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Special Items

This contains collections of an unique nature, such as newspaper letter collections, interviews, and out of print publications.

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Carry On: Letters in War-Time, by Coningsby William Dawson.

Lieutenant Coningsby William Dawson was born in High Wycombe, England, on February 26, 1883, the second of six children of parents William James and Jane (nee Powell) Dawson. After completing a degree in history at Oxford University in 1905 he lived with his family in Taunton, Massachusetts, spending summers with them at the family’s orchard-farming property on Kootenay Lake near Nelson, British Columbia. Working as a writer, he published several novels in the decade prior to the outbreak of WWI.

Early in 1916 he travelled to Ottawa, where after training at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant with the 53rd Battery, Canadian Field Artillery. Embarking for England in July of 1916, and to France later that September, he was wounded several times during the war before being demobilized in June of 1919.

The Dawson letters were originally published together as the book Carry On: Letters in War-Time in 1917. Now in the public domain, the book was digitized by the Internet Archive Digital Library in 2007 from the collection of the Robarts Library, University of Toronto. The formatted letters that have been made available here were created from the book as part of a research project at Vancouver Island University.

The book’s introductory poem “When the War’s at an End was written by Coningsby’s younger brother Lt. Eric Powell Dawson who served during the war in the British Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and in 1918 published the wartime memoir Pushing Water (link below). Following the war Eric settled in Victoria, B.C.

External links:

Lt. Coningsby Dawson's service record* is available through Library and Archives Canada.

Carry On: Letters in War-Time, written by Lt. Coningsby William Dawson, C.F.A., with introduction and notes by his father William James Dawson; provided online by the Internet Foundation at archive.org, from collection of the Robarts Library, University of Toronto.
Pushing Water, written by Lt. Eric Powell Dawson, R.N.V.R.

 

*[WWI officers were not routinely assigned Service/Regimental #s]

This collection contains over 250 letters from World War One published in The Cobourg World, a local newspaper published in Cobourg, Ontario. Newspapers across Canada regularly printed letters home from overseas, either letters written directly to the newspaper by the soldiers, or first written to the family and then contributed to the paper by the family. Collections such as those from The Cobourg World provide a fascinating look at the relationship of community and war as played out in the pages of the local newspaper. All letters in the collection have been previously published in the newspaper and were also later collected by local historian Percy Climo in a work entitled "Let Us Remember". The dates for which the letters are listed represent the dates on which they were published, as the original dates of the letters are not always indicated. Where the original date of writing is known it will be part of the letter text. Introductions to the letters and editorial comments as they appeared in the newspaper have been left as published. All transcriptions have been taken from copies on microfilm and as such there are no scans for this collection.

This collection consists of more than 30 letters, as well as news items and editorials, originally published in the Dutton Advance newspaper in Ontario. These are letters home from soldiers overseas to family and community, spanning the years 1900 to 1944, which offer a unique glimpse of the ties between the soldiers and their homes. The dates indicated for the letters are those on which the letters were published in the newspaper, not the date of writing. Original headings and commnents at the time of publication have been retained.

This collection consists of letters and/or related articles published in The Ladysmith Chronicle newspaper.  The materials were compiled by the Ladysmith and District Historical Society in conjunction with the Ladysmith Archives.  There are currently ten individuals represented in the collection, with links below to their individual collections within the World War One section.  Soldiers who are represented on the Ladysmith Cenotaph are denoted with an asterisk (*) after their name.

Appleby, William*

Day, Thomas*

Fisher, John

Grant, John*

Kemp, Edward*

Lapsansky, John*

McCoy, Frank

Morrison, Frederick*

Pickup, Alfred

Simpson, Thomas*

Letters of a Canadian Stretcher Bearer, by Ralph Beverly Watson (“R.A.L.”).

Sergeant Ralph Beverly Watson (a.k.a. Joseph Ralph Watson) was born in Hull, England on October 23, 1883, to parents Joseph Watson and Lavinia Sanderson. Moving to Canada sometime prior to the war, he settled in Ottawa where he married Beulah Bahnsen in January of 1915. On May 25 that same year he enlisted from there as a Private in the Canadian Army Medical Corps.

He embarked for England on the troop ship S.S. Missanabie in July of 1915 and was sent into action in France in February of 1916. While hospitalized on several occasions, most seriously for gas poisoning, Watson survived through to the end of the war and was demobilized on February 3, 1919.

The Watson letters were originally published together in the book Letters of a Canadian Stretcher Bearer in 1918. The war was still ongoing at that time and the author was identified only as “R.A.L.” Other identifying details such as dates were also changed in order to preserve anonymity (e.g. the book gives the date of enlistment as May 31 instead of Watson’s actual enlistment date of May 25). The real identity of the author appears to have remained unknown for many decades, but has since been identified as Ralph Beverly Watson (born Joseph Ralph Watson, he was going by “Ralph Beverly” at the time of his marriage and enlistment).

Now in the public domain, Letters of a Canadian Stretcher Bearer was digitized by the Internet Archive Digital Library in 2008 from the collection of the University of California Libraries. The formatted letters that have been made available here were created from the Internet Archive book as part of a research project at Vancouver Island University.

External links:

Sgt. Watson's Service Record (Reg/Ser# 63) is available through Library and Archives Canada.
Letters of a Canadian Stretcher Bearer, by Ralph Beverly Watson, 1918, provided online by the Internet Foundation at archive.org, from the University of California Libraries Collection.

Private Richard William Mercer was born in Bolton, England, on July 27th, 1897, to parents William and Georgina Mercer. On April 20th, 1916, he enlisted at Wawota, Saskatchewan, with the 196th Western Universities Overseas Battalion, “B” Company (University of Saskatchewan), Canadian Expeditionary Force.

He completed his basic training at Camp Hughes, Manitoba, before shipping to England on the S.S. Southland in November of 1916. He served both there and in France with a number of different units including Bordon’s Motor Machine Gun Battery and the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade. He was transferred to the 2nd Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade in December of 1918 and served with them as part of the Allied Occupation Force in Germany, until finally returning to Canada for demobilization on May 18th, 1919.

External links:
Pte. Mercer’s Service Record (Serv/Reg# 911016) can be viewed/downloaded in pdf format through Library and Archives Canada.

The Mercer collection was provided through the work of Dwight G. Mercer who has documented Pte. Richard Mercer’s Letters from the Great War history online, where more information can be found about the Mercer story and of the history of the 6th Brigade & 2nd Battalion Canadian Machine Gun Corps. Dwight Mercer’s footnotes have been included with both the letters and the memoir, and provide extensive background information on both content and context.

Target for Tonight (or Target for To-Night) is a WWII documentary film made in 1941 by the British Crown Film Unit. The film was directed and produced by Harry Watt and distributed by the British Ministry of Information associated British Film Distributors. The film follows the mission of the crew of  a Vickers Wellington bomber as they are sent on a strategic bombing mission over Germany. Much of it was shot on location at the Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) Mildenhall station, and real R.A.F. personnel were used for the majority of the casting.

It was released to both high critical acclaim and enormous public popularity, both within Great Britain and internationally. In February of 1942 the film received an Academy Award as a Special Award winner “for its vivid and dramatic presentation of the heroism of the RAF.”

Most of the crew members that appear in the film did not survive the war, including Flight Sergeant John (Jack) Balfour Gray of the Royal Canadian Air Force (R.C.A.F.) who was serving attached to the R.A.F. as a Wireless Gunner at the time of the filming. Within the letters of the John (Jack) Balfour Gray Collection are many references to the film and the public’s reaction to it. Jack died on February 27, 1942, when his Handley Page Hampden bomber crashed while returning from a night operation over Germany, killing all onboard. Among those R.A.F./R.C.A.F. cast members who survived the war was Jack’s friend and fellow Canadian Flight Sergeant Henry (Harry) F.C. Humphries who makes several appearances alongside Jack in the film.

Below in the collection contents is the promotional booklet that was published with the release of the film: The Book of the famous film Target for To-Night: The Record in Text and Pictures of a Bombing Raid on Germany. The text, an adaptation of the original screenplay, was written by Paul Holt both for the booklet and for serialization in the Daily Express newspaper.

External links:
The complete video of Target for Tonight can be viewed on the Imperial War Museum’s website; the film has been divided into six separate media files of between six to eleven minutes each in length.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ record of the Target for Tonight Award.

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