Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Great War - A Century Later

One never forgotten: Winnipegger never knew his slain granddad

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Rick and Sandi Scanlan take part in a ceremony Sunday to mark the beginning of the First World War in which Rick’s grandfather, John Scanlan, died in 1916 in France.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Rick and Sandi Scanlan take part in a ceremony Sunday to mark the beginning of the First World War in which Rick’s grandfather, John Scanlan, died in 1916 in France. Photo Store

Irishman John Scanlan was a month shy of 40, quite old to be sent off to war in 1915.

The father of seven joined thousands of soldiers from Manitoba who were shipped out as part of Canada's expeditionary force in the First World War.

One of 7,000 Canadian casualties at the Battle of the Somme, the Irishman never came back.

John Scanlan's grandson, Rick, and his wife, Sandi, made a point of attending a tribute to mark Canada's sacrifice Sunday at The Forks in his honour.

 

Monday marked 100 years since the start of the First World War, fought from 1914 to 1918, and known in history as the Great War.

The federal government marked the event in cities across Canada.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined dignitaries to pay tribute to Canada's sacrifice over those four years in the muddy trenches of France and Belgium.

More than 66,000 Canadians lost their lives and more than 170,000 were wounded, an enormous contribution from a population of less than eight million in 1914 and a major signpost for the country's national development.

Next year, John Scanlan's descendants will come together for a family reunion in Winnipeg.

The city played a pivotal role in the family's own history as the adopted hometown of the Irish Catholic immigrant who lived with an English Protestant wife and children on Bannerman Avenue a century ago.

"World War Two gets a lot of attention but I don't hear many stories about World War One," said Sandi Scanlan.

"My granddad was killed in World War One, on Sept. 15, 1916, in a town called Flers Courcelette (France). His name is on the Vimy Ridge Memorial, John Joseph Scanlan," Rick Scanlan said.

"I found out he enlisted on Dec. 31, 1914, and was sent overseas on March 12... My father was born that November so he never met his father," Scanlan recalled in the moments before The Forks event.

In Winnipeg at the hour of armistice, a piper clad in a tartan kilt played the traditional lament for fallen warriors.

Parks Canada re-enactors in period costume joined officials to read the declaration of war and Canada's pledge to Britain from the words of century-old telegrams.

Canada entered the First World War as a colony and emerged as a country, dignitaries said.

"Today we're gathered here at the heart of Winnipeg and its meeting place. That's a perfect place to commemorate the start of the First World War," said Marilyn Peckett, Manitoba field unit superintendent for Parks Canada.

Conservative MP from Elmwood and Transcona, Lawrence Toet, said the tribute to the long-ago sacrifice is also a reminder of the devastation war continues to bring today; in Syria, Israel, Gaza and Ukraine.

"It's a natural place for us to commemorate the beginning of this war and remember it and learn from the history of what occurred, and hopefully avoid going through that kind of situation ever again," Toet said.

Toet, whose parents immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands following the Second World War, said his parents faced starvation caused by war.

"We need to have these kinds of events so we can bring it back to the forefront of people's minds and make sure we're remembering what happens when we do forget these kinds of events. I think with all the things happening in the world, having this kind of commemoration is more important than ever," Toet said.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Key dates in Great War

A FIRST World War timeline, with key Canadian dates:
JUNE 28, 1914: Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie are assassinated in Sarajevo. AUG. 4, 1914: Britain goes to war against Germany; Canada is automatically included. AUG. 22, 1914: Canada passes the War Measures Act, giving the federal government the power to do anything deemed necessary "for the security, defence, peace, order and welfare of Canada." It allows for the internment of enemy aliens. About 8,500 people were interned over the next four years.
OCT. 1, 1914: The First Canadian Division sails for Britain.
NOV. 1, 1914: HMS Good Hope is sunk at the Battle of Coronel off the coast of Chile, taking four Canadian midshipmen down with her. They are the first Canadians killed in action.
FEB. 16, 1915: The First Canadian Division arrives in France.
APRIL 22-28, 1915: Second Battle of Ypres. Canadians hit by chlorine-gas attack. First Canadian Division suffers over 6,000 casualties.
SEPT. 17, 1915: The Second Canadian Division arrives in France.
JUNE 1, 1915: Prohibition starts to go into effect, province by province. By 1921, every province except Quebec and B.C. adopted prohibition.
JUNE 2-13, 1916: The Battle of Mount Sorrel. Some 8,000 Canadian casualties.
JULY 1, 1916: Opening day of the Battle of the Somme. The Newfoundland Regiment sent about 780 men into the attack, and 684 were killed or wounded. The battle dragged out until mid-November, with the Canadian Corps joining the fighting in September. Canadian casualties: 24,029.
APRIL 9-12, 1917: Canadians storm and capture Vimy Ridge. Casualties: 10,602.
AUG. 29, 1917: Canada's conscription bill becomes law.
SEPT. 20, 1917: The War-time Elections Act becomes law, giving the vote in federal elections to women who were British subjects otherwise qualified as to age, race and residence; and the wife, widow, mother, sister or daughter of any person in the naval forces inside or outside Canada or any person in the military forces outside Canada who was serving or served with Canada or Britain.
OCT. 26, 1917: Canadian Corps opens the Battle of Passchendaele.
NOV. 14, 1917: Canadian Corps winds up Passchendaele battle. Casualties: 15,654.
NOV. 20, 1917: Canada's first Income Tax Act becomes law.
DEC. 6, 1917: An accident involving munitions ship in Halifax harbour triggers explosion that kills 1,630 people.
DEC. 17, 1917: Borden's Unionist government wins the federal election. Union: 150, Liberal 83, three others.
MARCH 28, 1918: Anti-conscription riots rock Quebec City.
MAY 24, 1918: An "Act to confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women" extends the vote to women who were British subjects, 21 years of age, and otherwise meet the qualifications entitling a man to vote. It becomes effective Jan. 1, 1919.
AUG. 8-11, 1918: The Battle of Amiens. The Canadian Corps spearheads the attack. German general calls Aug. 8 "the black day of the German Army." Casualties: 9,074
AUG. 8-NOV. 11, 1918: The Hundred Days, a series of hard-fought battles, Allied advances and German retreats, brings Canadians to Mons, Belgium on the final day of the war.
NOV. 11, 1918: An armistice goes into effect at 11 a.m. and the shooting and shelling stops.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 5, 2014 A3

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