One hundred and forty-one people from MacKay Presbyterian Church, in Ottawa, served in the First World War. This is an astonishing record, but one that was by no means uncommon in Canada.
Why did these men, their families, and their church enlist in this great war for “justice, truth, and righteousness, and for the Glory of God”? What was the impact of war on the surviving soldiers as they and their families adjusted to a changed world, to permanent injuries and to painful memories?
This study of the experience of one church at war weaves together the stories of soldiers on the battlefields of Europe with those of the families who waited and prayed, enduring privation, fear, loneliness, and grief.
It centres on the 19 men who fell in the war — some as heroes in desperate battles, others with tragic randomness or from illness, several with no known graves — and the widows they left to cope as best they could, the children who grew up without fathers, and the families who mourned their loss even as they took pride in their sacrifice.
Using new methods including on-line research and the tools of genealogical study to bring to life people who did not leave a rich legacy of information on their lives and families, this study of a church at war deepens our understanding of the social history of Canada’s participation in the First World War, and provides a model for research on churches, communities, and institutions.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements Abbreviations Introduction 1. New Edinburgh 2. MacKay Presbyterian Church 3. A Church at War: 1914-1915 4. Charles Albert Wendt: A German-Canadian Patriot 5. A Church at War: 1916 6. Victor and Theresa Coker: A Good Man, A Christian Woman, and her two sons at the front 7. The Bothwell Family: War Claims Lives and Destroys Families 8. Charles Edward Trotter and the Jackson Family: “lovable disposition and fine character” 9. The Robertson Family: “there is no other woman in Ottawa who has given so gloriously to the cause” 10. Gordon Maynard Porteous: “quite a few homes … will be sad after this” 11. Henry James Mayo: A “Home Boy” Serves His Country 12. A Church at War: 1917 13. The Stalker Family and the Many Faces of Courage 14. The Ryan Family: “who played the game through” 15. Reginald Isambard Brunel: Engineer and Artilleryman 16. The Tubman Family: “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty” 17. Erland Dauria Perney: “sorrow which is almost intolerable” 18. A Church at War: 1918 19. John Marshall: A Chauffeur in Egypt 20. Homère Joliat: “a brave soldier, having won the military medal” 21. Irwin Kelly: “Blessed are those that have not seen, and yet have believed” 22. The McKenzie Brothers: service and sacrifice 23. Arthur Frank Hawke and the war against TB 24. 1919: The men come home 25. Aftermath Epilogue Notes Bibliography
Alan Bowker was born in Medicine Hat and educated in Winnipeg, Toronto, Chatham (NJ), and Oakville, ON. He holds a BA in history and English and an MA and PhD in Canadian history, all from the University of Toronto. His writings include A Time Such as There Never Was Before: Canada After the Great War, two collections of essays by Stephen Leacock, and essays and articles.
After academic study and a year teaching high school, Bowker joined the Department of External Affairs in 1973. He was posted to Tanzania and Zimbabwe and as High Commissioner to Guyana and Ambassador to Suriname. At headquarters he managed Canada-US economic, environmental, transport, and boundary issues; Canadian participation in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe; Cabinet and Parliamentary Liaison; and Access to Information and Privacy Protection. As Director of International Academic Relations he was responsible for international education policy, Canadian Studies abroad, education marketing, and scholarship and youth exchange programs. For the last three years of his career he was seconded to Royal Military College of Canada where he taught Canadian history, military history, civics, foreign and defence policy, social history, and the history of the Cold War. He retired in 2008.
His academic studies, his teaching experience, and his career in foreign affairs have all reinforced his conviction that Canadians need to know their history if we are to understand who we are and why our experience matters in the world.
He and his wife Carolyn live in Ottawa. They enjoy travel, reading, music, and visits with their two daughters and their families.