Pitt Meadows Museum has uncovered a century-old letter from a mourning sister to council of the day (circa 1917). Pte. Roland Thomson, previous councillor, was killed during the First World War. (Pitt Meadows Museum & Archives/Special to The News)

Pitt Meadows Museum has uncovered a century-old letter from a mourning sister to council of the day (circa 1917). Pte. Roland Thomson, previous councillor, was killed during the First World War. (Pitt Meadows Museum & Archives/Special to The News)

LOOKING BACK: Archives reveal more about lost war hero

Private Roland Thomson served, first at home in Pitt Meadows, then overseas in the First World War

by Leslie Norman/Special to The News

A decade ago (Dec. 19, 2012 edition of The News), in a Looking Back article post Remembrance Day, this curator wrote about Pitt Meadows’ only First World War dead, Roland Francis Croasdaile Thomson.

Thomson was a recent Irish immigrant to Canada who had settled in Pitt Meadows and was working as a farm labourer/rancher.

When Pitt Meadows incorporated in April 1914, he sat on the first municipal council and then ran and was elected again in 1915.

Apart from that, we have known little about his life in Pitt Meadows, but it would seem he was well established in the community and leading a calm and comfortable life.

But, like many men at that time, he felt the need to enlist and serve his Queen and country, and, by looking at his attestation papers, we know that at Vernon, B.C. on Sept. 29, 1915, he signed the papers and was approved for service the following day.

After that we lose track of him until his date of death less than a year after his enlistment on Sept. 26, 1916.

In the 14th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry, 41-year-old Pte. Thomson was killed in action, and, with no marked grave, his name is listed on the Vimy Memorial in Pas de Calais, France.

Now, fast forward to the summer of 2020, when staff at the City of Pitt Meadows ventured into the vault at the old municipal hall (now the Heritage Hall), and they unearthed a trove of archival information.

RELATED – LOOKING BACK: An 85-year-old tree with deeply rooted history

Buried amongst those materials were just a few tidbits that tell us a little more about RFC Thomson.

From a letter, written in pencil on rough paper stock, we know he was the secretary of the local war relief fund. From another similar letter, we know that he was the councillor in charge of road work and reported to council on expenditures that related.

And, from a particularly poignant letter, we know that on Sept. 6, 1915, he wrote to council: “Dear Sirs, Having volunteered for service overseas, I wish to apply to you for leave of absence as in all probability I will not be able to attend the regular meetings unless on leave. Yours Truly, Roland Thomson.”

Clearly a man who was committed to his country and to an eventual return to his adopted community.

Finally, the last letter in the Thomson file – dated April 8th (1917?) – was from Gertrude Chute, Thomson’s sister and his next of kin listed on his attestation papers.

Her letter, a heartfelt thank you to Reeve and Council for their letter of condolences on her brother’s death.

MORE FROM THE ARCHIVES – LOOKING BACK: Drawing parallels to influenza a century ago

We do not know what was written in the letter council sent her, but her sentiment that “I feel much touched by your appreciation of my brother…” is a testament to the impact he had on our small community.

Pitt Meadows Day is almost upon us – on June 4 – visit the two sites of the Pitt Meadows Museum to learn more about your community history and to have a look at our new Katzie First Nation exhibit.

– Leslie Norman is curator of the Pitt Meadows Museum & Archives

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Is there more to the story? Email: editor@mapleridgenews.com

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Pitt Meadows Museum has uncovered a century-old letter from a mourning sister to council of the day (circa 1917). Pte. Roland Thomson, previous councillor, was killed during the First World War. (Pitt Meadows Museum & Archives/Special to The News)

Pitt Meadows Museum has uncovered a century-old letter from a mourning sister to council of the day (circa 1917). Pte. Roland Thomson, previous councillor, was killed during the First World War. (Pitt Meadows Museum & Archives/Special to The News)

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