Saturday, May 30, 2015

Chapleau Boys Go To War' story of significant contributions at home and abroad in World War 1 and World War 2

The Chapleau Boys Go To War is  the story of the contributions and sacrifices made during World War 1 and World War 2, at home and abroad by the people of Chapleau.

My cousin, Michael McMullen and I have been working on this project for several years, and the book has just been published. 

In the introduction we note that 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the start of WW 1 and the 75th anniversary of the start of WW 2.

" Canadians volunteered to serve from all across their country for both conflicts, and small towns and villages, like Chapleau, made significant contributions to both war efforts. They went to war because they believed it was the right thing to do. They were representing their families, friends, neighbours, colleagues and all of Canada, and were willing to pay the Supreme Sacrifice."

Our research revealed that there were 283 enlistments in World War 1 with a Chapleau connection, and 416 in World War 2 -- an incredible number given the population of the community during both wars.

Some returned home but others did not not. There were 32 "Chapleau boys" who died while on active service in the first world war and 29 in the second. We pay special tribute to the fallen with a biographical sketch and photos of them where available.

We have included a list of the names of all those with a Chapleau connection who served in both wars.

We also provide a look into the founding of Chapleau in 1885 with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway, as well as life on the home front In both wars with a fascinating look at the work of the Chapleau branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society and other projects.

We were able to obtain some letters  from Chapleau boys in both wars who were overseas providing a glimpse into their lives on the front lines, a number of them written home near Christmas.

After World War I, Chapleau's first reeve G.B. Nicholson and his wife, Charlotte, had St. John's Parish House built in memory of their son Lorne who was killed on active service, and his friends. It became the Legion Hall. The book also notes the contribution of Branch No. 5 (Ontario) of the Royal Canadian Legion, from its founding in 1926 on.

On June 25, 1978, the cenotaph was moved from its original location beside St. John's Anglican Church to the Legion property. In 2000, the Chapleau Cree First Nation established the Fox Lake War Veterans Memorial. In 2014, Donald White, Chapleau's oldest living World War II veteran attended the Remembrance Day service at the cenotaph.

Henry (Harry) Byce and his son, Charles Byce, were Chapleau boys. They enlisted and fought in WW 1 and WW 2, respectively. Both received exceptionally high honours for valour and bravery for their individual war exploits. They were among the highest decorated Aboriginal veterans. We tell their stories.

Four Chapleau boys, Willard Bolduc, Baisel Collings, Donald Freeborn and Lloyd McDonald were among the recipients of the Distinguished Flying Cross. We share their stories of bravery.

With thanks, particularly to former cadets, we were able to share highlights of 1181 Chapleau High School Cadet Corps.

Michael (left) and I chatting about Chapleau Boys Go To War
Both Michael and I share some personal thoughts, and in my case, for the first time in my life, I share an anecdote involving Dr. Karl Hackstetetter, John McClellan and me when I was in Grade 9 at Chapleau High School.

There is a chapter on cemeteries and monuments globally, compiled by Michael, some of which he has visited.It is a most valuable resource and also shows the high esteem in which our "Chapleau Boys" are held.

Michael McMullen explained that "fallen 'Chapleau Boys' are commemorated by name on the Chapleau cenotaph, and for WW I on a plaque at St. John’s Anglican Church. "
Michael added:
"We wanted to know more about them and for most of them, have been able to put together short resumes with pictures that include family information, occupation at enlistment, place of enlistment, some of their armed forces experience, date of death and cemetery or memorial information. This is our way of preserving their memories.
"We hope the information we have provided for foreign cemeteries and memorials will help to provide a context to where the Chapleau Boys were when they were killed or died due to war inflicted causes.
"We also hope our work will be used as a reference for family descendants to do research on their relatives that served in wars. It is important that photos of those who served and letters that they sent home are preserved with details of their service. If not, this material will be lost, if not already lost, with the passage of time.
"Ideally, our book will serve as a catalyst for families to search old shoeboxes for pictures and letters from those who served. Also, medals and awards should be documented for future family generations. It is important that this information not be lost. We owe this to all Chapleau Boys who have served in wars and conflicts."
I extend my most sincere personal thanks to Mario Lafreniere, publisher of the Chapleau Express, for inviting me to write Chapleau Moments almost six years ago. Had he not done so, I likely would not have begun my research into "Chapleau Boys Go to War". Our book is available or please email me at for other purchasing options. 

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