The municipality of Saanich has launched a Centenary project entitled Saanich Remembers World War One. At the heart of the project is an honour roll that was begun in 1916 but never completed. The Roll lists the names of 355 individuals however it is estimated that over 800 men and women from Saanich served during the First World War. The project aims to uncover those missing names and to provide a brief biography on each.
Private Joseph Howe is one of 355 named on the honour roll and also happens to be a soldier I’m actively researching. I own a handful of letters written by “Joe” to his friend Nellie White and I’ll feature his story on my blog later this year.
If you would like to help identify the missing individuals or to contribute photos and biographical information I encourage you to contact the Saanich Archives via their website. Details on nearly 100 soldiers and nursing sisters are already online. Their website also features other items from the archives relating to the First World War, including Council Minutes, Annual Reports, excerpts of Oral History transcriptions and an interesting collection of scanned documents.
The Canadian Patriotic Fund certificate pictured here is a fine piece of First World War ephemera however the termination letter to George L Southwell is extraordinary. While I was aware that voluntary enlistment had begun to wane by 1916 I had not seen an example of an organization terminating the employment of single men who were eligible for military service. The letter, dated December 1st, 1915, states:
“At the Works Committee meeting of the Council held yesterday a resolution was passed that all single (men) in the office eligible for military service be informed that their services were no longer required. I am, therefore, reluctantly compelled to give you one month’s notice to terminate your services.”
A summary of the Saanich Council Minutes shows that on Dec. 7th this decision was extended beyond the Works department to all employees of the municipality. The entries for Jan. 4th 1916 indicate that three single men, two of whom were brothers, pleaded their case and asked to be reinstated.
George Longridge Southwell was not one of them but despite being let go there is no evidence that he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force. However his younger brother John Hunter Southwell, a logger, joined a C.E.F. Forestry Draft in February 1917. Both brothers were born in Sunderland and emigrated to Canada in 1910. Their father George Henry Southwell was an artist who specialized in murals. In 1932 he was commissioned to paint a series murals in the rotunda at the Provincial Legislature. Seventy-five years later two of these paintings attracted much controversy and national media coverage. His son George, despite the setback early in his career, went on to become a civil engineer. He died in Saanich in 1957 and is buried at the Royal Oak Burial Park. His brother John survived the First World War and died on the mainland in 1962. Father George died in 1961 at the age of 95.