The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 30 no 5, November 2018. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.
Jimmy Smith was a British Home Child, adopted by George and Catherine Burke of Cantley, becoming “brother” to Lola and Grace.
In 1914 he went to war. In Jimmy’s own words...
“…. When the War came, I don’t know what made me sign up. I was working at Ottawa Paintworks and on the 24th of May, the Queen’s birthday, I dressed up and took a walk down past Parliament Hill. I met a soldier coming up and he said, “Do you wanna join up?” I said, “I might as well.” So he took me to the recruiting office and the soldier behind the desk wrote it allout and he gave it to me and he said, “Take this to the sergeant.” The sergeant fitted me out with everything I needed. I was two weeks in Ottawa and then we were sent to England. That would be in 1914. I was born in 1899. I was only 15, but they passed me for 17.
The trip overseas was rough. I remember we left the port about 8 o’clock. It was getting dark. I was smoking a cigarette and there was a corporalon the ship and he said, “Put out that cigarette!!” I was glad he told me, because you never know in wartime where the enemy is. The ship was crowded with soldiers. But we seemed to make it alright. The food was not too good. They gave us allsoup. I found a mouse in mine.
Over in England, I stayed at Aldershot. I liked the Forces. We had concerts and the lads would sing allthe time. Some would play the harmonica. I played it, too! And, the violin! I enjoyed the company. They were a good bunch of guys. It was allhorses back then. No cars. No telephones, either.
I liked the Forestry Service. … In France, we worked making railroads. Horses dragged the lumber up to where it was cut. I was a lumberjack. The trees were short like me, but they were big around. We used an axe and a saw to cut down the trees. They were white pine. It was hard work. We cut them down low – as close as we could to the ground. And, we used wedges to get the tree to fallin the direction we wanted. As we cut, we pushed the wedge farther in. Sometimes, when the tree started to fall, it came back towards us and we had to give it a push in the other direction.
I came back to Ottawa in 1919. I would have liked to stay in England. I might have been able to find my brothers and my sister. I never did get to meet them. The trip back was rough. I was lying on the floor and I could feelthe waves splashing on the portholes. I took sick and felt as if I had drowned.”
Jimmy returned “home” to Cantley and his Burke “family”. Eventually he lived and worked with Lola and her husband Ray on the Foley farm, untilretiring to the Rideau Veterans Home in Ottawa.
Jimmy’s words are from the book, In Their Own Words, by William Horrocks, which chronicles wartime reminiscences of the men and women who lived at the Rideau Veterans Home in Ottawa (published in 1993 by Rideau Veterans Home Residents Council).
Specialthanks to Mary Ann Carss Hogan for lending her copy of this book, so Cantley 1889 could share part of Jimmy’s story with Echo readers.
You are invited to attend the Remembrance Day ceremony at Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery, 10:30 am, Sunday November 11. (587 Highway 105, Chelsea QC).
Cantley’s wreath willbe placed by Cantley’s Jan Turko, veteran of World War II, with Cantley’s Councillor Aimé Sabourin.
This ceremony is sponsored by the Gatineau Valley HistoricalSociety to honour our veterans at the grave of Private Richard Thompson, Queen’s Scarf recipient. Members of his RoyalCanadian Regiment and Canadian Forces Health Services willbe in attendance.