I will return after Xmas....
Hope all have a great celebration and use your masks till we meet again
Canadian Medal of
I have just spent about 6 hours writing a portion of today's blog. Weebly just killed all of it. This has happened dozens of times in the past and I am not in the mood to recreate this again today.
I will return after Xmas....
Hope all have a great celebration and use your masks till we meet again
Verifying a few details is taking longer than expected..but the blog will appear tomorrow.
Please join me then for an important revelation.
For far too many Canadians, and probably some from around the word, we see that Remembrance Day has passed for yet another year and we can move on until the next one rolls around.
But perhaps we should remember who it is that allows us to enjoy that day in the first place. In fact... to enjoy all days!
In my case both, my parents served in WWII. Each has told me and my siblings many stories of the years they spent away from home in service to our country and the free world.
We have also been told the story of a relative that was tied to a tree and used by the enemy for bayonet practice, a matter confirmed by the Red Cross years later. Perhaps we can remember our grandfather who was buried alive in a shell crater, and dug up in time. That, either before or after having five of six horses shot out from under him and eventually managing to come home with the Military Medal pinned to his chest.
Another relative in WWII would show his bravery by standing up and motivated his men to follow him through heavy enemy fire. He came home with a Victoria Cross pinned to his chest.
As I step out of my front door I am reminded of all the WWI men and women who never got the chance to come home again as I walk or drive along Shelbourne Street... the Memorial Avenue lined with trees on either side. The plan to have one tree per member lost fell aside for many reasons, but of late a plan evolves to have more planted, and even massive gates at either end.
While not facing the enemy myself, many of my students have. One would lose a husband and a father. A decades long military friend was assigned to lead a patrol, but in the last minute, plans were changed to allow another officer to take the lead that day. It was his last.
Each of us has our own ways to remember. This blog, starting its 9th year in two weeks helps Canadians, Americans and others elsewhere to remember by reading about those that have gone before us. Those in particular that have come home with the highest medals one could earn in both Canada and the United States. Many had fallen and their medals arrived by mail or presentations back home to family.
Almost 550 stories have appeared hear to help you and I to keep these men and women in our minds as we remember them not just on November 11th... but on all our days.
Last week's blog gave an update on the Remembrance Illuminated 2020 showing of over 100 paintings of WW11 by some 50 or more official Canadian war artists.
That show took place on the 9th 10th and 11th of November. The later being a busy day for me.
For the 15th year, (less one due to illness,) I attended and paid my respects at the grave to the late Rowland Bourke of Victoria. Several members of the HMCS Malahat, the local Naval Reserve unit also attended and held a brief ceremony. It was their 7th year attending and the numbers were a little lower than usual. This due to the dreaded Covid-19 affecting millions around the world.
For those that are new to the blog, Rowland Bourke has been written about often in this space.
English born, but raised in northern BC, a terrible accident happened while clearing the land. A cousin was lost in the blast and he lost an eye.
Then the Great War began. He tried to enlist but the army and navy and air force all declined him in Canada because of his loss of site in one eye. Not to be defeated, he sold his land, donated a considerable amount of the proceeds to the local community to help look after returning injured troops and left for greener pastures. So he thought!
But then the Americans in all three services also declined him. So he then paid his own way to England and tried a third time. Getting the same result he persisted and persisted and persisted and the Naval Reserves finally gave in and took him on.
They'd planned on keeping him well out of harm's way and chuckled as his fellow officers would joke about him driving boats into... instead of along side the docks. But soon the planned invasion came and he was allowed to tag along... as long as he stayed way back from the action.
But for Rowland Bourke it was a start!
If you drive through the Channel Tunnel traveling between England and France, one of the exits is at Calais. Turning left and traveling about 100 km northbound along the coast line you come to a place called Ostend. Traveling about another 25 kms you arrive at a harbour called Zeebrouge. Both of these ports are at an entrance to a canal that travels inland about 25 kms to Brugge.
During WWII the Germans used these waterways as graving docks for servicing and supplying their submarines.
If the Allies could destroy the two ports they could neutralize the submarines from exiting, and thus the British attacked both with the hopes of scuttling vessels and blocking access in and out of each.
But the Allied intelligence got the enemy strength wrong, and with the tides and weather not cooperating, the attacks at both harbours were disastrous. Conditions for the Brits turned so bad that most of their ships were destroyed. And then they recalled the tag along fellow.
His name was Rowland Bourke!
At Zeebrugge in April 1918, Lt Rowland Bourke moved to the front of the line to rescue sailors from certain death by enemy fire or drowning. His crew managed to save 38 men from this fate. He would later be awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) by HRH King George V.
The DSO is just one medal lower than the Victoria Cross, the highest medal for bravery in the British Empire. Here we see the front, at left, and back of the DSO.
Less than two weeks later a similar mess occurred when the British attacked the Ostend Harbour. This time Bourke made repeated trips in to look for survivors in the water. He would hear a call for help and look for the fellow and head off, only to return several more times and eventually, after several men were saved, he withdrew and carrying some 55 shots into his hull from the enemy. He lost 2 of his crew on that day.
Once again HRH King George V would reward Rowland Bourke with a medal. This time it was the Victoria Cross.
Here is the naval Victoria Cross. It is the same as the VC for other services with the exception of having a blue ribband above the suspended medal. At about the time of his latest award all blue ribbons were disbanded and from then till today all are the same red colour.
This is the man who lies at rest with his wife in Victoria at the Royal Oak Burial Grounds. And it was here that I made my first stop on November 11th.
The first of the two images above shows me visiting the grave on Remembrance Day many years ago. The marker at that time was the flat marker shown here. Hard to see but in my left hand is a poppy about to be placed on the marker.
Seven years ago several groups and folks organized the arranging of a new marker at the grave site. In the lower picture we see myself and behind me is the Belgium Ambassador to Canada at the time, the honorable Bruno Van Der Plyme. To his left is the former Commander of Maritime Pacific, Rear Admiral William Truelove.
Years later the Rear Admiral was posted to the Canadian Embassy at Washington, and from there was most instrumental in assisting with several US cases I was working on. One on point was the unveiling of a new marker in the DC area for a Nova Scotia colored man and recipient of the US Medal of Honor. His name was Joseph Noil and has been oft noted in this space.
He had been buried under the wrong name for about 130 years till I and many others joined efforts to solve that puzzle.
The young fellow I was shaking hands with is Shane Jones of Victoria. one of Rowland Bourke's descendants.
These four pictures were taken bu a local photographer by the name of David Cox. He also attended the Remembrance Illuminated 2020 showing and has attended several such events in the local area and developed a following of those who like his professionalism, and profound interest in the military.
At above left I am placing a poppy and to the right is Commander Miller of HMCS Malahat also placing a poppy and wreath.
Commander Miller reminded me that when he was taking his Basic Officer training at Albert Head I was an army Sergeant Major and one of his instructors that very year.
Ironically it was another Commander years earlier that assisted in the unveiling the new VC marker 7 years ago. And that Commander was a seaman on "goffer" staff at Albert Head when I was on the first or 2nd of five years as a Sergeant Major and instructor there. He rose in rank from a goffer to its commander.
In his first appearance at the grave he made a commitment, at my request, to have his unit adopt the grave with plans for these annual visits and ceremonies.
Each commander since has followed with this new tradition.
In the last picture we see Shane 7 years and a few feet taller. He stands with his mother Judy and husband Jason, who payed an instrumental role in the original planning of the new marker and its unveiling.
Having lost a lot of weight, my clothes sure look like they need replacing. But never the less that is me proudly looking on.
I shall return to this space on December 13th
Hope you will join me then.
It was probably back in the late 1950's when some of the kids in our family accompanied our father, proudly wearing his WWll medals and legion crest as he set off to his designated space. He was of course selling poppies in the days before November 11th. It would not be long before I and other siblings were asked to hold onto the trays that slung around our necks and actually work the beat selling poppies for several days for the legion, and our nation.
Embarrassingly, I have to admit that some of us also enjoyed to odd nickel or dime that failed to make it into the pot, probably with our help.
Over the years we would some times even see our Dad, marching with other WWII vets. As the years passed he would join others in the back of military trucks in the procession and giving friendly waves to those thousands gathered to be part of the day. Like Dad, I too would march with the Toronto Scottish for years behind their famous Pipes and Drums as we proudly marched along Young Street or Avenue Rd or University Avenue in Toronto. (memory fails on locations)
Years later I would be living in BC and yet again, in November would attend parades in Sydney and see my father either marching or, in later years riding in army trucks with his companions from the local Army and Navy or Royal Canadian Legion, he being a long time member of both.
The duty for me to remember was pounded into my head by parents who were both WWII veterans. Dad even for about 2 decades after the war. So, from the mid 50's to this year, on just about every Remembrance Day I have been out in support and to give thanks to those who served or continue to serve. Be it at the war front or the home front.
Two blogs ago in this space I brought you the story about a celebration during Remembrance Week of those who served. By using lights and technology, well over 100 images where projected outdoors, telling us the story of the war. And in so doing also remind the audience that it was the 80th anniversary of the end of the first year of that terrible conflict.
The slides shown were not just a bunch of pictures. The images were of 50 or more actual official Canadian War Artists and well over 100 or their historic paintings. Each told stories we have a duty to remember... all year round!
Here again is the front cover of the program that brought these wonderful images to the community on November 9th-11th in Victoria, BC.
It was produced by Christ Church Cathedral and the Canadian Scottish Regimental Association. Both having a very long tradition of supporting the community they so proudly serve.
While the logos above are difficult to see, they represent agencies that have supported this and so many other causes. They represent Veterans Affairs Canada, The Royal Canadian Legion, United Rentals, Shoestring Filmworks, Kobalt Systems, Alaris Design, local artist Robert Amos, the Pacific Coast Branch of the Western Front Association, and the Royal United Services Institute of Vancouver Island.
For the three days, each night over 100 images were shown in about a 25 minute span, and shown again and again for several hours. The Cathedral sits on the traditional territory of the Lenkwungen-speaking people, specifically the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.
Regular followers of this space know of my interest, not only in the military but many women's issues and in particular those who have accomplished much on both fronts.
The earlier blog brought you a few comments on one of the official artists... Mrs Molly Jean (Lamb) Bobak, Vancouver area born and resident for years on the east coast. During the war she was a commissioned officer and she would married another officer, who also was one of the official War Artists.
Both his and her paintings were included in the presentation here in Victoria. Local historian John Azar, who's name has appeared many times in this space, was the Project Lead on the Remembrance Illuminated 2020. He notes that that while clearly not advocating war, he and others behind this project recognize that when the call to arms came, it was met. Yet they, and so many others would be the first to say they pray for peace. But that aside, they... and we... must not fail to remember and honor those who have served and continue to serve our nation... and the world.
Here again, I bring you an image of Lieutenant Molly Jean Bobak. And here are several of her paintings featured in the recent showing here in Victoria...
The first is titled... Pvt Roy and the 2nd is called CWAC Cook at Work. (PVT is the short form for a Private, and the CWAC stands for the Canadian Women's Army Corps.)
And here are a few more of her paintings...
I believe there are over 100 of her paintings and an incredible diary of paintings almost day to day for years, held at the Library and Archives Canada.
I highly encourage you to check these out by going to... www.bac-lac.gc.ca and typing in ...Mary Lamb Bobak. This should lead you to not only her paintings but also a daily diary which is fascinated. It covers several years and includes her sketches on most pages and explanations about the events of the day.
While there you can also type in my mother's maiden name Cathryne H (Blackley) Armstrong to see several of her paintings, though these are not official artist paintings.
I attended the first showing of the Remembrance Illuminated 2020 program and stood in the cold and rain throughout this most impressive production. The efforts of those involved should not go unnoticed. But a clearer night surely should have been arranged... hehe
I shall return next Sunday to give more on my Remembrance activities on November 11th this year.
Hope will join me then,
From coast to coast to coast, Canadians and others in the millions will stop at 11 am tomorrow to honour our service members. Those who fell in service to Canada and the British Empire, be it as soldiers, sailors, airmen, coast guardsmen and women, merchant marines and others whose lost their lives in service during many wars.
Tomorrow, had the terrible Covid-19 not struck, tens of thousands would have gathered at the tomb of Canada's unknown soldier of WW l. They would have joined hands and hearts, not in celebrating any war, but to give remembrance to about 57,000 Canadians killed and another 141,000 wounded in the Great War.
This gathering traditionally takes place at Ottawa's Confederation Square, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but tomorrow it will probably be carried via the internet instead.
This tomb has been on the visiting agenda of many heads of government, bureaucrats/politicians from around the world and also members of the Royal Family whilst in Ottawa.
Here we see the National War Memorial in Ottawa. At its base is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier adorned by poppies placed at one of the annual ceremonies.
The idea of the memorial comes from the November 1920 unveiling of the Unknown Warrior's tomb at Westminster in London. A commitment was then made to have the same done in Canada. It only took till 2000 to see the light of day. These remains were exhumed from near Vimy and brought home to Canada in May 20 years ago.
Knowing that Canadians took past in the London ceremony I recently did an internet search for their names.
In a rather stunning result, the first hit I came up with was from a newspaper in Pennsylvania. It was from Pottsville, about 100 miles North West of Philadelphia.
Regular followers of this blog might remember the name of Pottsville. And it is thanks to this fellow... and my blog.
This fellow's name was John Hanna, a Union soldier during the US Civil War. He was one of the 29 veterans near the end of the war that were selected to serve as members of the funeral Guard for President Abraham Lincoln, and his son Todd whilst being escorted from DC to Springfield Illinois for burial.
Each of the guard were later awarded the Medal of Honor, (an event that became part of the illegal scandal of 1917) when some 1,000 medals where removed from the official records. A matter often noted in these blogs in the past.
The Medal of Honor recipient was born in Atlantic Canada, as was one other guard member. He too was awarded a Medal of Honor that was later purged. Here is a picture of the very medal Hanna was awarded...
His name is inscribed with the name of his unit, and the fact that the medal was awarded for his being on the funeral guard escort, and dated in April 1865.
The connections of this story to Pottsville is due to my locating his grave for his Canadian descendants. It is in Pottsville.
NOTE: above left image seems to have eaten the first line.. that lines says....
It lay apart last night in a room especially....
Whilst hoping to get some names of the Canadians in attendance, this article did not contain any. Another site did note that two Canadian private soldiers, one from a Canadian infantry unit, and one from a Canadian Machine Gun unit, were on the guard of honor back in France that escorted the Unknown Soldier to the French shore on its first leg of the journey back to England. But their names are also unknown to me so far.
Nor did the article tell of the very man who played such an instrumental role in the creation of the memorial in London.
That man was a chaplain by the name of David Railton, MC. He was serving in his religious capacity during the war and actually at the front lines. There he saved many wounded soldiers lives and was awarded the MC... the Military Cross... for his bravery.
While on brief respite at his billeted quarters near Armentieres France, he visited a small backyard and noted a small white wooden cross marking a grave. In a black pencil note it read... "An Unknown British Soldier, 1916, member of the Black Watch."
After much thought and discussion over the next few years, he finally contacted the Right Reverend Bishop Herbert Ryle, Dean of Westminster with the thoughts that this concept should be adopted and a unnamed soldier should be exhumed from a grave in France and moved to Westminster, with an appropriate ceremony to boot.
After due consideration the powers to be right up to HRH George V approved and a plan was developed and put into action as evidenced by the great news story from right here in Victoria in 1920. Here it is...
This article gives the names of three officials from Ottawa who attended the ceremony.
Here also is a group picture of Victoria Cross recipients said to be the Honour Guard for the London Memorial....
Discovering a list of those above, I checked and do not believe any of these recipients were Canadian soldiers.
While the original request from the padre called for the monument to be called the unknown comrade, officialdom thought it was too provoking and ought to better reflect that the remains were of an interred warrior, which in itself reflected service in the army and navy, marines and newly created Air Force of the day.
The public were advised that since the Abby space was very limited in size, any seeking entrance to see the ceremony at the Abby had to write to request permission.
100 women were selected who lost all of their sons, others were so selected for having lost their only son. One 13 year old girl wrote telling of the horrible loss of NINE brothers. She and the above were admitted, as was a 12 year old boy who wrote and said..."that man in the coffin might be my daddy."
The procession, unveiling of the new Cenotaph on Whitehall and the actual coffin were shown to the select crowd on May 11th, 1920. At exactly 11 am there was the call for the two minute silence, and then, the cenotaph was first unveiled for public viewing. Then they moved into the Abby to see the actual coffin being lowered into the grave. It lay in earth undisturbed since the Abby was first built in the 11th century.
Over 40,000 viewed the grave on the first day, and some 1.25 million would pay their respects within the next week.
Here we see several dignitaries and guests viewing the grave, located below the Union Jack, and a painting depicting what the painter saw at the ceremony. He shows HRH King George V facing the coffin. The painting today hangs in one of the offices of the Parliament Buildings in London.
While a temporary marker was installed over the grave in 1920, the above permanent marker was installed the following year. It is made out of black marble from Belgium. The engraving is made form melted down brass shells.
This marker is the ONLY AREA within the Abby where visitors are forbidden to walk.
I would highly recommend you take a few minutes and google the Unknown Warrior at Westminster and you will find at least 3 very short video clips.
They are most interesting!
I shall return to this space on November 22 and hope you will join me then.
In the mean time I would appreciate it if you could do me a favour.
Please pass this blog to your friends and neighbours.
Nowhere else in the blog world will you find blogs like these, now well over 500 strong. You could also send a quick note to the local press to tell them of this work. Their audiences would surely appreciate the work done here.
Thanks, and cheers till Sunday the 22nd.
I am not sure if other bloggers face the same dilemma I seem to be in week after week with my research efforts.
Of late, my blogs end noting stories planned for the next missive. But then the curse happens again!
Information arrives that I feel needs to be shared in a timely fashion. Thus, all good intentions to serve whatever is on the table seems to get pushed aside until the next blog.
That's the spot I am in today. I will be covering a subject today and another special blog tomorrow in this space. But both, yet again result in my tabling planned materials for today. I trust and hope that after reading this blog you will agree with this decision!
I shall start with this lady, who I knew nothing of a few weeks ago, and many of you perhaps have never heard of before. She is pictured below in the uniform of a Lieutenant in the Canadian Women's Army Corps ... the C.W.A.C.'s of WWll.
British Columbia born Mary Lamb joined the war effort with service in the CWAC from 1942-46. Soon promoted to Lieutenant she saw service at home and then overseas.
Her talents as an artist soon saw her being appointed as Canada's first... and only female war artist of WWll. Of a few dozen official war artists of the era, she would outlive all the rest. Her work was of a very high standard and some of her paintings ended up in the National Gallery of Canada.
In fact the federal government has catalogued her extensive war time diaries in the form of art work. These can be viewed at.... www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/second-world-war/molly-lamb-bobak/Pages/molly-lamb-bobak-artist.aspx
This work is quite fascinating and I encourage all to take some time to check it out.
I thank John Azar a fellow member of the Pacific Branch, of the Western Front Association for bringing me this information. John and his wife are well educated, a very active military historians and speakers locally, and strong advocates of my work. More importantly they are a great friend.
In telling me about Mary (Lamb) Bobak, John also shared the news that some of her work will be up in the lights...quite literally in the days to come.
After the great work last year on and around Remembrance Day at the above noted church, a second slide show will be shown at night to feature WWll art works, including some of Mary's artistry. It will be about 25 minutes long and possibly repeated 4 times each night.
This work was been produced by Christ Church Cathedral and the good folks at the famed Canadian Scottish Regiment with the support no doubt of other groups and individuals. It promises to be well worth the visit if you are in the Victoria area on the nights of November 9th to 11th.
And while in the area, right across the road is the memorial to the Canadians killed in Afghanistan. It is lit at night and should be visited while you are there.
Don't forget your masks!
Here are a few other paintings from another war artist, but this one was not accredited. She also signed up with the CWAC and served in Ontario and then Europe during WWll.
Having studied a little art before the war young woman from the Huntsville area of Ontario put paint to the easel and got so good at it, and the depiction of war scenes before even leaving Canada, that she was convinced to enter some of the work in a nation wide contest. At least one, if not more of the paintings actually became part of the display that traveled across the country.
Then she went off to war and served in clerical functions with the C.W.A.C. and assignments in England, Belgium and France. Upon return to Canada she settled in the Toronto area with her new husband, also a vet and officer to boot. She would soon be the mother of five, one of them being yours truly. (Her work in the field of advocacy has been the subject of many a blog in this space.)
Her above four paintings are now held also by the National Art Gallery at Ottawa. A dozen more adorn my living-room walls, and yet more are tucked away due to lack of wall space.
On Tuesday I will bring you a special edition of the blog with a VERY timely story that I also trust you will find quite interesting.
Please join me then,
Earlier today the number of deaths in the US from Covid-19, that started in 2019 was at 231,000 men, women and children lost. That's about 1/4 of those who passed away from the virus all around the world.
The losses to the families, loved ones, friends, neighbours and so many more, will be suffered life long. As will be the costs paid financially and otherwise to all who are left behind. Sadly many will be awaiting the same fate.
And then there are those who are left swimming for their lives. Not in the rivers of water, but those filled with tears of pain and sorrow.
Bennie Adkins was wounded 18 times but still manage to muster the strength to help his wounded brothers in Vietnam back in 1966. Sergeant Major Adkins was finally recognized for his heroism in 2014.
It only took 48 YEARS!
On September 15, 2014 he was awarded the nation's highest medal for bravery... the Medal of Honor.
Five years later the Sergeant Major joined with about 200,000 others Americans who also died from the virus or complications related to it. One that was only supposed to last a week before it would mysteriously disappear within the country.
So they said!
Still with the virus, a group of friends gathered and formed what they called The Covid-19 Memorial Project.
Going far and wide to seek financing and volunteers, their herculean task unveiled their results on September 22nd of this year.
Here we see probably the youngest volunteer placing one of the their 20,000 flags at Washington DC's National Mall.
Each was to represent ten of the lost victims.
Moving along to another topic, regular readers of these blogs have noted in my earlier statements that some 50,000 or more Canadians went to, or were already in the US when they joined up for service in the US Civil War.
These men... and a few women disguised as men, served in over 250 Union Regiments, and the navy. Thousands also served with some 50 Confederate regiments and the Southern's navy.
Some say that the first Canadian deaths in the Civil War actually happened before the war. One reference says that the above three imaged men were all killed in 1859 during the John Brown raid against the Armoury Fire Engine House at Harper's Ferry Virginia.
My research suggests that only one of the three was Canadian born, two had Canadian connections and only two of the three were killed in the famous raid or after sentencing.
The raid organized by Brown, an abolitionist, was conducted in the hopes, failed that they were, that the slave movement would rise up and rebel against their masters. Upon entering Harper's Ferry the men captured what was called the Armoury Fire Engine House.
Stewart Taylor was born in 1836 at Uxbridge Ontario, but had moved to the US by1853 and in 1859 got involved in the Brown Raid. He was killed there by the authorities 160 years ago last month...on 17 October.
Shields Green, above pictured, was a South Carolina slave who had escaped to Canada and got caught up with the Brown's raid. He was caught, tried and sentenced to hang. This was carried out in front of some 1600 spectators on 16 December 1859.
Osborne Perry Anderson, was also an escaped slave who came to Canada, and joined the raiding plans at Chatham Ontario. When he and another in the raiders realized the plan was doomed the two fled to Pennsylvania. One of the two was caught and later hung, but Anderson escaped and later made his way back to Canada, only to return to the US and become an Non Commissioned Officer in a Union regiment, served in the Civil War and did not die until 1872 and was buried at Washington DC.
I shall return on the 8th to tell of a major Canadian story... seemingly yet to be told. That blog will also finish the story started several blogs ago Alex.
Hope you will join me then,
Earlier Today Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a press release announcing that, once again this year, today is known as Person's Day. A day set aside annually to remember the famous case of 1929.
It references the... "two year-long battle in the landmark Persons Case" fought to secure women's full rights to participate in all aspects of life enjoyed by the men of the day. You can read the full release on net by going to.... www.newswire.ca/news-releases/statement-by-the-prime-minister-for-persons-day-866204573.html
The PM missed a great opportunity to note in the release the fact that the day falls within Women's History Month, and giving a few details about that event. Also missed was the chance to talk about the Persons Award and the fact that about 230 of these prestigious awards have been awarded since 1979.
When first created the award was called the Persons Award... but a few years later it's name morphed into what is now the...Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case.
I am at a loss why the net does not seem to reveal how many, and who, the 2019 recipients were nor yet who are the recipients for 2020. But the total since 1979's 1st recipient are probably about 230.
One of these medals is proudly displayed in my home in honour of my late mother, an 1989 recipient. A likeness of the medal is shown below.
For about the first decade of the award the suspension ribbon was white, while the current ribbon is shown above. The five figures are not likenesses of the famous five, but images of women just the same.
While the PM's release notes a two year battle for status as a PERSON, the journey for equality was much longer and did not involve all of the famous five in earlier days.
But it sure involved Emily Murphy, one of the five!
That story began a decade earlier in the Alberta Courtroom of Judge Emily Murphy. And case law in that matter, had to reach back to the mid 1870's.
Murphy was appointed in June 1916, as a Police Magistrate in Alberta. The appointment was the first for a woman in all of Canada... and indeed apparently in the British Empire. Soon an appointment as a Judge in the Juvenile court in Edmonton would follow. In 1917 the judgeship was extended throughout the province.
Then along came the case of Lizzie Cyr!
Lizzie was charged with passing along a sexually transmitted disease to the alleged victim. She accused him as being the one doing the transmitting. Her downfall was perhaps in her occupation. She was labeled as a vagrant, which, in those days meant a prostitute. She was also labeled as being a HB. (A half/breed)
She was found guilty. But her lawyer argued that the judge had no standing to preside over the case. He dug up a case going back to England and the year 1876. In it's earlier deliberations that court stated that... "Women are persons of pains and penalties but are not persons in matters of rights and privileges."
Judge Murphy was no doubt stunned by the response but, as noted above, found the accused guilty and sent her off to jail. The lawyer took the matter to the highest court in the province and lost. It observed that indeed women are persons.
In April 1928 the federal courts hearing the matter overturned the Alberta decision and said once again, that women were NOT persons.
Murphy soon heard that the matter could be taken outside the country and back to England if she could find another four who agreed with her about the merits of the case. At about this time the Famous Five, or Alberta Five as also know, had assembled and decided to take their case to Britain.
In those days there was no appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court and matters had to go back to the old county at that point. Having had several promises from Prime Ministers Borden, Meighen and finally King that all would look at the issue and try to resolve it, but these came to nothing.
Rather, they supported a new argument that the British North America Act of 1867, while taking about service in the Canadian Senate, made mention of PERSONS. Some sections went on to talk about HE could do this and that... But no mention of any SHE's. So the national argument taken to Britain argued that the BNA needed to be challenged... and it was.
On June 29, 1929 the first of a four day trial took place at London. Three months later... on 18 October 1929. Lord Sankey, Lord Chancellor for Great Britain announced the Privy Council's decision, shown here in part...
About 4 months later Cairine Wilson was appointed to the Senate of Canada, the first woman ever so appointed. She was an accomplished activist within the liberal and other circles and also daughter of a former Liberal Senator, and wife of a former Liberal MP. The government of the day was Liberal.
Politics aside, Senator Wilson did most honorable service in the senate for over 30 years.
Many in the women's movement thought that the logical choice for this first appointment ought to have gone to one of those taking the case to Britain, and favouring Judge Emily Murphy. But she was a Conservative.
On a closing note, I had planned on bringing you the last part of Alex's story, but today's took priority.
I shall return on Sunday November 8 with that story.
Hope you will join me then,
On 11 September, almost 4 weeks ago, I had intended to bring you some news on Alex, whom you have hopefully read of in past blogs. But other matters got in the way of that announcement. So his birthday wishes for September 15th...way back in 1833, are given today.
Alex was born in the town of York, so called by Upper Canada's Lt. Governor John Graves Simcoe 40 years earlier. York being chosen in honor of HRH King George's son Prince Frederick, the Duke of York.
Alex's father John Henry Dunn was clearly one of the elite in the town. He being Upper Canada's Receiver General for 17 years at Alex's birth and serving as such for another 8 years.
As you can see, I am still having server problems regarding editing photo's. But that aside the above picture shows where the Dunn's lived in York in 1833. A directory of the time sates that they lived on Lot Street, south side, at the corner of Peter Street, still in existence today. The lower image is an enlarged version of the one above.
Within a few blocks, a bricklayer by the name of James lived at # 49 Lot street. Unknown if a relative or not.
Within 6 months of Alex's birth the town took up a petition, successfully to change the name because there were "too many York's in use." They chose an English spelling of an indigenous name.. thought to mean a "meeting place". They also sought, successfully, to change from the status of a town into a city. A city called Toronto.
A portion of the document creating the new CITY, and with the name Toronto, appeared 2 blogs ago in this space.
In youth Alex would walk a few blocks to what may have once been called the College of Upper Canada, but in his day known as Upper Canada College. This was an all boys school, on King Street about 4 blocks West of Young Street. Here he no doubt started to learn about discipline, along with the other basics.
In the lower picture you can see the word MILITARY just below where he lived. Though the image is very poor quality, if you look two blocks to the left of the word ... Military, you can see a building and some red colouring. The words above it say it is the COLLEGE.. ie Upper Canada College.
Today you find Clarence Square in this general area. After his mother died, possibly in 1841, Alex and his father moved to England where the youth continued his schooling at the Harrow School in London.
Harrow was yet again another boys school, but it was one of the best in the country. Over the years it claimed educating 8 British or Indian Prime Ministers, including Churchill, many of the most senior politicians, 5 Kings, and other Royal Family members, 3 Nobel Prize winners, 20 Victoria Cross recipients and even one George Cross recipient.
After his formal schooling Alex did what so many from the 17th to 19th century. He bought a commission in the military. For the sum of about 1200 pounds be bought his ranks as a lieutenant in the Cavalry, and started service with the British Cavalry's 11th Hussars.
Buying a commission meant an immediate promotion to officer level, one that normal took considerable time, merit and experience in the lower ranks. By paying a sum of money, you were promising, on penalty of loss of the substatial amounts, to perform with due merit, integrity and bravery. Failing same you got the boot and they kept the money. Good service also meant a large sum waiting for you after your military days were done, and military pay stopped.
Very soon Alex.... or now Lt Alex... or more well known... Lt. Alexander Roberts Dunn would find himself caught up in the Crimean War.
But I will tell you all about that on Sunday October 18th.
Hope you will join me then.
Kay Armstrong, Kathy Blazkow and Lyn Gough. Three Names you Probably Have Never Heard Before. How Tragic!
This blog will bring you the important story of Alex. While very briefly noted in the last blog, and not for the first time in this space, its continuation appears today.
But first I feel a need, also not for the first time in this space, to remind you of the above three great Canadian women during this month. It being Women's History Month in Canada. An important event that was first mentioned here in early 2013, and numerous times since.
It was close to 30 years ago that the three above Greater Victoria BC women joined forces. Their goal being to create a week in BC to celebrate the incredible work that had been done by women over the years in bettering our country. This soon evolved into a formal committee, the celebration being expanded into a full month, and being National rather than Provincial.
For over a year in late 1990, throughout 1991 and early into 1992 the Victoria committee advanced their noble cause. Lyn served as the Chair, Cathy as Honourary Treasurer and my mother Kay as Honourary Patron. They wrote many, many, many letters and carried out other activities to request support from women's groups, law-makers and bureaucrats with a request to write Ottawa noting their support for the creation of the much needed monthly celebration.
On 9 March 1992, International Women's Day, the Honorable Mary Collins, then federal Minister Responsible for the Status of Women issued a press release. She acknowledged that women across Canada had called for, and the government had agreed that it was most appropriate that such a month be created.
The release, and others to follow, failed to mention the names of the three above mentioned woman. Never-the-less, the release told all that October of that year and each from then on would be celebrated as Women's History Month in Canada. (Americans celebrate such a month in March.)
As suggested by the original committee of three, the government also announced that October was chose for a reason.
It was in that month back in 1929 that the famous Person's Case was decided. That case was argued for years by the Famous Five, Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby and Emily Murphy.
The 1929 decision acknowledged that the men of the day, and more particularly... the lawmakers of the day, and the courts had been denying women the right to sit as a member of the Canadian Senate for decades. (A case much covered here in earlier blogs.) The case hinged on the wording of the BNA Act which noted that persons could be allowed to sit on the Canadian Senate. But the men argued for decades that women where NOT PERSONS.
The decision became known as the famous PERSONS CASE and overturned the ridiculous arguments once and for all.
As the Canadian society, and most others throughout the world have progressed over the years, much of this work had been done by the women of the day. Slowly they have been extended so many of the rights that the men of the day have taken for granted.
We still have work to do, And we need to remember those whose shoulders we now stand on, those like the above eight women noted.
Surely the least we can do is remember their names and give them the credits due when occasions like Women's History Month arrive each year.
But go find Kay's, Cathy's and Lyn's names together anywhere in the Canadian press this week!
I planned on sharing the Alex story today, but on reflection, I now feel that the today's blog should not be distracted by the addition of a 2nd story.
I will return on Wednesday with Alex's story.