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NB Telegraph-Journal | Life - Other
As published on page E1/E5 on November 11, 2005
By Ruby Cusack
Special to the Telegraph-Journal

Memories of war linger on

Cliff and I lifted the wooden tray from Gram's humpbacked trunk and placed it on the bed. It certainly was an awkward and heavy thing to move, especially since it was filled to the brim.

We watched as Gram wrote the year on the back of her poppy and put it in the chocolate box that held clippings and many other poppies. She tied a red ribbon around the box, before placing it in the bottom of her trunk.

She told us, "Once Remembrance Day is over, folk seem to forget about all the sufferings endured by the young men and women who went to war. But the friends and family of those, who lost their lives, have memories and remember them every day of the year." She paused and thought deeply before she continued, "The boys who served in the war and came home didn't talk much about the events, but they remembered many things."

What the Boys Did Overthere by Themselves, is filled with memories of the war years. It was edited by Henry L Fox and revised by Sgt. N. L. Forrestal and published in 1919.

One chapter is by Sgt. Alexander Gibb, who enlisted in the 55th Battalion in February of 1915 and trained in Sussex. When the call came for volunteers to go overseas with the 26th Battalion, he was one of many who were on board the Caledonia as it headed on June 13, 1915 for an unknown port in England.

Frederick Gerald McAvity tells of being not quite eighteen when he persuaded his parents to put their signatures on his papers. One of his memories of "over there" is of laying in mud and water for day in and day out.

The first three New Brunswick nurses to go overseas in the First World War were Anna Stamers, Nellie Floyd and Ethel Moody. This picture was kept in Gram’s trunk, says Ruby Cusack. Nellie Floyd was the sister of  Ruby's grandfather.

Letters and diaries found in archives and museums across Canada also bring the stories of war to us.

Speaking of letters, the publication, Janet Webster Roche - Last Letters reveals the very sad events, that happened during the Second World War to Janet Webster, the daughter of New Brunswick born Dr. John Clarence Webster.

Janet was born in Chicago on March 25, 1900 and had a happy childhood. Home schooling for her started at age four with her summers devoted to natural science, in which she took a passionate interest, acquiring, "Henry" her pet garter snake which she wore coiled around her throat like a necklace.

She later came to Canada and took her "Cum Laude" as a fully qualified curator.

In the late summer of 1921, she along with her brother John and her mother set off in an open Buick touring car to leisurely explore Europe.

While in Paris, she met and married Camille Roche who was not only a painter of distinction was also a discriminating music lover. Three children were born to them.

The first letters in the publication to her father in 1938, reveal information of the refugees who came to the town.

As the war progresses her writings tell of the hardships suffered.

A letter written by Janet's husband, summarizes the tragedy. On the 24 June 1942, a German car stopped at the door of their home. Two police officers had come to arrest Janet but would give no reason. She was detained at the Military Prison in Orleans.

Finally Camille Roche was shown a letter that Janet had written to her father, Doctor Webster, in which she expressed unfavourable comments regarding the Germans and the outcome of the war. Her husband continuously sought to seek her freedom and to locate her places of confinement.

On New Years Day of 1945, Janet died while in detention.

The stories of New Brunswickers at sea, on land, in the air and on the homefront personalizes the shared Canadian experience of the two world wars in the New Brunswick Museum's exhibition, "Ordinary People in Extraordinary Conflict: New Brunswickers at War, 1914-1946" which will be on display Nov. 11 2005 to Sept. 4 2006.

Although the poppies have been removed from lapels, those who gave so much to the cause of freedom are remembered.
The Sunshine of the Trenches
<>Written by Sgt. E. D. G. Aylen, PPCLI, originally published in "What the 'Boys' Did Overthere / By 'Themselves'", a compilation of first person accounts (1919).
"The First of the Tanks"
The story  was written by Sergt. M. L. Nicholson, Liverpool Scottish, BEF, for "What the Boys did Overthere / By Themselves" (1919).
Ruby M. Cusack is a genealogy buff living in New Brunswick, Canada.  She contributes a "Family History" column to the Telegraph-Journal on Tuesdays
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