As I have mentioned in another posting, I am waiting for the arrival of Joseph B’s medal. He enlisted with the Union forces 148 years ago, today.
My grandfather, James McIntosh, was a Presbyterian minister in Scotland so was a conscientious objector. However, he “did his part” in both wars. He served as a stretcher-bearer in WWI and then running canteens for soldiers in Dumfries during WWII.
In WWI, he once went out on the field to collect wounded men and a shell burst which appeared to have blown him and his men up. His mother was sent a telegram announcing that he was “missing and presumed dead”. It wasn’t until three days later that he and his men could get back and send word to their families that they were alive and well (uninjured, in fact).
Another time, as the British forces were being relieved by Canadians at Vimy Ridge, just before the big battle, the two long lines of soldiers filed past each other in the dusk. He could hear a voice calling out down the lines “Anyone know a McIntosh from Aberdeen? Anyone know a McIntosh from Aberdeen?”
He called out “I’m a McIntosh from Aberdeen!”. It turned out that it was his cousin from Winnipeg on his way in to Vimy. They couldn’t stop to talk but called out news of family to each other as long as they could be heard. After the War, he learned that his cousin had survived the battle and was safely home.
My ex-husband’s grandmother and his great uncles (as well as other relations) signed up in WWI.
His grandmother, Charlotte Edith Monture (Anderson), “Andy” to her friends, signed up with the American Army (the AEF) as a nurse. She served in Vittel, France with Buffalo Base Hospital 23. She was an amazing woman. I had the honour of transcribing her wartime diary. Until the war “hotted up” she recounted tea dances (Including one where she was asked to dance by Eddie Rickenbacker — “He was a bit full of himself”), baseball games, “flickers”, and picking strawberries.Once the American forces got into the thick of it and the wounded started pouring in, her diary dwindled to the odd entry about exhaustion and the wounded. Her last entry was after Armistice where she described a visit to the stench and mud and ruin.
One of her patients, a favourite of hers, who appeared to be on the mend suddenly hemorrhaged one night and died. She wrote to his parents and after the war went out to Iowa to visit them. They gave her a lovely silver cutlery service when she married. She died 6 days short of her 106th birthday and was buried with military honours, at Six Nations.
Her brother, Gilbert Monture, later on of the first Native Canadians to receive a degree and then achieve a government position, also served in WWI. They were Mohawks from the Six Nations of The Grand River reserve, in Southern Ontario.
My ex’s father’s uncle James David Moses, a Delaware, also from The Six Nations reserve in joined up in WWI. Hr started off in the infantry and then joined the Air services.
He was shot down over France and is commemorated as the first RCAF flier killed in action. He is remembered in the First World War Book of Remembrance.
My ex’s father, Russ Moses, served with the Canadian Navy in the Korean War. He told us many times of the time when the American Army contacted his captain. They had heard that there were a couple of Indians aboard. They had a special mission for them. They wanted to fool the North Koreans into thinking they were being fired upon so they wanted my father-in-law and his friend to make smoke signals for them. My father-in-law had to tell them that smoke signals were not something that Canadian Indians ever did and they didn’t know how to make them. I guess they thought that “an Indian was an Indian”.
Natives signed up in greater numbers in all wars than their White counterparts. All the more surprising since they fought and died for a country that they couldn’t vote in*, couldn’t own property and after the war would not receive their military pensions unless they “enfranchised” (gave up their Indian status). They couldn’t even go into a bar with their fellow soldiers to have a beer because they weren’t allowed to drink. In some cases, any benefits they got were sent to this Indian agent who got to decide how and IF they got to spend it. In some cases, the agents pocketed the money. Only in the last few years has the government started addressing the inequity of this.
My birth father served in the American Army in WWII as an officer trainer.
My father with his father and his third wife (his Dad’s), California, just before the attack on Pearl Harbour.
My step-father, who was studying at MIT tried to sign up with the American Army in 1941. However, he was rejected because of his race (“Our ”Indian’ contingent is filled” sneered the recruiting sergeant.). So he came up to Canada and joined the Canadian Army. They cared less about his colour than his willingness to fight. He served in North Africa, Italy, Sicily, France, Holland, and Germany. Canada’s willingness to accept him at a time of war rather than care only about his skin colour was a deciding factor on where he decided to live after he graduated. He came to Canada. He also joined the Naval Reserve, here.
After Dad died, someone (we think we know who) stole his medals from our house.
My mother also served in the Territorial Army in Scotland, after the war. During the war, she was in nursing. I’m afraid I don’t have a photo of her in uniform, though I know I have one somewhere.
* In the case of Edith Anderson, she wanted to train as a nurse but no Canadian hospital would train “an Indian”. She applied to the New Rochelle School of Nursing and was accepted immediately. In 1914, she began working as a Registered Nurse in an elementary school. After the War, she returned to Canada and began nursing on the Six Nations Reserve. The first Canadian Native woman to be trained as a nurse.
I actually met the grand-daughter of the first native woman to be trained as a nurse IN Canada. I believe her surname was Brule.