Page 69c2 Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries
Go to Great Collections List
Use Internet
More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has preserved.

Killed in Action - Pvt. William Ross Campbell - CEF - May 8, 1917

1 2 3 4 5 6
flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure Of all war memorabilia, letters home by soldiers, are the most emotionally gripping, especially those from World War I, when practically any moment, of every day, they could expect death, in the worst war ever experienced by mankind.

This soldier letter is among those that are the most tragic of all - the last one written to Dad - "the best of Fathers" - before he was killed in action.

724664 Private William Ross Campbell was from Argyle Ontario, a tiny crossroad, just a few kilometres east of Lake Simcoe.

He signed his Attestation Paper on Dec. 4, 1915, when he was 25.

He was an original member of the 109th Canadian Battalion, and arrived in France in early October 1916, as a replacement to the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion. 

Shortly after arriving in France he was wounded at the Somme, suffering hearing loss from a shell concussion.

He rejoined his battalion a few months later, after being temporarily attached to an entrenching battalion, and in early 1917 he participated in trench raids in the Vimy sector.

He participated in the attack at Vimy Ridge which began on April 9th, 1917.

He was killed by shellfire on the 8th of May 1917 in the fighting at Fresnoy, and obliterated into the mud of France...

Far, far, from the green fields of Argyle, that he used to plow...

Last Letter Home - Pvt. William Ross Campbell, Argyle, Ontario, Oct 4, 1916
Orig. letter - Size - 13 x 20 cm
Found - Waterloo, ON

This letter was written by Ross, a young Canadian farm boy, when he was in training at Bramshott Military Camp in Surrey England. It was a major gathering camp for the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in both world wars.

He writes home to say he will leave for the Front in France in a day or two.

Setting off a wave of panic on the home front, which young Ross tries to downplay, saying not to worry, we are in "god's hands."

He hints at the traditional grousing of the common soldier about the officers who stay behind and have a good time while their men go off to face the danger of confronting the Hun on the battlefield.

Interestingly Ross says the men are not allowed many comforts for where they are going to the front.

So, he says he is sending his Kodak camera home, and his safety razor... One wonders how he will shave?

And he lists the pathetic possessions that a typical soldier was allowed on the western front as he, daily, faced his last days on earth

- a suit of underwear
- a shirt
- 3 pairs of socks
- a sleeping cap
- cleaning materials

Not a great will of personal possessions to leave the next-of-kin.

He told his Dad he received the pair of socks he had sent him and they were fine.

Facing death makes many people introspective and Ross thought it was a good time to square himself with his Dad, before it was too late...

Clearly there had been some growing up headaches he'd given his Father, for which he now expressed his regret.

And added the final emotional line... that would ring in his Father's memory till the day he died.

No doubt his Dad treasured this letter for the rest of his life, and probably returned to it often to touch the pages his son had last held...

It was obviously kept from the hands of nosy busybodies as it looks like it was written yesterday.

Did it also give his Father regrets? Where did he go wrong if the "best of Fathers" had given his son an upbringing that cost him his life?

Ross has no known grave, but is one of 11,000 names on the Vimy Memorial along with other Canadians who were never found, but were just ground into the soil of France by the incessant shelling.

Go to Vimy
Go to Walter Allward's Vimy

Clearly he was a classic case of the farm boy who had very little experience in the real world, and had never served in the militia, yet claimed to "understand the terms of your engagement."

He thought that the life the Army had to offer had to be better than pitching manure, hauling firewood, and shucking corn.

Like so many young boys who joined up he couldn't comprehend that it was "till death us do part" and that the Army often delivers.

As it did for some 66,000 other Canadian boys in that war.

Ross not only never returned home, he was never found. He was simply obliterated from the human experience.

The Attestation form is useful also in corroborating signatures.

It proves that Ross did indeed address the envelope to his father and that he signed the letter.

The junction at Argyle, ON, where Ross used to hang out in happier days, at the smithy on the right and the general store, across the way.

And on the left, is the road to destiny, the route Ross took to Woodville just a few kms down the way, to sign his life away...

The buildings that saw him joshing about with his pals on Saturday night, and heard their laughing voices, are still there, brooding over the memory of long-lost youths, a hundred years later.

And how often, as the years passed, did they speak at the store counter, of Ross's tragic loss?

One, like so many others, who left as a young man, and gave up life itself, and for what?

The green fields around Argyle, where Ross once plowed the ground, thinking there has got to be more to life than toil and trouble... and the Army has got to be it...

So he walked, or took the horse - it was probably Queen or King - down to Woodville, where on Dec. 4, 1915, he signed on for the meal ticket that promised to deliver him from a life of boring drudgery on the farm...

It certainly did that...

Typical of the young boys who thought that the war would offer them adventure, and an escape from their humdrum lives at home, were Pvt. HW Hall sitting and Edward DL Hall from Ontario.

Go to Boys at War

As we learned from Ross Campbell's letter, they are wearing pretty well everything they own, and are dressed as Ross would have been when he met his death.

The Hall brothers were lucky.

They survived their youthful indiscretion, in signing up for war as a way out of a boring existence, which young men have been wont to do since time began.

God gave them another chance, and they were able to leave the horrors of war, and many dead comrades behind, ground into the mud of France, to resume meaningful jobs on civvy street.

So many of these young boys - all civilians volunteers - died that Remembrance Day was begun, to honour the sacrifice of countless tens of thousands who downed tools - it was supposed to be for but a moment - and picked up arms to serve their country, and never came back.

In World War I, 66,000 Canadians were sacrificed.

We remember them on Remembrance Day, and their brothers, civilians all, who signed up again in World War II. 44,000 more lives lost in war.

Go to Joe Barfoot

Remembrance Day - remember it - was not started, and never intended in any way, to honour professional soldiers who fight for pay, glory, medals, and love of blood sports.

The People of Canada sought to honour, instead, the selfless devotion of the civilian volunteers who fought and died, and to remember their sacrifice, for they had not sought personal glory, or to make a career of war and blood sports, but stepped aside from their productive lives on civvy street to put their lives at risk for their fellow citizens.

Go to Why We Remember

How things have changed in the 21st century...

Canada is fighting a corporate and Bushite engineered race war in Afghanistan - foreign white guys are doing all the shooting; local non-white Muslims are doing all the dying - that the vast majority of Canadians - not to mention the overwhelming majority of white and non-white peoples around the globe - have always strongly opposed.

Today, the great Canadian Civilian Volunteer Armies of two World Wars are a thing of the past. Canada now has a small professional army of career soldiers - who join up hoping to find a lifetime chance at blood sports against other human beings.

They get their inspiration from top Canadian General Hillier "We are the Canadian Forces and our job is to be able to kill people," who openly recruited young men who like to "fight" and "kill" two words that define his stewardship of the NEW Canadian Forces of the 21st century.

They were sent to fight a war that has, all along, been strongly opposed by the people of Canada. Their combat deaths are a merely a professional hazard of those who seek out work that offers them blood sports for its own sake. It's a travesty to clump these occupational hazard fatalities in with those of civilian volunteer deaths of two world wars.

The deaths of professional soldiers, who die in a corporate war opposed by the vast majority of the citizenry, have no relationship, whatsoever, to the sacrifice of 100,000 Canadian civilian volunteers, the Finest Generations of two World Wars.

Associating them demeans the genuine sacrifice of those selfless volunteers who always held that war is an aberration and not a pursuit - General Hillier to the contrary - worthy of any man or woman.

Who you remember and honour on Remembrance Day is up to you...

Go to Remembrance Day
flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure
Pvt. HW Hall & Edward DL Hall - Canadian Expeditionary Force, WWI
Orig. photo - Size - 8 x 13 cm
Found - Hamilton, ON

Unlike World War I and World War II, which were wholeheartedly supported by the majority of Canadians - making them democratic wars - the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan were/are wholeheartedly opposed by the vast majority of the People of Canada.

A stunning reversal, to say the least, in the Canadian taste for wars against people in foreign lands, in the 21st century.

No matter. Backroom political party bagmen, and corporate cronies, colluded to send Canadian troops anyway, in effect turning the Canadian Forces into a mercenary corps serving the establishment classes of elite politicians, corporate conspirators, and Mainstream Media moguls seeking to ingratiate themselves with their Bushite American pals.

An extreme right wing government, which only got 37% of the vote, despite two outings at the polls, sent fighting troops to make war on Muslims in Afghanistan, a policy clearly opposed by the 62% of the votes, and a far higher percentage of Canadians.

So, in no sense of the word is the Canadian war in Afghanistan democratic.

But it's what passes for Democracy in Canada in the 21st century...

Now do you know why the Nations of the World
refused to vote for Canada for a seat at the Security Council
on Oct. 12, 2010?