Help us save Victoria Farm

13 Nov 2006 Meeting - Military Historian Sheds Light on Canadian Soldiers in Siberia

Monday November 13, 7.30pm at St. James Anglican Church, 642 Main Road, Hudson

The Siberian Expeditionary Force: A (Nearly) Forgotten Episode of WWI Long-time residents of Hudson remember Frank Wilson. Born in 1890, the youngest of James and Carolyn Wilson of Cote St. Charles' nine children, Frank was one of the large contingent of local men who answered the call to defend King and Empire in the Great War. He survived, returned to the Cote, but soon left for Ottawa where he learned the trade of carpentry. Two decades of work in Detroit followed. Just before WWII, he returned home again, this time to contribute to the war effort by making ammunition boxes at DIL in Montreal. After the war, Frank turned his carpentry skills to building homes in Hudson. His grandnephew Ralph Simpson recalls that Frank, alone or with a helper, built and renovated dozens of homes in the area, as well as doing significant work on the Anglican churches. He continued working well into the 1970s, until he and his wife Anna moved to Calgary. They both lived well into their 90s, returning home a final time to be buried in the Cote church cemetery. Ralph recalls that Frank was a kind man, who enjoyed playing cards at the Cote's Wednesday night card club. He did not realize, because Frank never mentioned it, that his great-uncle had participated in one of Canada's most exotic and least-remembered military adventures, the Siberian Expeditionary Force of 1918-1919. Tsarist Russia had fallen as the war drew to a close, but the Bolshevik regime did not succeed in establishing control over what was to become the Soviet Union until 1922. A civil war broke out, with the "reds" battling the "whites." The Allies sent troops, first to prevent war materiel from falling into the hands of the Germans, and then to contain the spread of Communism. It was a time of terror and confusion, spread over the vast spaces of Eurasia, including Siberia. Each of the Allies - the Japanese, French, British and Americans -- had their own sometimes-conflicting objectives. Czech troops guarded the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Canadian troops, including Frank Wilson's 68th Field Artillery Unit, found themselves disembarking at Vladivostok for a number of reasons. The British had asked their colony to furnish troops. Prime Minister Borden saw other reasons to participate, including strengthening Canada's status as a nation and establishing economic ties with Siberia. Controversy erupted at home, as Canadians questioned our role in this foreign escapade. In Victoria B.C., French-Canadian troops rebelled before shipping out, adding a Two Solitudes dimension to the story. At the November meeting of the Hudson Historical Society, traditionally devoted to remembering our military past, historian Ian Moffat will throw light on this nearly forgotten chapter of Canada's military history, including the kinds of experiences soldiers like Frank Wilson endured. Commander Ian Moffat is presently a Staff Officer with the Director General of Strategic Planning at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. A native of Montreal and a graduate of McGill (B.Sc in biochemistry), Cdr Moffat has served at sea as a weapons officer in the Canadian destroyers St. Croix, Athabaskan and Annapolis, and as Executive Officer of HMCS Huron. A specialist in ammunition and explosives as well as software development, the Siberian Expeditionary Force is the topic of Commander Moffat's PhD dissertation. We will be meeting on Monday November 13 at 7:30 p.m. at St. James Church Hall, 642 Main Road, Hudson. Everyone is welcome (a $5 drop-in fee is requested of non-members.) For more information, call Kevin O'Donnell at (450) 458-5948.

Topics: | | | |