This is my grandfather Alec Paterson as a cadet at RMC Kingston. He graduated in 1913. He was one of a few Canadians that had had any military training before World War 1. I post this picture to introduce the central figure in a four year project of mine to tell the story of one family in the Great War.
On this day, August 4th 1914, Britain declared war of Germany. Canada was to declare war tomorrow on the 5th. But my grandfather, Alec Paterson signed up today. He served actively until Sept 9th 1918 when he was gassed and invalided out. He was one of a tiny number of men who had arrived in France in February 1915 to survive. He was the most decorated Canadain gunner of he war.
I have committed to write a weekly post for the next 4 years based on his and on the experience of my large extended family. I hope that I live to complete this!
This is a history book and an adventure story that is written in real time. Alec is a good pivot because he was in every Canadian major event and action of the war. What he lives through from the early days until the end, so did the CEF.
His is the universal Canadian story of that war.
In this project, I am very fortunate. The internet now offers us amazing eveidence. I have for instance the war diaries of Alec's unts for every day that he served. I have his war records. I have shipping manifests, train timetables, maps, photos and drawings. I have a mass of family items as well.
I will focus on Alec. But, because my family is so large, we will also find ourseleves on the Lusitania as it sunk in May of 1915. We will be in Canada, in the UK and in France. We will also look at the impact of this on the women in my family. Some died in the conflict, others drove ambulances, others ran hospitals. Others waited for 4 years to see their man or not. Most lost their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. I think they had a harder war then the men.
This is also a story of love. We will also see the love that grew among the men. Men who after the war shared a bond that could not be broken and that was held to until the last of them died.
And we will see how the great loss that affected every family changed the nation and the larger world.
I have no idea how this will turn out though really. It will evolve as the story itself does. One of my keenest hopes is that you can join in. I hope that as I talk about the events that affeceted Alec and my family that you may recall and have stories and pictures and letters of your own that we can all share. Imagine what might unfold?