intense fire saved many lives and enabled the position to be held.”

Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie is buried in Niagara Cemetery, Iwuy, France.

A typed page detailing the events of October 10 to 11, 1918.

War diary page of the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion explaining Lieutenant Algie’s actions for the day (e000960948)

Library and Archives Canada holds the CEF service file for Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie.

Emily Monks-Leeson is an archivist in the Digital Operations and Preservation Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Images of Chickens now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of a small boy. To the boy’s left is a white rooster on top of a pedestal.

Portrait of Henri Groulx, Lachine, Quebec [MIKAN 3194088]

Chickens are domesticated birds that we use for eggs and meat. There are a number of chicken producers and egg-laying hatcheries in each province. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ontario and Quebec have the highest concentration of producers followed by British Columbia and Alberta respectively.

A colour photograph of a man placing water dishes in an enclosure for chicks.

A man provides water for chicks in one of the Marshall Chicken Ranch hatcheries, Toronto, Ontario [MIKAN 4301626]

A black-and-white photograph of two women inspecting eggs, as they move along a conveyor belt, and placing them in cartons.

Ms. Hines and Ms. Dominey preparing eggs for consumers, Port Williams, Nova Scotia [MIKAN 4948583]

Chickens are not migratory, have a small territorial range, and cannot swim or fly well. People easily captured the birds and brought them along when moving to new locations. Domestication happened quickly. From family use to businesses servicing large urban populations, chickens have proven to be extremely versatile in terms of care and breeding.

A black-and-white photograph of a man feeding chickens next to their coop.

Poultry raising, Oromocto, New Brunswick [MIKAN 3643515]

Visit the Flickr album now!

The aeronautical engineers at A.V. Roe Ltd.

Web banner with the words: Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada showing a small picture of an otter fishing on the rightBy Andrew Elliott

In 1948, the first class of the new aeronautical engineering school at the University of Toronto graduated. This graduating class comprised people such as Gerald Vincent Bull, Fred Matthews, Daisy Pon, William McCarter, William Kuzyk, and Ralph Waechter. Most of these individuals (including the first woman to graduate in aeronautical engineering) would take on jobs at the A.V. Roe Ltd. headquarters in Malton, Ontario. They would go on to work on various aspects of a number of revolutionary aircraft that would appear within the next ten years, including the famed (and fated) supersonic Avro Arrow. Library and Archives Canada recently acquired the fonds of two of these individuals, William Kuzyk and Ralph Waechter.

The story of A.V. Roe Ltd is, as the Canadian Air and Space Museum suggests, “a chronicle of triumph and tragedy for Canadian aviation.” Starting in 1945, the company had two initial projects. One was a commercial aircraft called the Jetliner, or the C-102. The other was a military aircraft, a two-engine, all-weather fighter-interceptor called the Canuck, or CF-100. Finally, starting in 1950, the company began work on the design for the Avro Arrow. The company assembled aeronautical engineering teams from Britain and Canada and began work on the design of the airframe and turbo-jet engines for these airplane types.

The C-102 Jetliner was a revolutionary aircraft designed for commercial air travel. The first flight of the C-102 Jetliner was in August 1949, and in every subsequent flight, it broke records for speed. Unfortunately, production of the aircraft never went beyond the testing phase.

A black-and-white photograph of an airplane on a runway with groups of men hanging around the aircraft.

Avro Canada C-102 Jetliner aircraft (a092486)

One of A.V. Roe’s most successful productions was a two-engine, all-weather fighter-interceptor called the Canuck, or CF-100, as seen here:

A black-and-white photograph of an airplane on a runway with a man looking into the open engine box and another man standing behind him.

Avro Canada CF-100 (a068257)

The CF-105 Arrow had “technically advanced features’, such as the striking high delta-wing, tailless configuration, as well as other leading-edge aerodynamic features. You can see this in the early designs:

A black-and-white cross-section drawing of an airplane showing the fuselage, wing and vertical tail for an airplane.

Drawing no. 7-0400-01, Issue 1 of CF-105 Avro Arrow (e011161348)

A sketch of the outline of a very futuristic looking airplane.

Sketch of Avro Arrow (e011161340)

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, it was an exciting time to be an aeronautical engineer, and A.V. Roe hired new graduates in the field immediately.

Ralph William Waechter (1926–2012) studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Toronto from 1944-1948. After graduating, he was hired to work as an aeronautical engineer, a flight-test engineer, and an experimental aerodynamicist at A.V. Roe Canada Ltd. in Malton, Ontario. William Kuzyk (1922–1990) attended the University of Toronto between 1943 and 1949, graduating with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1949. While he was completing his degree, he also worked for A.V. Roe as a design checker in the Gas Turbine Division.

During their decade of work at the company, Waechter and Kuzyk worked in various departments. Among other things, they were flight test engineers in the Flight Test Research Department. Here, their principle activity was data collection. Many of their reports deal with the technical challenges of high-speed flight and the related phenomena that can occur. Along this line, there is considerable data and graphs indicating performance and effects, particularly in relation to air speed and high-speed performance. Concerning the Avro Arrow, both aeronautical engineers tested the performance of various other experimental versions, including those with zero-length launch technology.

A black-and-white drawing of the side, front, and top views of an aircraft.

Rocket Geometry Zero Length Launch, CF-105 Arrow (e011161341)

A detailed technical drawing of an airplane in launching position.

Arrow Launching Position for Zero Length Launch (e011161347)

A drawing showing two planes above the clouds.

A photograph of a drawing of a CF-105 AVRO Arrow (a111546)

Despite continued design and flight success through to 1958, the international and national political climate played a role in the demise of the Avro Arrow. On February 20, 1959, the federal government cancelled the entire Avro Arrow project. All work on the project ceased, and 14,000 employees at A.V. Roe were laid off. Waechter and Kuzyk, like many other employees, found jobs in aeronautical engineering companies in the United States where they would stay through the 1960s. Unlike others in the field, they came back to Canada in the early 1970s and had continued success in their fields of expertise.

When the Avro Arrow project was cancelled, it was advised that all project records be destroyed. Consider, then, how lucky it is for us that neither William Kuzyk nor Ralph Waechter heeded these orders. Because of this, we now have unique visual evidence of the innovative aeronautical research and development that was occurring in Canada in the middle part of the 20th century.

Further research

LAC holds various fonds containing material related to the Avro Arrow, including:

As well, material can be found in the fonds of various Members of Parliament and Prime Ministers, including:

Within the government holdings, a researcher may find scattered material about A.V. Roe and its various aeronautical projects:

Andrew Elliott is a private archivist in the Science, Economics, and Environment section of the Archives Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Captain Coulson Norman Mitchell, 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 Coulson Norman Mitchell and his courageous acts at the Canal de l’Escaut, France, from October 8 to 9, 1918.

A black-and-white photograph of an officer in uniform.

Captain Coulson Norman Mitchell, VC, ca. 1918 (c001595)

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on December 11, 1889, Mitchell was a civil engineer before enlisting as a private with the Canadian Railway Construction Corps on January 21, 1915. In 1916, he became a lieutenant and joined the 1st Tunneling Company, Canadian Engineers. Mitchell was promoted to captain in 1917 after receiving the Military Cross for his gallantry. In 1918, Mitchell was posted to the 4th Battalion, Canadian Engineers. During his time with the 4th Battalion, he performed a heroic feat that helped to ensure Allied success at the Canal de l’Escaut, northeast of Cambrai, France.

A black-and-white photograph of a dried-out canal with a crooked bridge in the background. A bridge in the middle distance has a horse-drawn carriage crossing it with supplies. Throughout the photo, soldiers are moving about, and some are carrying supplies.

Canadians constructing a bridge to move supports and supplies, Canal du Nord, France, September 1918 (a003285)

After the end of the Battle of Canal du Nord on October 1, 1918, Allied soldiers were intent on entering and clearing the town of Cambrai. Previous offensives had opened some roads into the town, and now a further manoeuvre was needed to bring in the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. German resistance was strong to the northeast of Cambrai, and the Canadians aimed to capture and move beyond the town. The following days would see a Canadian offensive, with Canadian forces liberating French villages against stubborn German resistance.

On the night of October 8 to 9, 1918, Mitchell led a party of sappers (soldiers responsible for building and repairing roads and bridges, and clearing mines) on a reconnaissance mission near Cambrai. Their task was to go beyond the security of the Canadian front lines to inspect bridges over which the Canadian 5th Infantry Brigade planned to advance. The goal was to prevent these bridges from being demolished. After coming across one bridge that had been destroyed, Mitchell and his team moved on to the next bridge, which stretched across the Canal de l’Escaut.

A black-and-white photograph of a town with damaged buildings, with stone and rubble heaped in the middle. One soldier is bent to the ground beside a large pile of debris. A nearby soldier standing to the left is watching him.

Canadian Engineers looking for mines in Cambria, France, October 1918 (a003271)

Under heavy barrage and in total darkness, Mitchell ran across the bridge, unaware of the enemy’s positions or strength. He discovered that the Germans had prepared it for demolition. With the assistance of a non-commissioned officer, he cut the detonation wires and removed the explosive charge. When the Germans realized that their explosives were being removed, they moved toward the bridge to set off the detonations. Seeing that his sentry was wounded, Mitchell rushed forward to assist. He killed three German soldiers and took 12 prisoners. Saving the bridge helped to assure the later success of the 5th Infantry Brigade’s operations.

As recounted in the London Gazette:

Then under heavy fire he continued his task of cutting wires and removing charges, which he well knew might at any moment have been fired by the enemy. It was entirely due to his valour and decisive action that this important bridge across the canal was saved from destruction.

London Gazette, no. 31155, January 31, 1919, pp. 1503.

A black-and-white photograph of an officer in uniform.

Captain Coulson Norman Mitchell, VC, ca. 1918 (c001594)

Mitchell served in the Canadian Engineers until April 28, 1919, when he left during general demobilization. He returned to Canada after the war and resumed his career as a civil engineer. During the Second World War, he commanded engineering units in Britain. In 1943, he returned to Canada as a lieutenant-colonel in charge of an engineering training centre. After the war, he returned to his civilian career once again.

Mitchell’s service in both world wars has been commemorated in a variety of locations. In Manitoba, Coulson Mitchell Lake was named in his honour. In Montréal, a street and a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion bear his name. The main building of the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering at the Canadian Army Base in Gagetown, New Brunswick, also carries his name.

Mitchell passed away at his home in Montréal on November 17, 1978.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Captain Coulson Norman Mitchell.

Transcribe war diaries or tag pictures, and give history a hand!

The War Diaries of the Canadian Engineers 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 is a project assistant in the Online Content Division of the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.