Ruby M. Cusack
"26th Battalion today" on Facebook
Daily events of 100 years ago today
Ordinarily we enjoyed visiting Gram but tonight it was under protest. We
wanted to take our sleds and go sliding on the hill behind her house.
But Mum said that the wind was blowing and the temperature was 40
degrees below which would mean our cheeks could get frost bitten in
Soldiers of New Brunswick's 26th Battalion aboard the SS
en route to Europe in June, 1915.
The shot was taken by one of
the Battalion's Captains, F.F. May.
(Byron O'Leary collection)
Aunt Sadie tried to cheer us up by playing Snakes and Ladders with us.
She even made fudge and put it in the outside pantry to cool so we could
eat it after we played a long game of crokinole.
Gram was slowly knitting a sock with heavy, grey yarn. She was saying little and seemed lost in thought.
Dad noticed her quietness and inquired if she was feeling okay.
Her reply came slowly in a very sad voice, as she answered him. I was
thinking about all the socks I knit when you were a boy of about twelve
years as several of my childhood friends were overseas spending many a
cold day and night in the wet muddy trenches. The least we
girls, at home, could do was knit socks for them, to try to keep their
feet dry and warm.
The kitchen became very quiet as she continued to speak of the suffering
from wounds as well as the terrible cold they endured which would often
be followed by days of rain. Those fellows never knew from one
minute to the next if a bullet had their name on it. I am certain many
of them longed for a warm bed to place their head on. The letters
they wrote home were very sad to read.
She mentioned that many ladies met together in towns and villages
throughout New Brunswick to prepare boxes for the boys overseas.
For example the granddaughter of Mrs. John Pinney told me of the
meetings her Grandmother attended over the Simonds Fire Station in East
Saint John. This lady had two sons in the 26th Battalion and was
recognized for her effort in knitting so many pairs of socks.
Those at home during the Great War remembered the boys in the
battle fields in prayer and thought. Today with the power of social
media their descendants and those with an interest in the 26th Battalion
are able to share their letters, photos and memories on https://www.facebook.com/newbrunswick26th
When I found this facebook page - I contacted Connell Smith seeking
information about its origin and purpose. His answer was certainly
enlightening: The 26th Battalion today Facebook project attempts - to
the extent possible - to witness the Great War day by day through the
eyes of the soldiers of New Brunswick's 26th Battalion. To that end we
post something about what members of the Battalion are doing each day
100 years later.
In other words we try to imagine today, January 16, 2015, is January 16, 1915.
It is a sobering exercise. The 26th Battalion suffered terrible
casualties, about three quarters of the original 1150 soldiers who left
Saint John in June 1915 were killed or wounded. So too were many of
those who replaced them.
At home, families lived in desperate fear for the safety of their sons, husbands and fathers.
January 16th, 1915 was a Sunday. The men of the 26th are in Belgium
getting ready to move into the front line trenches for another six day
"tour". One of those who will be killed later in the war is Lieutenant
Harry Wensley Ferguson, a Campbellton native, who took time almost every
day to write in his diary: "Today is Sunday, but only by following the
calendar can one keep track of the days. Captain Reverend McDonald of
the Ammunition Column rode up to RE Farm to hold service for us in the
shade of a grove of trees away from aircraft. I did not attend as I had
to discuss plans for a concrete emplacement at K2A with OC 5 Field
Company. Sent the section away under Sgt Comley. In orders today was
notification of promotion to Captain of CE Fairweather and PD McAvity.
PD appeared on Church Parade spic and span with his third star on, all
brand new and the extra row of braid on his sleeve."
Ferguson's Diary - available through the New Brunswick Public Library
system - is a terrific resource. But the project also gets big help from
people willing to pass along copies of letters, stories, and -
especially - photographs of grandfathers, great uncles, and others
connected to the battalion.
You might catch Byron O'Leary and
Connell at their weekly meeting spot and - unofficial - headquarters,
Loyalist City Coins in Saint John or contact them by email:
The group plans to continue daily postings until the 100th anniversary of the ending of the war in November 2018.
From the website of the Albert County Museum & RB Bennett
Commemorative, One Hundred years ago on Dec 20, 2015, Hugh C. Wright
from Shepody, Albert County, NB was busy fighting with the 26th New
Brunswick battalion in trenches of Belgium. He was only 20 years old at
the time. A letter written home on December 20, 1915 -. I just
got a nice big parcel from Uncle Silas tonight with some cake, cookies
and chocolate. It was a dandy box. Walter Danahy and Stevens were here
so I gave them some and will give Silas some in the morning.
Hugh Wright was one of the hundreds of Albert County men who volunteered
for the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), the majority joining the
New Brunswick 26th Battalion. It was because of their sacrifices that
Albert County was awarded the 77 mm field cannon which sits in the
square in Hopewell Cape .
Thanks to Connell, Byron and a group of dedicated followers of the 26th
Battalion today, the boys of the 26th are being remembered through the
Social Media of the twenty first century at