Voices from the Trenches: Marking the centenary of the First World War
It's been 100 years since the start of First World War and while Canadians played a big role in the conflict, tens of thousands of lives were lost.
CTV London’s Sean Irvine has a special series on the 100th anniversary, looking at the contribution of three Elgin County men in the war effort.
As well, here online, we have details of their stories, photographs and links to learn more.
Much of our information was gleaned from the Elgin Military Museum, which has also been busy preparing for the Great War centenary.
The museum already has a World War I room.
“The farther we get away from the war, the more interest there seems to be in it,” says executive director Ian Raven.
The museum holds more than 9,000 Elgin County veteran records from the 19th to the 21st centuries.
Jeff Booth, director of the museum’s daily operations, says substantial information about the Great War will be on display and believes it will capture the public’s attention.
“The evidence for that is we’ve gone through the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and there were a number of initiatives that happened during the last three years of remembrance and ceremony. This is only half the age and there’s more people who can trace personal family ancestry back to World War I. This should lead to a lot of remembrance and commemorating,” he says.
Close to 3,000 men and women from Elgin participated in the First World War.
Booth has interviewed some of the veterans.
“There are many (WW I stories) that captivate me, but the most significant one was Ellis Wellwood Sifton, the only Elgin person to be awarded the Victoria Cross,” Booth says.
“He was awarded his Victorian Cross for his efforts at Vimy Ridge. He wrote letters home to his sisters I’ve transcribed and printed into a book.
"It shows he went on more than just a physical journey; it was an emotional and spiritual journey. He was a very religious man. There is a plaque commemorating him at St. Peter’s Church at Tyroconnell, where he was a member of the choir. His Bible is well read," Booth says.
He says Sifton’s unit came under fire from a machine gun.
“It was taking out people in the field. He single handedly charged the machine gun. In carrying out these gallant acts, he was killed.”
Booth has edited a book on Sifton, based on his letters. It is available at the museum.
There are many more stories on the lives of those who served.
“This institution tries to remember everyone who has done military service for their country,” Booth says.
“We probably have more women’s military artifacts than anybody else in the region.”
If you'd like to help restore and digitize all of the veterans' interviews, contact the Elgin Military Museum.