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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

#40 - 47th Battalion C.E.F., the Vernon Army Camp, and Dick

This postcard is particularly meaningful to me - for several reasons.

For one thing, this is the first in a group of 6 postcards that document one man's journey from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, to England in 1915 ... for the Great War.  I don't know who he was or if he ever came back.

Another reason that this postcard is meaningful is because it was sent from Vernon, British Columbia.  The town where I was born and raised.  I lived there, in the same house, until I was 19.  And the Army Camp (which still exists there today as the Vernon Army Camp Summer Training Centre or VACSTC) was a big part of the summer in Vernon - the Cadets would come and parade and train for the summer months - from all over BC.  They would often be seen walking down the hill from the camp to the downtown when they had time off.  A friend of mine married one of them.  So to find a nearly 100-year-old postcard from the Vernon Army Camp in this collection just shows the spiderweb-like connections in our lives.

Here is a shot of the army camp from a different angle in 1915:

This photo is courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.  Please see the link for copyright information.

Here is a satellite shot of the army camp - it may well be larger that what I'm showing (my dad and possibly a few other people reading this will know and likely tell me how big it is) but these are the main structures that are there now.  During WWI, I suspect they used a great deal of the land around Vernon.  I think it's pretty clear that there is a large church and part of a neighbourhood intruding at the top left of the photo, but the rest is mostly army camp:

When I was growing up, we used to have filmstrips in the gymnasium of our school warning us of what to do if we found unexploded mortars from WWII.  I also worked at a heritage site and a live mortar was found behind one of the buildings (many miles from here).  Training for war was a messy business.  As was cleaning up afterward.  It was a good 30 years after the second world war when I was in elementary school.  That war seemed a lot further back to me then.

The training camp opened in 1912 and in May 1915 became a central mobilization camp and training centre.  By 1916, 7000 men were training at the centre - while Vernon barely had a population of 3000.

Yet another reason that this postcard is meaningful is because it is from the 47th Battalion C.E.F.  I wrote an article and had it published in BC Studies this summer - it was about Jack's (my great-grandfather, for those who are new here) training battalion., the 143rd Battalion C.E.F.  I spent 5 years or so researching it off and on.  Well, after he went over to England, the 143rd was split up and he ended up in the 47th.  So another tie with his friend and his battalion.  I wonder if they met up when they were over there.  I also wonder if "Dick" - the author of this postcard - is the same friend that Jack said he watched die during the war.  (I have gone to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and looked for a Richard that died that day, and I have not found one.  I also have not found a reasonable Richard who signed up with the 47th battalion before November, 1915, so I'm nowhere near figuring out who this guy is).

The back of the postcard reads:  "Dear Jack We are leaving there on the 26th (of October, 1915) for New Westminster if all goes well Dick."

So Dick went from Vernon, west to New Westminster and then headed back east on the train to head overseas.  Not knowing his last name, Dick is going to be a difficult person to track down.

This postmark is from the Field Post Office at the Vernon Camp.  The photographic post card was printed by the Vernon Photo Company, which was started around 1910 by Bernard LeBlond - a British bloke from Richmond-on-Thames (a suburb of London) - who partnered with a Mr. J. H. Hunter.  The partnership dissolved in 1919, the name going with Hunter, but LeBlond continued as a photographer in Vernon for some time after (his son took over and ran the business until 1988 - I'm not sure if the business closed down at that time).*

I'll see if I can glean anymore information bout Dick out of the other postcards, but for now he is an enigma.

*Okanagan Historical Society annual 75:120

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