Wednesday, September 21, 2016

World War Wednesdays: Winston Churchill in Ottawa, Caught on Camera

     A special piece for all my Ottawa readers this week, or really anyone who can appreciate a good post about our nation's capital (and one of the best figures of modern history).

     This past Saturday I had the opportunity to visit the City of Ottawa Archives in Nepean, which is a  fancy new facility that holds multiple stories' worth of the city's history. Since the visit was part of an exciting research project with the Bytown Museum (where I'm a member of their Youth Council) I was supposed to be focused on the task at hand, but of course being in such a snazzy archives really made my brain and eyes start to wander! In the process, I stumbled upon a collection of photographs showing some infamous wartime leaders during their visits to Ottawa, and they really got my attention. It was fascinating to see the people I spend so much time studying be standing at or near such dear and familiar places!

     Since I didn't want to be that person and make a big deal of requesting those photos from the archivists during our consultation, I decided to look into finding the photos online to share with you this week with a specific focus on the visits from Winston Churchill. In the process, I came across even more interesting material, which really helped to shape what I hope is an engaging post!

     First, here are some of the photographs:
Churchill and Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King leaving the House of Commons on December 30, 1941. Library and Archives Canada
Churchill and Mackenzie King coming down the steps at Centre Block, December 30, 1941. Library and Archives Canada
Churchill addressing the House of Commons, 30 December, 1941. Library and Archives Canada
Churchill and King at King's beloved Moorside, Gatineau, 14 August 1929. Library and Archives Canada
Churchill addressing an attentive audience in the House of Commons, December 30, 1941. Library and Archives Canada
     An interesting anecdote for those of you who read my post about my visit to Laurier House two weeks ago: a colleague was telling me that once, during a visit to Mackenzie King at Laurier House, Churchill discovered the concealed elevator and expressed an interest in taking it for a ride. King protested, telling him he was far too large and would break it, but Churchill persisted and eventually just jumped in. If that doesn't give you an indication of their relationship, I don't know what would! They were so similar in so many ways, but differed in a lot of the important ones. In any case, their encounters would have been memorable experiences for both of them.

"Roaring Lion," Yousef Karsh,  Library and Archives Canada
     Chris Cobb, The Ottawa Citizen, December 30, 2011:
"When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet, 'In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.' Some chicken! Some neck!" — Winston Churchill, Ottawa, Dec. 30, 1941

Look closely at the Karsh portrait of Winston Churchill and it's there, peeking from his left hand jacket pocket — a bunch of papers, partially concealed at the request of a photographer.

Some bunch of papers. Some photographer.

Seventy years ago Friday — on Dec. 30, 1941 — Britain's wartime prime minister delivered his historic speech to a hastily assembled group of Canadian MPs and Senators.

The 22-page speech, captured on a news reel, lasted 37 minutes and was constantly interrupted by cheers and applause.

After a scotch and water in the Speaker's chambers, Churchill reluctantly agreed to pose for the iconic scowling portrait taken by the talented but then relatively obscure Ottawa society photographer Yousuf Karsh.

"Some chicken, some neck" was a reference to the sneering comment by French Marshal Philippe Pétain, future leader of the collaborationist Vichy French government who was convinced that Germany would successfully invade Britain as it had done France. He told Churchill that in three weeks Britain would "have its neck wrung like a chicken."

"There is something about the phrase 'some chicken, some neck' that is utterly charming," says Ottawa Churchill scholar Ronald Cohen. "Churchill was a superb orator and his oratory played such a major role in keeping spirits alive and keeping the British confident in the fact that they could withstand whatever it was they had to meet.

"He put a considerable amount of time into writing his speeches and when this was done, he knew he had delivered a speech of historical significance. You could tell that."

After the speech, Churchill and Prime Minister Mackenzie King retired to the Speaker's chambers where King drank tea and Churchill his scotch.

King had chosen Karsh to take the photograph but hadn't told Churchill, even though the two had been in Washington together that same week.

Karsh had prepared his lights and camera and was waiting in another room while King asked Churchill to pose for a photograph. Churchill reluctantly agreed to "five minutes" and walked into the room with a cigar in his mouth.

Buoyed by the success of his speech and fortified by his favourite Johnnie Walker Red Label, Churchill was in a jovial mood.

"But Karsh, to his immense credit, felt his mood wasn't right to portray this lion of the west," says Cohen. "He wanted to get a better look from him. I don't think he intended the scowl by pulling the cigar away, but he was of the view that there were already too many photos of Churchill with a cigar."

Karsh approached Churchill and said, 'Sir, I have an ashtray all prepared for you.'

Churchill had no intention of removing the cigar from his mouth, so Karsh did it for him.

"By the time I got back to my camera," Karsh recalled years later, "he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me."

Karsh had a growing local reputation, but the scowling image of Churchill would bring him international fame and become the single most famous photographic portrait in history. (Library and Archives Canada has six negatives from the session — one of the 'scowl', one of Churchill smiling, three of Mackenzie King and Churchill together and another with Churchill's back to the camera while his cigar is being lit by another person, probably Speaker James Glenn.)

King was delighted with the image and sent three copies to Churchill with a letter dated Jan. 9, 1942:

"I think that you will agree that the photograph is one of the best, if not the very best, ever taken of yourself. I, at least, am so inclined to view it."

King wrote Churchill that he could keep one copy for himself, present a second to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and asked that he enscribe another to King himself and return it to Ottawa

There is, says Cohen, no record of Churchill's opinion of the portrait.

Churchill decided to take the potentially perilous journey to North America on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor. He dismissed security concerns, especially about the return journey once German military commanders knew he would be travelling home. (The RAF flew him back to the U.K. from Canada).

He left London for Scotland on Dec. 12, 1941, boarded the battleship Duke of York and began the 10-day trip across the Atlantic.

When the boat arrived in U.S. territorial waters, Churchill wrote to his wife, Clementine.

"I feel I ought to go to Canada while I am over this side, but I do not quite know when or how I shall come back. I shall certainly stay long enough to do all that has to be done, having come all this way that so much trouble and expense."

Churchill spoke to the U.S. Congress on Dec. 26, four days after Roosevelt had telephoned Mackenzie King, who recorded details of the deliberately vague conversation in his diary.

"You probably know about a certain person who is on his way," said Roosevelt. "He will be arriving in about two hours' time. I will want you here while he is here. I will be having a talk with him tonight, and will let you know just as soon as I can, the exact time to come down." King left Ottawa on an overnight train on Christmas Day and arrived in Washington on Boxing Day. Churchill and King, two very different characters who had a cordial though not an especially warm relationship, took the same train back to Ottawa two days later but travelled in separate carriages.

King wrote that he tried to persuade Churchill to speak to an audience at the Château Laurier, but Churchill said the House of Commons would be "more dignified" and, to spread his message worldwide, asked that the proceedings be filmed and well-attended by the press.

Meanwhile, Karsh was busily preparing for his brief encounter with the British leader and the defining photograph of both of their lives."

     John G. Plumpton ( describes Churchill's December 1941 visit to Ottawa
"After the photo shoot came a small, informal dinner party hosted by Prime Minister King. Here Churchill had an opportunity to swap stories with Canadian Air Vice-Marshal Billy Bishop VC, who had shot down seventy-two enemy aircraft while serving with the Royal Flying Corps during World War I."

    If you're interested in reading more about Churchill's long relationship with Canada and its citizens, I highly recommend visiting the full entry, "As They Saw Him: Encounters with Canadians 1900-1955":

     Watch the "Some Chicken, Some Neck" moment here:

   I hope you enjoyed this indulgence of my affection for Winston Churchill, and that you recognize some of the scenery in the photographs. Sometimes it can be so easy to get bogged down in historical analysis and the fine details and forget that these are real people and events which took place in locations that are still very much a part of our lives, and I like to reinforce these reminders of the human element that goes along with history.
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

SOLD OUT Interactive Paranormal Investigation


"I ain't afraid of no ghost!"  So goes the popular line from Ghostbusters.  We have C.P.I. coming to conduct paranormal investigations of Backus-Page House Museum on October 28 and 29.  There are only 15 tickets available each evening so order them right away by calling, emailing or just go to the EventBrite link here.

Heritage Farm Show Thanks and Winners!!!

Visit our Facebook page to view videos from this past weekend's event.  

Tyrconnell Heritage Society wishes to extend our thanks to the visitors, exhibitors, vendors, board, staff and volunteers who participated in the Heritage Farm Show at Backus-Page House Museum on September 10-11, 2016.  Special thanks goes to:
Government of Canada
Ontario Parks
Municipality of Dutton Dunwich
Agris Co-Operative Ltd.
Barb Summers
Bard Judith
Bill Denning
Brad & Joanne Reive
Bronko Nesic
Bruce & Lin McCann
Cal McMillan
Carm Pfeiffer
Catie Welch
Clean Cut Lawn Care
Conway Automotive Repair
Coralee Dunn
Co-Trac Ford Lincoln
Curtis & Anna Marie McCallum
D and L’s Place
Dave & Barb Wheeler
David Murray
David Welch
DJW Mini Backhoe Service
Dieleman Farm Equipment Sales & Service
Dixon’s Feed Service
Don Nicholson
Don & Betty Ann Bobier
Don’s Detailing and Refinishing
Don Skipper
Duncan & Eileen McTavish
Dutton Building Products Rona
Dutton Foodland
Earl MacDonald & Son Transport
Elgin Poultry Club
Fingal Farm Supply
Glen Ford
Hair Razorz
H. D. Painting Contractor
Highland Pharmacy
Hugh & Joyce McFadden
IECS Ready Mix Inc.
Jim & Leta West
Joe Casey
John Agar
John & Angela Bobier
Knight’s Home Hardware
Larry & Paula Grafstein
Lloyd Monteith
Lorraine Vallee-Muczulski
Mark & Diane Patterson
Mel’s Accounting & Tax Service
Melissa’s Holistic Nutrition & Chef Services
Memories in Wool Rug Hooking
Mike & Ingrid Hentz
Morley Winter
Napa Deland Auto Parts
Out to Lunch Café
Pete Agar
P.J. Gangle Insurance Brokers
PJs Pizza
Pierce Family Band
Queens Line Automotive Ltd.
Ralon & Donia Harper
Rev. Donald A. Schieman
Rick Duckworth
Rick’s Auto Repair
Rodney Building & Metal Products
Ron & Janice Ellis
Rulene Lilley
Sam Foreman
Shannon’s Diner
Sean Robinson, Red Barn Accessories
Sharon Burd
Small Town Auto
St. John’s Ambulance
Stan Champ
Steve Proctor
Talbot Trails Restaurant
Tall Tales Café
Tasty Sweets Bakery & Cafe
Thompson’s Seed
Wallacetown Agricultural Society
West Elgin Mutual Insurance
West Elgin Pharmacy
West Lorne Foodland

Elimination Draw Winners
1st  Mary Simpson
2nd  Duncan McCallum
3rd Diane Purcell
4th  Scott Wilson
5th  Don Bobier Jr.
Other Winners: Marisa Brokenshire, Ken Reinke, John Brown, Don Lunn,  and Bob Lampman

Guess the Tractor's Weight Winner was Pete Agar

Exhibitor Winners:  Bob Boles, Shawn Paton and Heather Brady & Rob Robbins

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

World War Wednesdays: Service Record Revelations

Vernard and Helen Frank with their young son, James

      I've been waiting a long time to be able to write this post! If you're one of the regulars around here, you might remember a post I wrote almost a year ago called Genealogy Jam where I talked about my Library and Archives Canada quest to find out once and for all what my great-grandfather's service was during the Second World War. As I'm sure is the case in a lot of your families, we always knew he had served, but since he rarely spoke of his wartime experiences we never knew exactly where he'd been or even with what branch of the service. I had previously made an attempt to collect what information we did have during a video project for grade 10 history, but had very few concrete facts to work with. Now, being a historian with some better connections, I decided to go through the process of requesting his service records from LAC.

     I won't go into the process too much to spare those who already read the more detailed description, but it involved my proving his death within a certain time frame and sending away a request form describing my relation to him and the nature of the information I was looking for. There were a few different options for what could be requested, and I chose to go with the full package in order to find out as much as possible. Since he had been deceased longer than the 15 or however many years LAC requires before releasing the once-confidential documents, I was eligible to receive some paperwork that quite possibly hadn't been looked at since the 1940s.

     After waiting almost a full year, I was thrilled to find the large envelope with the LAC stamp in the mail. I looked through the stack of copied documents in complete disbelief that we were finally getting the answers to some lifelong questions, and also with the nature of some of the papers that were included. It almost felt like I was reading something I shouldn't have had access to! Our family went from having little idea of how he spent the war years to suddenly having his service number, rank, and a series of notes on his appearance and character written by army superiors who had interviewed him.
Vernard Frank during training
      I wanted to share some of the more fascinating excerpts from these documents with you this week, to show you the kinds of information that can be accessed in this manner and also to prove that the process is well worth the wait! In case you've missed some of the posts where I talked about what we do know about my great-grandfather, I'll include some of the basic stats that were included in the genealogy package:
Name of officer or other rank: Vernard Frank
If married, state a) full name of your wife: Mrs. Helen Frank
                                           b) present postal address of your wife: West                        Lorne, Ontario, Canada
 If married, have you been regularly supporting your wife? Yes
Have you any children? Names and ages: James Vernard Frank, 18 months
Is your father alive? If so, state name and address, occupation: Mr. William C. Frank (farmer), West Lorne, Ontario, Canada
Is your mother alive? If so, state name and address: Mrs. Margaret Frank

     By far, the most fascinating aspect of this package was his paperwork from the Personnel Selection Board. This is where they interviewed him on his personal and professional background to try and discern whether he would be a good fit for service, and if he was a stable person to recruit. Here is what Lieutenant E. M. Entwistle, Army Examiner, had to say about him:
     Hobbies: hunting and fishing, collecting firearms
This man's time is largely occupied with his work, his Reserve Army duties, a few movies, and some repairs on his car. On his holidays and at certain other times he goes fishing and hunting.
Baptist- fairly regular in attendance
Married Jan. 1941- one son- his wife may return to her father's home. Parents are living at West Lorne- 1 brother.
This man has a splendid physique. He has a frank manner and is quite interested in military activity. His intelligence is above average and he appears quite stable and has good assurance. He is quite anxious to serve in the Provost Corps if there is an opening (potential N.C.O. material)
     During his sixth week of training at Chatham, he was interviewed by Army Examiner Captain H. Small, who said:
     Good all around soldier, except he lacks expression. His work has been good.

     While he was in Petawawa, Verne started experiencing some hearing loss (though he didn't realize it at the time) and dissatisfaction at being trained as a gunner. Army Examiner Captain H. O. Bennett wrote this:
     A/L/Bdr. Frank completed the Junior N.C.O. course two months ago and since that date has been employed as a L/Bdr. Instructor in "E" Bty. He finds that he cannot stand the firing of a 25 pdr. and feels that he would be of little use as a member of a gun detachment overseas. No gross signs of instability were present during the interview. His appetite is good, he sleeps well at night, and feels generally in fine physical condition. His own suggestion is that he be trained as a driver and subsequently as a driver mechanic. His B-1 category "M" score of 156, garage experience and education all suggest that he would be capable of absorbing Trade Training.
Leaving for war

     According to his Occupational History Form, he enlisted in the Army at Windsor, Ontario on February 4, 1943. He described his highest level of education as being two years of high school, having left school at age 17, and at the time of his enlistment worked as an inspector at Kelsey Wheel Co. in Windsor. I found one section of this form to be of particular interest because of its specific relation to farming-- keep in mind the essential role that food production played in the war effort!
Do you wish to engage in farming after the war? NA
Do you feel competent to operate a farm? Yes
If so, in what kind of farming? Mixed farming
Were you born on a farm? Yes
How many years' actual farming experience have you? 3 Years
In what provinces did you have experience? Ontario
     In section G of that form (miscellaneous), he responded that he had not made any arrangements for re-establishment in civil life after discharge, and that his plans were uncertain.

     According to the Attestation Paper for February 4, 1943, he had previously served 30th R.E.C.C.E (Essex Regiment) from February 1941 until that point.

     As the records go on, there are a few more interesting tidbits:
-After enlisting at Windsor, he was transferred to Chatham, then to Petawawa, and after taking a few courses (during which time he was paid $1.40 per day), was sent to Woodstock for a Driver Mechanic course
-He completed the course, got five days' leave for Christmas 1943, passed his test for Driver Mechanics, and moved up to receiving $1.50 per day
-After arriving in the U.K. in early 1944, he spent more time taking courses and served as the rank of Gunner with the Canadian Army in Europe (that's where the records get fuzzy- step two is to trace the European portion of his service)
-He was discharged on March 14, 1946 with a CVSM (Canadian Voluntary Service Medal, the standard issue for those who served) and clasp
The medals (CVSM on the right)

     Finally, here's the CONFIDENTIAL summary of his character as recorded by a counselor upon his discharge:
     Frank is a tall, husky chap, raised on a farm, who has been interested in motor mechanics and garage work a long time and hopes eventually to have his own garage. His civilian experience has been largely augmented by army training and employment and from his record he apparently has been a thoroughly competent tradesman. Following a course at school in England, the chief instructor included on his qualification sheet the following comment: "A steady and conscientious worker who has made excellent progress in all branches and should be an asset to his unit". 
  Frank wants to get his mechanic's qualifications and then obtain garage job until he considers time and conditions suitable for obtaining own garage.
  If he fails to obtain employment as mechanic, will return to pre-enlistment job as wheel inspector in plant manufacturing car and truck wheels, swinging over into a trade of his choice later when suitable opportunity presents itself.
  Frank is a mature, sound thinking man, who makes his plans well in advance of action and who should do well in his long-term program. 
  Alternative employment possibilities are found in other pre-service jobs as salesman and as farm labourer.

     I hope this week's post wasn't too dull a read- I know how boring it can be to read about other peoples' family histories but I did my best to filter out the most interesting parts of this record! I'm absolutely over the moon to finally have these answers and to be able to pass them along to my grandpa and his siblings, and am as proud as ever to be a descendant of this hero. Looking back on his later years, he really did achieve all of the goals he had in 1946 and more, and I think of Frank Bros. Motors now as a wartime dream come true for him. A huge shoutout to Brady Hodge from the Personnel Records department at LAC for compiling this record. If you're interested in finding out how to receive war or any other records from LAC, please get in touch with me! It's my last year of having physical access to the archives, so I'm hoping to do as much as I can while I'm here. In the meantime,
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Seedy Saturday- Tips Tips Tips

Tips Tips Tips 

      During planting season always carry a tarpaulin or sheet in your car so that spilled soil will land on the tarp instead of the trunk. 

      Shop with a list and avoid impulses purchases, as many unplanned purchases often end in failure.
      When purchasing perennials that are actively blooming, nip the flowers off during  planting. 

      Examine potted plants carefully and choose plants that are free of weeds, insects and disease. 
      When planting annuals, separate the roots apart carefully to allow roots to spread out. 

   To keep squirrels out of your flower planters insert plastic forks, with the tine sides facing upwards. 

     In early summer when sedum and mum plants have grown to a height of 8 to 12 inches tall (20 to 25 cm), trim the stems back by 3 to 5 inches (8 to 10 cm). This will prevent the sedum and mums from growing too tall and flopping over. 

     It may be necessary to water your hanging baskets as well as other planters every day, using small amounts of fertilizers, to keep your plants healthy and vibrant. 

Credit to: Rodney Horticultural Society. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Family History Friday - Katherine Elizabeth (Backus) Sifton

Katherine Elizabeth (Backus) Sifton recalls Pleasant Days on the Farm and we hope you will join us September 10-11, 2016 for our annual Heritage Farm Show at Backus-Page House Museum, Katherine's childhood home.  Katherine was the daughter of Andrew and Mary Jane Backus.   
Dutton Advance, August 21, 1947