REGINA – In November last year, I wrote about the lack of information available about Saskatchewan’s war veterans while producing our Remembrance Day feature, a Century of Remembrance (a fact that I find more jarring and surprising every year as I become more accustomed to information overload in our “selfie” day and age). Here is what I wrote:
The Saskatchewan Archives holds an extensive collection of photos from World War I – okay, I use “extensive” a bit liberally here: they didn’t have photos of the veterans I was looking for, men like George Price, the last man from the Allied Forces to be killed in action only two minutes before the war was declared over. The archives don’t have a picture of Bill Scanlan, either. He was the former city editor for the Regina Morning Leader (now the Regina Leader-Post) who was killed at Vimy Ridge. In fact, there was only one photo we could find of the writer and poet; I wasn’t even able to track down his obituary.
Scanlan died in 1917 – that was five years before most Saskatchewan homes even had a radio. And since then, researching Saskatchewan’s war history and archiving it accordingly has been a bit of a scattered endeavour, very much a labour of love for some devoted volunteers with little concerted effort.
Bill Scanlan was killed at Vimy Ridge in 1917. Google News Archives
Bill Scanlan was killed at Vimy Ridge in 1917.
Google News Archives
So I was surprised to see just how many photographs were catalogued at the Saskatchewan Archives: images of the Saskatchewan soldiers and their families waving goodbye as they boarded the trains; images of appalling destruction in Europe, and chilling photographs of war dead. They were photos I had never seen before.
I imagine they are photos a lot of people have never seen before – and yet, they need to. They are so close to home. More than 6,000 names are on the Saskatchewan War Memorial, names of fallen soldiers killed while serving their country – and to see photos of some of the soldiers before they went to war is what I can only call, an experience. I can’t comprehend that number; I can’t imagine 6,000 people leaving Saskatchewan and not coming back. I can’t imagine how the world changed.
Everything changed. From geopolitical boundaries to women’s rights, the Great War had an impact on policy decisions, intergovernmental relations and our collective mentality, even one hundred years later.
This year, I am sad to say that one of those dedicated volunteers I mentioned in the above blog post has too passed away. William Barry, better known as Bill, was a good friend to the show and a very knowledgeable resource for us in researching Saskatchewan’s military history. After serving in the army, Barry became a teacher, first at Regina’s Balfour Technical School and later in his career as Shamrock School Division director of education in Foam Lake. Although he went on to do many things after leaving the field of education, I too, always thought of him as a teacher – that is to say, I learned a lot from him. In 2013, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for developing and maintaining the Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial. You will hear how passionately he speaks of it in our Century of Remembrance story we are re-airing this weekend as part of a special Focus Remembers episode.
Bill Barry developed the Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial. He speaks to Focus Saskatchewan here in November 2014 Derek Putz/Global News
Bill Barry developed the Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial. He speaks to Focus Saskatchewan here in November 2014
Derek Putz/Global News
You can watch Focus Remembers Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm on Global News.