Big props to all who made their way to the Museum for our Family Day festivities.
But our good pal Preston (and fam-jam) won Family Day this year.
Preston took up the challenge of writing a letter to one of the First World War veterans from St. Catharines after reading through some of their ‘personnel files’ available to the public to peruse.
We asked visitors to look at the ‘personnel files’ of 4 First World War veterans, choose one and then write them a letter thanking them for their service, or something that grabbed attention, then tweet the Museum to share your letter (and end up on the blog…).
It’s no surprise that Preston chose to write to Jack Hardy. Leaving behind a wonderful diary of his war-time adventures, Jack’s stories inspire laughter and tears while learning about the war.
Jack Hardy enlisted in Merritton at the age of 17 in 1915. He was an employee of the Lincoln Paper Mill on Merritt Street. While in France, Jack’s job was to drive the wagons carrying the prepared meals from the cook house located at the rear of the lines to the front line trenches. Jack kept notes in a small field diary, common place amongst soldiers at the front.
One of our favourite ‘Jack stories’ comes from his time during a town close to Amiens, France:
“One afternoon recently, the town was shelled while Lisle and I were in the stables. The shrapnel was coming down like a hail storm. Daisy threw herself back, broke her halter and rushed around the courtyard. It was bad enough that I crouched down behind Rosie and she had diarrhea. Every time a shell burst she let go. As I was in a safe spot, I had to take it. Lisle thought it was the funniest thing he ever saw. After an hour the shelling stopped. I went out to get Daisy. She escaped all the shelling. A shell landed in the street and blew a hole through the blacksmith shop.”
You can see Jack’s note-book diary on display in ‘Doing Our Bit: World War One from St. Catharines to the Western Front.”
Preston wrote a letter to Driver Jack Hardy:
“To Jack Hardy,
Thank you for fighting for Canada. It must be horrible going through this but be strong and brave.
Unfortunately, Jack Hardy isn’t with us any more, but we’re sure that he, and soldiers like him, would have appreciated such a note. Thousands of Canadians participated in activities to help soldiers at the front and returning home. Letter writing was just one popular way to let the troops know that we were thinking of them while they were fighting at the front.
Thank YOU, Preston!
Adrian Petry is a public historian and public programmer at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre.