Giving Names to the Faces – First World War Kootenay Soldiers Photograph Project

Nelson, BC – Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History is delighted to announce the completion of a project that sheds light on many of the local soldiers who served during the First World War.

During the First World War, the Nelson Canadian Club gathered a remarkable collection of around two hundred individual and group photographs of Kootenay area soldiers. In 1985 this collection was donated to Touchstones Nelson.

Nelsonite and Simon Fraser University student, Tressa Ford, has spent much of the summer researching the stories behind these soldiers, including many who sadly did not survive the war. The combination of the photographs of young men volunteering to fight for their country, and the biographic details of horrific injuries and fatalities, is incredibly powerful.

Of the project, Tressa Ford states: “It has been an unbelievable experience learning the stories of these people. These photographs are not about statistics or generalities; they allow us to glimpse the individual, human element of both war and of history. It is absolutely profound.”

For the first time the whole collection, together with brief biographies is now available to view online via the Touchstones Nelson Flickr pool. Touchstones Archivist Jean-Philippe Stienne states “it really is a remarkable resource that we are delighted to share with the public. If anybody has any more details on the soldiers featured in this collection we would love to hear from you.”

The photos can be viewed on

https://www.flickr.com/photos/touchstonesnelson

Touchstones Nelson would like to thank Tressa and Young Canada Works for their assistance with this project, as well as the Touchstones archive volunteers for their time and expertise.

Touchstones Nelson student Tressa Ford with the Kootenay soldiers binder

Touchstones Nelson student Tressa Ford with the Kootenay soldiers binder

Please visit the Touchstones Archives Thursday – Saturday, 10am-4pm.

Summary

Private Percy Hodge (1898-1917) enlisted with the 54th (Kootenay Battalion) in Nelson in 1915. He was only 16 years old but lied on his enlistment papers so that he could join up. He was killed in the trenches at Farbus/Vimy Ridge on April 11th, 1917.

Detailed Info

Born September 17th, 1898 in South Molton, Devonshire, England. Immigrated with his family to Canada in 1913. His father Francis Hodge, who was a miner at Riondel, died in Nelson in 1914. Percy Hodge lived at 719a Victoria Street. Worked for the city as a teamster at the time of his enlistment; previously worked for R.G. Joy. Enlisted with the 54th Battalion in Nelson on May 11th, 1915. Was only 16 years old, but he lied about his age on enlistment papers. Transferred to the 2nd Battalion at some point and served in the machine gun section. Died on April 11th, 1917 in the trenches at Farbus/Vimy Ridge; 18 years old. Buried in Bois-Carre British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.

Summary

Private William John McKie (c.1891-1972) enlisted with the 102nd Battalion in Nelson on January 7th, 1916. In June 1916 he was twice gassed in France and was hospitalized in France, England and finally at the Balfour Military Sanitorium (formerly the Balfour Hotel) in December, 1917. He continued to suffer from injuries received in war, but was not granted a disability pension until the 1930s. He died in Keremeos, BC aged 80 years old.

Detailed Info

Private William John McKie

Regimental Number: 704078

Born February 28th, 1891 (on enlistment papers) / February 27th, 1892 (on death certificate) in North Shields, England. Came to Canada circa 1907. Eventually settled in Spokane, Washington. Taken in by the Fogelquist family and worked at their department store while attending school. At outbreak of the war, he travelled north and enlisted with the 102nd Battalion in Nelson on January 7th, 1916. Was Sergeant for some time, but reverted back to private at his own request. Suffered from bronchitis in December, 1916 to May, 1917. Gassed and shelled on June 5th, and again more severely on June 12th, while at Avion. Transferred to multiple hospitals over next months for severe gas poisoning. Developed pulmonary tuberculosis in September. Met Dorothy Hedger, his future wife, while recuperating in England. Was a patient at the Balfour Military Sanitorium (formerly the Balfour Hotel) in December, 1917. Diagnosed with dyspnoea. Discharged from service in February, 1918. Lived in Spokane, Washington after the war. Continued to suffer from injuries received in war, but was not granted a disability pension until the 1930s. Died on June 30th (in service records) / July 6th, 1972 (on death certificate) in Keremeos, BC; 80 years old.

Summary

Private John Charles Powell (1892-1965) had seen military service in his native Wales. Just prior to the war he moved to Nelson and was working as a teamster. He enlisted with the 7th Battalion on September 22nd, 1914 and left Nelson with the 1st contingent. He fought in the battles of St. Julien and Ypres where he was taken prisoner in April, 1915. Powell spent the next three and a half years as a POW. He died in Edmonton in 1965.

Detailed Info

Private John Charles Powell

Regimental Number: 23434

Born in Usk, Monmouthshire, Wales on June 8th, 1892. He had previous military experience serving three years with the 4th Battalion Gloucester Regiment in England. Belonged to Active Militia at time of enlistment. Lived in Nelson and worked as a teamster. Married Marie Anna Frieson in Nelson on June 17th, 1914, in Nelson. Enlisted with the 7th Battalion on September 22nd, 1914 and left Nelson with the 1st contingent. Fought in the battles of St. Julien and Ypres; taken prisoner of war in April, 1915. Was interned at Giessen and Gefangenenlager. Demobilized on March 28th, 1919. Likely lived in Nelson after the war. Died on March 16th, 1965 in Edmonton; 72 years old.