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Mattawa, Ontario Military History: Canadian History in Vintage Postcards

Mattawa, Soldier's Memorial Day Monument Highlighting in vintage postcards the history of towns and townships in the greater Lake Nipissing and Lake Temagami areas of Northern Ontario, Canada and including the Nipissing District and portions of the Parry Sound district which are in the “Blue Sky Region.” These Canadian postcards are shown in digital museum format for educational purposes. If you have images or historical information which you’d like to share with our virtual museum, feel free to do so. To navigate these pages, mouse over the top navigation bar. Drop-down menus will appear of the areas of interest. Click on the thumbnails for larger images. Close the larger image before opening another thumbnail. The occasional duplicates for sale can be found using the search box on the main (home) page of VintagePostcards.org. This is an ongoing project; comments and questions to the webmaster at webmaster - at sign - vintagepostcards.org are welcome. We welcome community contributions and will be happy to credit you on the Acknowledgments and Credits page.

 

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Mattawa, Soldier's Memorial Day Monument A notable site in Mattawa is the Soldier’s Monument, seen in a postcard entitled “Soldier’s Memorial Day” which was published by the Irwin Specialty Co. of Toronto. The lone sentinel looks out over the Ottawa and Mattawa rivers, still standing guard. What was the purpose of the Mattawa Women’s Institute (MWI), which had this statue erected, and in what years were they active? Agnes Rosamond McClelland (4 October 1874-25 December 1931), who emigrated to Canada in 1892, was the first president of the MWI, remaining in that position for many years. Can anyone provide a more specific date regarding the placement of this statue, or information on the sculptor? We think the postcard dates to 1919, the first year that Remembrance Day, or Poppy Day, was observed in Canada to honor those who gave their lives during war. The 11 November observance date corresponds to the date on which World War I ended in 1918. Although the statue’s inscription within the wreath reads “1914-1918,” the memorial now honors those who served in both World Wars as well as in the Korean War. Does anyone recognize the 19th c. building behind the soldier?

 

Remembrance Day Engraved in the base of the statue are the names of three places in which Mattawans fought: Ypres, Arras and Valenciennes. Ypres, Belgium was the scene of some of the bloodiest battles in World War I because it was directly on the path that Germany chose to sweep across the rest of Belgium and into France from the north. In the Second Battle of Ypres, from 22 April to 25 May 1915, chemical warfare was used for one of the first times when the Germans attacked Canadian forces with chlorine gas. (Later, in 1917, mustard gas also made its debut when used by Germany.) Airplanes, machine guns, poison gas and tanks were all used for the first time in World War I. All made killing easier, leading to the greatest war casualties ever seen up to that point. The deadliest and largest of the Ypres battles was the third, from 21 July to 6 November 1917, in which there were half a million Allied casualties and an equal number of German casualties.

 

Canadian Corps Machine Gunners at Vimy Ridge.  Source:  Francis A. March's History of the World War, 1919, Chicago, pg 385. In France, the Battle of Arras took place from 9 April to 16 May 1917. The Canadian Corps captured Hill 145 (Vimy Ridge); the Battle of Vimy Ridge was a significant event in Canadian history because the Canadian Corps, with all four divisions working in unison for the first time, planned the battle and provided over 15,000 soldiers to capture the ridge, thus providing a great military advantage to Allied forces. Vimy also reinforced a sense of Canadian pride and national identity. The Corps shelled German trenches for a week with over a million shells, in what was then the largest artillery barrage in history, destroying about 83 percent of German guns. German troops called this the “Week of Suffering,” and it’s said that the bombardment was so loud that it was heard in London, England. Canadian troops also used a new indirect fire technique with machine guns, providing cover for Allied troops while pinning Germans down in their trenches. Legend has it that a French soldier, when told of the ridge’s capture, said “C’est impossible!” until told that it was Canadians who took the ridge, at which point he exclaimed: “Ah! les Canadiens! C’est possible!”

 

In March 2007, Canadian postmarks read: “VIMY — Honour the Legacy / Hommage au Patrimoine.” On the 90th anniversary of Vimy, on 9 April 2007, both Queen Elizabeth and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended ceremonies at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. While the monument is in France, it’s on Canadian soil, France having given Canada part of Vimy Ridge in perpetuity and in recognition of Canada’s pivotal role in this battle. About 5,000 students from across Canada were also expected to attend, each representing a Canadian soldier who fell at Vimy. (Actually, there were over 10,000 Canadian casualties, with 3,598 troops killed and 7,000 wounded.) You can learn more about Vimy at the Canadian War Museum. Here is a list of Canadian battles fought during WWI.

 

Back to the main Mattawa page.

 

See also our North Bay military history and Sundridge, Ontario military history pages and information on Alderdale military history.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.  Source:  Veterans Affairs Canada A poignant result of the Second Battle of Ypres was the writing by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918) of “In Flanders Fields.” Written on the battlefield on 3 May 1915, it was published in the British magazine, Punch, the same year. McCrae, born in Guelph, was a field surgeon in charge of a hospital at Ypres; he wrote the poem after a former student and friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer, was killed in battle. Since then, the poppy has come to symbolize the bloodshed and sacrifices made in war. Sadly, McCrae never got to return to Canada. Still working in a field hospital, he died at age 40 of pneumonia and meningitis and was buried with military honors in Wimereaux Cemetery in France. Read more about John McCrae and the poppy at the Royal Canadian Legion.

 
 
In Flanders Fields


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

And that is the story of the lone soldier standing watch in Mattawa.

Mattawa, Memorial Park Soldier, Real-Photo Postcard
 
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More as time permits, with updated photos and new articles on the Nipissing and Parry Sound districts including Bear Island, Temagami, Bonfield, Callander and Corbeil, Commanda, the Ferguson Highway (Highway 11), Marten River, Lavigne and Verner, Monetville and Noëlville, North Bay, Powassan and Trout Creek, Sundridge, Alderdale, Nipissing Village, Trout Lake, Restoule, South River, Tilden Lake, Tomiko Ontario Dokis, Rutherglen, Trout Mills, Sturgeon Falls and other areas of interest. Enjoy the story of Frederic Remington’s moose hunting trip to the Mattawa area, over 100 years ago. See an Orangemen Parade, or learn about North Bay’s military history or Sundridge’s military history. We also have informtion on Alderdale militaria, as well as a collection of rare New Ontario Brewery artifacts.

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