On the 25th of October 1918, seventeen days before Armistice Day, my father turned 18. He would have been of legal age to be conscripted into the fighting on the European front. Until 1917 there had been no conscription in Canada. But the Canadian government decided that the losses were so great and were outnumbering the new voluntary sign-up numbers that it was needed. There was much debate in Canada around the issue of conscription and it divided many. There were exemptions sought, especially from farmers whose sons were needed to labour on the land.
I do not know very much about my father’s circumstances other than he was one of those sons who lived on a farm. I do know that many young men lied about their age and signed up to serve as young as 14 and 15 years of age. My father was not one of those. I do not know what his feelings were about fighting in the war, whether he would have wanted to go or not.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, which brought an end to the slaughter that was the First World War, or also called The Great War.
Canada’s contribution in lives lost was considerable. With a national population of merely eight million, more than 650,000 men and women served and over 66,000 died and more than 172,000 were wounded. The effect on a generation was tragic. But, as a result of this contribution and sacrifice, Canada gained the right to have a separate signature on the Peace treaty signed on 11 November 1918. Just a colony of England no more, our land was recognized as a nation for the first time.
I have posted in the past around Remembrance Day and you can read them here and here.
I am sure my father, if he was able, would have served in Canada’s armed forces during the Second World War, but tragically he lost his left arm in an industrial accident in the late 1920’s, rendering him physically unfit.
Even though he didn’t serve in the armed forces during either war, I still think of my father at this time of year. He lived through both wars, first as a young man not old enough to fight, and then as a man unable to fight due to the loss of his arm. I don’t know what it was like for him seeing many friends go off to fight and likely never return, and he not being able to join them. Did he feel anger, resentment? I must ask my older siblings who might have memories of such conversations. I was only ten when my father passed away at the age of 70 of cancer.
What do you think about during this time of year when we remember the sacrifice of those brave men and women of our Armed Forces?
Do you have a family member that served during either of the two World Wars? Do you have a friend or family member that serves today? Leave a comment and tell me yours and their stories. I would love to hear them.