By Leslie Norman
In Pitt Meadows, as in the rest of the Lower Mainland, Aug. 4th of this year slipped by quietly, recognized by most as the final day of a hot and beautiful long weekend.
But 100 years ago, the date was far from quiet, as it was the day Britain, responding to Germany’s invasion of Belgium, declared war, effectively beginning the First World War.
Canada, as a member of the United Kingdom, was automatically at war, as well.
On Aug. 4, 1914, the newly incorporated Pitt Meadows was a small community of 250 individuals. Of those, 27 would eventually enlist or be drafted into the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force, a full 10% of the population.
At the museum, we keep copies of the attestation papers of most of the Pitt Meadows men who signed them at the time they enlisted or were conscribed into service. From these papers we can see who was “first past the post” in enlisting from this community.
The vast majority of the 27 who went to war signed up in 1915 and 1916, with another five waiting to be drafted after conscription began in late August 1917.
Only two, Alexander and Robert McRae, enlisted in 1914, both in November, with Robert eerily choosing the 11th.
Neither man had lived in Pitt Meadows very long and it is likely both worked alongside their mother, Jane (or Jean) Anderson, on the Paton farm. Both men survived the war, but neither returned to Pitt Meadows, but most others did, save for R.F.C. Thomson, who was killed in action on Sept. 26, 1916, just one year after enlisting.
In commemoration of the start of the war, listed are the names of those who served from this newly formed municipality: B.A. Allan; George Barker; Charles Fenton; G. Harling; Alexander McRae; Robert McRae; John McRae; William McRae; George Menzies; William McDermott; C. McDermott; T. Richardson; Hector Richardson; Peter Sproute; David Tindall; R.F.C. Thomson; Septimus Waring; K. Gurney; F.M. Stewart; George McMyn; Beryl Princep; Fred Taylor; Simon Stewart; Henry Sprout; John L. Lynch; H. Summerscales; Charles Cook.
Leslie Norman is curator of the Pitt Meadows Museum.