A few years ago, the Vankleek Museum shared a photo on our Facebook page from the year 1916 taken in Petawawa and titled ‘The Vankleek Hill Boys.’ It was discovered in a Saskatchewan home in the late 1940’s. The gentleman who discovered the photo had served in WWII with Ken Brock of Vankleek Hill. The two men did not know each other well; however, he knew that Mr. Brock was from Vankleek Hill. He put the photo in an envelope and with blind faith simply addressed it “Ken Brock, Vankleek Hill.” The photo arrived safe and sound and was packed away in a trunk for the next 60 years until it was given to the museum. In 2010, we contacted Christopher Hibbs, Leading Seaman, Acting Collection
Manager, Canadian Airborne and CFB Petawawa Museums, to ask him to identify as much as possible the uniforms as we had no information about the photo. He replied: “Of the two different cap badges seen in this photo, one of the badges belongs to the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. The other is possibly a General Service Canadian Expeditionary Force or the 4th Pioneers Canadian Expeditionary Force. We cannot help with names. We do not keep service records whatsoever, and the number of people who came through here during the war would make it impossible to find.”
In 2018, Guy Rogers of Uxbridge, Ontario wrote the museum to say that he saw an image from 1916 titled ‘Vankleek Hill Boys’ that we had posted on our web page. He identified the soldier in the middle row far right (cap askew) as his “Grandfather, William Taylor McIntosh, born Nov. 12/1895 in VanKleek Hill. His parents were Dr. Donald John and Eleanor McIntosh, both of Vankleek Hill. He appears in a 1911/1912 photo of the Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute boys’ hockey team.” “According to William’s WWI enlistment sheet, he was a student in 1916 when he signed-up at the age of 20. He served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 52 Battery, 13th Brigade, with the rank of Driver. His regiment number was 318869 and he was officially discharged on June 23/1919. He was approximately 20 years 6 months old at the time of the photo ‘VanKleek Hill Boys.’
Rogers says that his grandfather “was lucky enough to come home safely from the 1st World War and attended McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario to graduate as a Dental Surgeon in 1923. He then married and established a dental practice in Toronto. When the 2nd World War broke out in 1939, he enlisted again as a Major in the Canadian Dental Corp., No. 6 Company. His strong Scottish family heritage was what drove him to enlist not once, but twice. This was certainly a very admirable trait.” Rogers even stated that he had the Vankleek Hill community medallion he received in his possession.
Guy Rogers’ mention of a town medal took us to The Review archives. Sure enough, in the September 5, 1919 issue is the announcement of the presentation of a Vankleek Hill medal to honour 95 “Vankleek Hill boys,” and to give “to each or to their next of kin, a gold medal.” These 95 had returned home. The Review went further than the 95 medals. It published as complete a listing as possible of everyone from the Vankleek Hill area, men and women, who had served in WWI. This includes the 41 who were killed in action or died later in hospital, plus the wounded, and those who suffered nerve gas.
It is so gratifying to see the pieces come together on an artifact such as this. Especially when that artifact holds such importance to our community’s past.
Note: WWI records are digitized and available online at Library and Archives Canada: https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/personnel-records.aspx