By MPP Toby Barrett
This years’ time of remembrance is particularly significant. We recognize not only the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812-14, but also the 100th anniversary of the commencement of World War I, and the 75th anniversary of the onset of the Second World War.
In their book Norfolk, Haldimand and the War of 1812, local authors Bob Blakely and Cheryl MacDonald paint a picture with first hand news reports. Men from Rainham and Walpole were attached to the Norfolk Militia. Settlers with the Nelles/ Young Tracts on the Grand fought with the Lincoln Militia, while Canborough men joined the Canborough and Hamilton Militia. And Six Nations, as in the Revolutionary War, was again involved.
Commencing in 1796, those granted land in our area were essentially conscripted into the local militia. Blakely documents this, and other compelling stories in his book, The Civilian Soldier – A Complete History of the Norfolk Militia 1796 – 2007.
The last Canadian killed on Canadian soil in defense of Canada was a local lad — Private Edwin Barton from Charlotteville. He was one of 400 members of the Norfolk Militia routed by 800 Kentucky riflemen at the November 6th, 1814, battle at Malcolm’s Mill. Barton was mutilated and scalped – an indication of the viciousness of battle at the time.
Fast forward 100 years, to the advent of World War 1. On June 28, 1914, a series of events unfolded that started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. As a member of the British Empire, Canada found itself at war on August 4, of that year.
It was reported in June 1915, that Haldimand had the largest number of men training at home and overseas of any comparable county in Ontario. As well, three hundred signed up from Six Nations. By the end of the war, 250 Norfolk combatants and 185 Haldimand men had died in uniform. Norfolk Remembers the Great War 1914-1918, released this August by Grant Smith, is a poignant document of those killed. Take a look at his book – it can be a tough read, also tough to put down.
Although half a world away, the war over the next four years would take its toll on the then-young nation of Canada. Close to 620,000 people would enlist and 59,544 would die. A huge toll considering the population was only seven million.
In the days after the Armistice, World War 1 was called the ‘War to end all Wars’- a prediction that was unfortunately wrong with the outbreak of World War 2.
As we mark the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War, we have an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts at local Legions and upcoming remembrance events. Two war veterans come to mind – Ike Hewitt and Harry B. Barrett who worked together to produce the recently–published Flying Officer Ike Hewitt P.O.W. – War Memories. It’s available at local bookstores and libraries. However, 45,400 did not come home.
Let’s all make special effort to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies as we commemorate the anniversary of three wars that left their mark on Haldimand and Norfolk.
And if we need more reason to come out during this time of remembrance, reflect on the recent killings of W.O. Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.