What’s in the database right now?

Number of schools: 120
Other organizations: 3
Names on memorials: 47,679
Latest additions:
St. Michael’s College
Newman Club of the University of Toronto

Earlier posts

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Neighbourhood churches may fill some gaps…

Little Trinity Church, Toronto ©Toronto Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society

Sackville Street School displays a memorial for World War I, but none for World War II. Little Trinity (Anglican) Church, a three-minute walk (270 metres) northwest of the school, fills some gaps in the neighbourhood history. Of the 581 parishioners involved in World War I, 70 died. A cenotaph beside the church honours them, though no names are listed. Of 55 parish men who “went to fight” in the Second World War, five died and are named on a plaque on the inside west wall of the church.

“Little Trinity,” the nickname of the Parish of Trinity East in the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, is at 425 King Street East. The congregation, formed July 12, 1842 first served the needs of working-class Irish Protestants in Toronto’s east end.

The parish reflects some of the contrasts found in Toronto neighbourhoods. In the 1840s one of the church founders, a major benefactor and 35-year churchwarden, William Gooderham (1790-1881) a partner in the prosperous Gooderham and Worts Distillery, attended this church “in the centre of a thickly inhabited and spiritually destitute suburb… containing about 3,000 people, chiefly of the poorest classes.” The church rectory at times prepared soup for the needy.

War memorial in Little Trinity Church, Toronto. ©Toronto Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society

The church is planning a restoration of historic townhouses at 399 King Street East, on the west side of its property. The townhouses, built about 1850, were part of a row of workers’ houses. The interiors will be updated, but the original façade will be preserved, giving present day Toronto a glimpse of its past. See the church’s website for info on this Building Renewal Project.

And remember to check nearby churches (all denominations) wherever you are researching “For King and Country” details.

Townhouses on King Street, Toronto, to be restored by Little Trinity Church. (from display in church)

Every day is Remembrance Day

Every day is Remembrance Day when working with war memorials, but as November 11 rolls around each year, the “For King and Country” team aims for an extra push.

Toronto Branch is pleased to add 3,026 names (from 10 schools) to our database in time for this year’s Lest We Forget observances.

Canada’s “too much geography, not enough history” comes to mind when reining in the nearly 600 Toronto District School Board’s schools crowded under one umbrella after the creation of our megacity on January 1, 1998.

Former smaller Boards (East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, Toronto, and York) were suddenly one. A lot of geography. A lot of ground to cover! Toronto schools don’t have “too little history,” but we do have the problem of information scattered in many places. The neighourhood focus of our project means we rely on those who know their school geography well.

Schools open, close, get renamed and misplace memorials. On the East York trail, we thank Connie Culbertson who knows her area inside out and has wonderful rapport with current school staff. Connie was involved in the development of the Century School, built and furnished to give today’s students an idea of school life in the olden days. In 1982, Connie compiled a history of R.H. McGregor and dug out many facts we used for our website. She applied her skills to William Burgess and Plains Road (now Diefenbaker) and continues to work away.

On the Scarborough front, thanks to Ken Cox, a former school principal who had often referred to war memorials during Remembrance Day ceremonies. Aware of the fast growth of north Scarborough in the 1950s, Ken headed for the southern schools, deducing that’s where memorials would be. Midland Avenue School (formerly S.S. No. 10 Scarborough and John A Leslie Public School) and Agincourt Continuation School are among his contributions.

If you, or someone you know can lend some neighbourhood knowledge to the For King and Country project, please contact us.

Your Country Needs You… and Your Pals

When war broke out in 1914, Britain’s standing army of about 450,000 was dwarfed by the conscript-heavy armies organizing in Europe. Lord Kitchener, Britain’s new Secretary of State for War, wanted to avoid the political hot potato of conscription, but believed “the last million men” Britain could send into battle would decide success. Manpower was the key.

A widely publicized poster, featuring a stern Kitchener pointing directly at viewers, captioned, “Your Country Needs You” fanned the flames of patriotism, especially after Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II reportedly referred to Britain’s “contemptible little army.”

An escape from the grinding poverty and tedium of everyday life; decent food, clothing, and pay (one shilling a day for privates) and the promise of post-war employment for returning veterans, encouraged further enlistment. But more soldiers were needed.

Men like Lord Derby and Sir Henry Rawlinson realized that whole groups might enlist more readily if they could serve with people they knew. Recruiting in Liverpool in 1914, Lord Derby coined the term “Pals.” The idea of Pals’ (or Chums’) battalions caught on. Crowds flocked to recruitment centres. Stockbrokers, artists, footballers, journalists, shop assistants, teachers, Glasgow Tramways workers, Tyneside Irish, and many other groups of friends, neighbours, relatives, and colleagues formed quickly.

These cohesive units would train together, travel together and serve together, fighting side by side with friends, not with strangers. Unforeseen was how many pals would die together.

On the opening day of the Battle of the Somme—July 1, 1916—the British Army suffered its greatest single loss in its history.  The nearly 60,000 casualties overall, of whom more than 19,000 died, included devastated Pals battalions. Some 720 Accrington Pals of East Lancashire who went over the top into No Man’s Land were “mown down like meadow grass” in less than half an hour. They suffered 235 dead and 350 wounded. Leeds Pals lost about 750 of 900. News travelled back to small towns where whole districts drew their blinds and listened to tolling church bells.

“Never such innocence again,” Philip Larkin wrote of the eager men lining up to enlist in 1914. The success of Pals as a recruiting tool came at too high a price in practice. A surviving Pal said, “Two years in the making. Ten minutes in the destroying. That was our history.”

This memorial to the 124th Pals battalion at its first barracks, Jesse Ketchum School, honours the one thousand men commanded by Lt. Col. Vaux Chadwick, recruited in a two-week “whirlwind campaign” from December 27, 1915 until the end of the first week of January, 1916. “Join the Pals” was the cry.

Inoculated and vaccinated at the Armories, trained at Toronto, Camp Niagara, and Camp Borden, they sailed for England aboard the Cameronia in August 1916. In Boulogne, France, by March 11, 1917, and redesignated 124th Pioneers (4th Canadian Division), they served at Arras, Vimy, Hill 70, Ypres, and Passchendaele. Some went as reinforcements to other units. All would face the same grim prospects as the British Pals.

War memorial at Jesse Ketchum School. ©Ontario Genealogical Society, Toronto Branch